More than 100 Rochester-area high school students, community leaders and elected officials gathered Tuesday morning to talk about bullying, about being "misunderstood" and other issues facing youth.
It was the annual Youth Dialogue Day sponsored by the Rochester Auburn Hills Community Coalition. Its purpose: to spur conversation and get creative with solutions.
Tara Michener, an author and popular guest speaker who started the Professionals Against Bullying Group, led the group in a bullying-awareness activity.
As participants came into the event, they received a notecard with a fictional text message scrawled on it. Some of the messages were happy ones ("I'm glad that you are my friend.") Others were mean-spirited ("you are a nightmare.")
In small groups, the students and adult group leaders took turns spraying toothpaste over the negative text messages. Then, Michener presented them with the challenge: try to put all of that toothpaste back into its tube.
Despite many creative efforts, it was an exercise that everyone failed to accomplish.
The point was not lost on those in attendance: If you text, message or speak something hurtful, there's really no way to take it back.
"Has anyone ever said anything they wanted to take back?" Michener asked. Almost everyone in the room raised a hand.
Youth Dialogue Day is an annual community event encouraged to raise awareness of issues and create solutions; for more information about the RAHCC or to get involved, visit rahcc.com.