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Werkema presents OK 2 SAY to LLW students


November 9, 2017

Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe

HARRY WERKEMA, of the state Department of Justice talks to students at Luther L. Wright K-12 School about the OK 2 SAY program that helps teens report unsafe behaviors and situations, as well as thoughts of suicide. The goal of the program is to reduce violence.


Ironwood - If 25 years as a police officer in the downstate communities of Holland and Wyoming; and 14 more as an officer in nearby Wayland Schools taught Harry Werkema anything, it's how much the world has changed, and not always for the better.

As part of a talk about preventing violence, Werkema told an assembly of Luther L. Wright middle and high school students they need to speak up - and further more, change the way they "think, talk and pay attention" to the world around them.

Werkema's visit was part of a state Department of Justice initiative to present the OK 2 SAY program. The program offers a 24-hour hotline for youth to report something "that needs to be told."

The OK 2 SAY program's tagline is, "Stop the silence. Help end the violence."

Werkema touched on a variety of topics and presented a few short videos as he spoke to the students in the gym.

He said reporting bullying is key, and talked about how social media has changed the game.

"I don't even like calling it bullying," Werkema said. "I call it terrorizing. That's what it is."

He implored the students to say something when they hear it, see it or feel it.

Werkema said part of his concern is the kids who commit suicide because they've been "terrorized."

He said social media is good and bad. All too often people share things they shouldn't, he said. He spoke about how easy it is to send something that is hurtful. He also spoke about the prevalence of sexting among teens and how damaging that can be.

On the other hand, social media can allow youths to easily reach the OK 2 SAY hotline through its application and how important it is to text your parents or others you care about when you're in trouble.

"It's important to reach out. Suicide is never the answer. Keep asking and looking for help," he said. "And for others, it doesn't take a cape and a pair of tights to be a hero. It takes someone to listen."

He spoke about the various kinds of abuse. Physical, sexual, psychological and chemical abuse can happen with boys and girls, especially to those in a bad relationship.

"You know who's having a bad time, who's in a bad relationship. Take the time to listen and report what you hear and see," he said.

In summing up, Werkema implored the students to reach out to OK 2 SAY or "those who are important to you" if they see something that isn't right or feel they're in a bad place - emotionally or physically.

Before the presentation, Werkema said through his work with the OK 2 SAY program at Wayland, they were able to stop a student shooter situation before it got started.

He said the program has handled thousands of reports and the state's goal is to get someone to talk about the program in every school in the state.

Besides the OK 2 SAY program, Werkema also travels the state talking about the DOJ's consumer education program.


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