After six years in the mental health field working with at-risk youth and later, with adults dealing with addiction, Burton Patterson was eager to work with young people again.
“Being a camp counselor for five summers led me to working with kids,” said Burton. “I love their energy, being around them and their sometimes brutal honesty.”
Burton joined the Social Health Association in January as a full-time Step Up for Kindness! educator. He travels to schools throughout Central Indiana teaching the program to kindergarten through 8th graders.
Its tenant: Being kind to one another prevents bullying. Easier said than done for adolescents, who are already trying to learn about themselves and how to handle peer pressure.
Burton makes the concept of kindness relatable to older students by talking about stereotypes, prejudice, and the myths and facts about bullying.
“I tell the children that it’s not always easy to not react physically, but retaliating is not the right thing to do.”
Burton’s family moved to Indianapolis last fall after his wife accepted a teaching position at Butler University.
“I loved what I did before,” said Burton. “Loving your job is important. It’s important to your emotional and mental health. I figured that out earlier in life than most. So many people go to their job, and it’s a means to an end. It can be so draining.”
The work he’d done with overlooked, vulnerable populations gave him perspective in his new role at Social Health Association, which he also enjoys.
“I had seen how childhood trauma could lead to issues later in life. Teaching healthy choices and healthy options can help kids in the long run. A small kind act can go a very long way to prevent bullying.”
Burton connects with the kids during the two-day program.
“I love it when the kids say, ‘How are you Mr. Patterson? I can’t wait to see you in class today.’ Developing a strong rapport with children and knowing that we are impacting their lives truly makes what we do rewarding.”