It began with an e-mail sent Thursday, October 7, 2010 at around 9pm.
Hey Rob and Nick,
I had a thought. Because of recent news events and the surge of videos for the
"It Gets Better" campaign, and the fact that we are a. one of the most "gay
friendly schools" in the country and b. the 3 of us are the head of some of our
biggest student media on campus, I thought it might be a good idea if we made
an "it gets better video."
There was more to the e-mail, but that was the general gist of things. I'm Matthew, student station manager of Ithaca College's VIC Radio. I had just come from a presentation by an IC professor entitled "LGBT Identity in the Digital Age," where the "It Gets Better" project was discussed. It was not my first exposure to the project. I had been thinking about making a video a few days before but never really had the motivation to do so. The presentation became the catalyst to what turned into a very overwhelming, emotional and generally awesome few days. I thought it would be cool to get the Park School involved, so I reached out to Rob and Nick (the WICB and ICTV student station managers, respectively).
My initial idea: Me, Rob, Nick, and (hopefully) the Dean of the Park School, Diane Gayeski. Well that idea didn't last long. Rob, Nick and myself e-mailed back and forth throughout the night and decided to shoot the video the following Monday. Since it was dealing with such a pressing issue, we wanted to get our video online ASAP.
The three of us met to figure out how we would go about making the video. Rob suggested it might be nice to have some campus celebrities appear -- our SGA student body president, a counselor from the counseling center, some professors, the head of the LGBT center on campus, even the President of the College. Rob also thought we could extend the invite to other students who could film a quick "it gets better." Though we were starting to stray from my original idea, I figured why not... what's a few more people?
The Facebook event went up late in the afternoon that Friday. Rob invited about thirty or so people. I invited an addition twenty or so. No big deal. Cut to later that night, around 1am to be exact. While walking out of the movie theatre, I checked the event page from my cell phone. In less than 12 hours of posting the Facebook event (and just over 24 hours of the idea in general) the event had roughly 130 people "attending." Not to mention the 600 plus people who were "awaiting reply." HOLY CRAP!! I was floored... and VERY overwhelmed. Let's also take note of the e-mail I sent out to roughly fifteen professors inviting them to participate.
Over the weekend I wrote a script and more people clicked "attending." It was one of the first times I had ever seen a Facebook event (of this size) where the number of people "attending" outnumbered those "not attending."
We opened up shop at 1:30pm with Ithaca College President Tom Rochon shooting his message. Then the line grew. It shrunk, and then grew again. Within the span of four hours we shot over one hundred Ithaca College students, faculty, and staff sending their messages of compassion and hope. We heard stories that made us laugh and stories that made us cry. We heard stories of isolation and despair, but more importantly ones of triumph and happy endings. By the end of the four hours Rob and I were exhausted both physically and emotionally but the adrenaline was still alive. It was like that cup of coffee around 4am when you're pulling an all nighter.
We took a break to attend to other commitments but met up again later that night for editing. A few sodas, some candy, and just over 24 hours later, we had a video. We wove together the lines from my script with personal stories and personal messages. We tried our best to reach out to anyone who was feeling marginalized, whether they were in high school, college, a member of the LGBT community, or someone who was bullied for any other reason. Bullying does not happen to only one group of people. Sadness does not happen to only one group of people.
Just five days after my initial e-mail we had a completed product. I was so excited about the buzz that spread across our campus faster than H1N1 did last fall. I'm so proud of the final outcome and of the entire project as a whole. It is, without question, the one thing I am most proud of in my college career, and perhaps my entire life so far. I have even heard interest at other universities. I couldn't be happier to see so many communities joining this fight to spread such an important message.
As of Sunday 10/20, the video has close to 13,000 views on youtube. It's a simple message: it gets better. No matter how low you are feeling or how alone you think you might be, there is someone out there who cares. There are (at least) 107 of them at Ithaca College. My favorite quote from the video would have to be, "Your lowest lows have tomorrows and your saddest sads have tomorrows." Tomorrow always comes, so just hold on.
I want to take this moment to express my deepest gratitude to the faculty, staff and the students of the Park School of Communications and Ithaca College. Thank you to Dean Gayeski and President Rochon, and of course to Rob, my partner in crime, who took an e-mail and ran miles with it. This video would be nothing without your help.
There's help, and there's hope, and it DOES get better.