Beatboxing Not Bullying
Beneath his Cosmo costume Joshua Drean (BS ’11) observed the excited children in local schools he visited. Every BYU fan recognizes BYU’s friendly mascot, and Drean found himself swarmed by children cheering for Cosmo. While doing his shtick at local school pep assemblies he thought, “There’s a huge opportunity for us to leave a message. These kids look up to us. We could drop a message that would help them in their lives…I saw the [bullying] in the halls and on social media…[and] that’s when I caught the bug to be a speaker.” After Drean graduated he wondered what to do with his life-changing mascot experience. Drean remembered those school visits and began offering his services as a youth speaker to schools in his area. With his upbeat and funny performances, demand for Drean’s presentations quickly snowballed.
Drean explains his success: “I really am very passionate about helping teens handle life’s challenges…if I can understand the landscape of what they’re dealing with, especially on social media and how they’re using it, then I’ll be in a better position to help them through those challenges.” Among those challenges, one of the largest and most prevalent is bullying.
Drean reaches youth through beatboxing, his extensive YouTube channel, stand-up comedy, dance competitions, sharing personal experiences and engaging personally with the students. After one school assembly, Drean was invited by the school’s principal to meet with the student leaders. The school clearly had a problem, but none of the administrators knew what it was or how it started. Drean says, “The kids were…quick to lash out and they [were] having a hard time getting along…I sat down with the student leaders and we had a frank conversation. We discovered that the students had been using an anonymous app to bully each other at school…the school environment was suffering.” But the most surprising part was, “The students came up with the [solution] themselves.”
After meeting with Drean the students decided to delete the app, and then to have all their friends delete the app as well. As the app lost popularity, the rest of the school followed suit and soon the app was gone and the school began to rebuild its environment. Drean commented, “I think the [solution] came from the students realizing that they do have the power to stand up online, and to create a school culture that is positive.”
Drean has noticed some trends among teens, “There’s a whole lot of apathy…especially in social media there is a lack of empathy, and so a big problem we run into with teen is they are different in person than they are online.” To counter this problematic thinking, Drean emphasizes how individual choices, even the ones made online, affect teens individually a well as their family, friends, teams and school.
Drean is personally familiar with teenage bullying. Throughout junior high and high school Drean saw his younger brother, a cheerleader, bullied and mocked for his sport of choice. When they both got to college, Drean’s discouraged brother wanted to stop cheerleading, but Drean encouraged him to try out anyways—and Drean even tried out with him. “I tried out with him to support him, to help him feel comfortable at try-outs, and I unexpectedly made the team myself…I learned quite a bit about my brother, our relationship, and how I wasn’t very good at empathizing with him growing up until I literally walked in his shoes as a cheerleader.”
Cheerleading helped Drean empathize with his brother. It also helped Drean learn to empathize with the teens he meets. Just as cheerleading wasn’t all fun and peppy, working as a youth speaker also has its downsides. Drean explains, “The biggest discouragement I face is meeting teens who have given up hope…who just don’t feel like there’s any reason worth living anymore…All I want to do in life is instill hope in these teens.”
Blending his cheerleading with charisma, Drean seeks to stop bullying by sharing a positive message. Through beatboxing, spontaneous dancing, stand-up comedy and daily video blogs, Drean reaches his young audiences in their schools and online. His message of empathy, responsibility and hope resonate with teens across the country as they seek to successfully navigate both the online and the classroom social scenes.
--Madeline Buhman ('18)