While listening to a run-of-the-mill lecture on bullying given by school officials, Jacob Gardenswartz of La Mesa knew there must be a better way to motivate students to empathize with their peers. Drawing from his passion for theatre, Jacob created Theater Of Peace (TOP), a teen theatre troupe that blends anti-bullying and pro-peace messaging with the dynamic energy of live performances, bringing a new twist to anti-bullying programming at schools across San Diego.
The troupe develops short skits that teach children how to become “upstanders,” not “bystanders,” through interactive lessons that encompass a broad range of topics, from gender issues to eating disorders.
By encouraging children to share their solutions on how to best combat bullying and providing schools with post-performance curricula, TOP ensures that the conversations continue long after the curtain call. Jacob’s unique approach has successfully rallied 2,000 students around his cause and raised $10,000.
Now also a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, Jacob is currently working with several businesses to implement his program as part of their sexual harassment and workplace violence training.
—Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards