Spring Break 2012 - Atlanta
Howard University > Alternative Spring Break 2013

ASB Volunteer Goes from Bully to being Part of the Solution

By Shanice Davis
Howard University News Service

When Omari put on Pannell's hat, it inspired Pannell  to reach out to the youth in his hometown of Newark.

ATLANTA (March 15, 2013) -- Davynte Pannell, a Howard University student from Newark, N.J., identifies closely with bullying, the focus of the university’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) in Atlanta this year. 

"I was bullied at a young age because of my hair color,” said Pannell, referring to his red hair.   “So, that gave me a personal relationship to this program, because I understand what it's like to be bullied.

 "Then I got over it. I became desensitized to it. As I got older, I became the bully."

Pannell, a sophomore philosophy and psychology major, said he evolved into a bully during fifth grade and continued his habit in high school.

"I never really noticed how I was affecting people,” he said.  “Although I knew how it affected me, I never took [their feelings] into consideration."

He is one of 45 Howard students who spent the week in Atlanta on a series of service projects.  They tutored students at Hope Hill Elementary School and worked with other students at a Salvation Army site in Dekalb County.  They also worked at another Dekalb County facility that helps young boys cope.

The subject of bullying was always part of the conversation, and that gave Pannell the opportunity to encounter how bullying affects its victims firsthand.

"It's one thing for us to say it is a problem, but it's another thing to see a child experience it in person," he said.

Pannell became close with the students he tutored and mentored during the week.  One, a student named Omari, asked to wear Pannell’s hat, which had “Newark” printed on it.

That gave Pannell an idea.  He said he now wants to start a movement to give back to youth in his city.

"I want to be able to put Newark on in a positive way,” he said.  I don't even think he knew what Newark was before he met me, so I feel like an ambassador for my city."

In Newark, youth are plagued by gang violence, household abuse and poverty, he said.

"It's hard out there,” he said.  “I know for the people that I'm trying to reach out to in my city, they probably have it worse than I had it.”
Working as an ASB volunteer also strengthened his views on achieving success despite the odds.

"I've reinforced my beliefs about not letting your environment define you or distract you," he said. "You live in a crazy place, but you don't [have] to be crazy yourself."

Howard University sophomore Davynte Pannell tutors his Hope-Hill Elementary School student Omari.
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