ABC7 Stars: Nonprofit founder works to inspire Bay Area youth

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- October is National Bullying Prevention Month and an East Bay non-profit is working to stop the problem at its core. Vicki Abadesco is the founder of Soul Shoppe, and one of our ABC7 Stars.

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It's an exciting morning at Susan b. Anthony Elementary in Daly City. Soul Shoppe is here, presenting one of its grade-level workshops.

"We go into schools, mostly elementary and middle schools, and we really help kids to have skills, communication skills so that they know how to talk about their feelings and they also know how to work out problems together," said Abadesco.

The co-founder has been an educator for 34 years and her program is in its 18th school season. It's based on similar workshops but hte group also does school assemblies and separate training for staff and parents.

"When we're talking about issues like teasing, bullying, how kids put each other down, we're really looking at wow -- how do kids really connect with each other," Abadesco told ABC7 News.

Rhyan Ramirez is a facilitator with Soul Shoppe, teaching his 5th grade class how tot alk about their problems and feelings in a way that supports one another. That issue could be anything -- like a problem at home or when things don't go your way in a game at school.

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"So something then happens in the school culture, where now there's more compassion. There's more understanding. There's space for forgiveness," Abadesco added.

The students seem to enjoy the interaction and administrators like Greg Kontzer, say the Soul Shoppe program is a difference maker.

"Kids know the language to use to solve their problems," said Dean of Academics at Susan B. Anthony Elementary Greg Kontzer. "They really know how to share their feelings with each other and they know that once they solve a problem together and leave peacefully, that problem is behind them.

That's something previous generations wish they had growing up, including Abadesco.

"There was violence, there was alcoholism in my own home so I went to school feeling so alone," she told ABC7 News. "I didn't have anyone to talk to... and if I had the skills back then, or if there was Soul Shoppe back then, I would have been able to see that there were other kids just like me and I wasn't alone."

Abadesco made it her life mission to help children like her. Soul Shoppe has served the Bay Area since 2000 and now offers its program nationwide, reaching nearly half a million students.

Click here to learn more about Soul Shoppe.

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