The Why Behind #BeKind

Kyler Erickson speaks to students


Photo by Sydney Looney

“Kyler Erickson speaks at an all-school assembly. Erickson was invited as a guest speaker to inform the student body about the #BeKind campaign. “Students can use the #BeKind campaign to talk to unpopular kids more often, to sit by someone new at lunch, or to donate their time to someone or something in need,” Erickson said. “They will feel a deeper fulfillment than when thy’re living for their own self.”

Alexandra Dobesh, Staff Writer

2419 students crowd into Wildcat 1. The air is full of conversations about classes, sports and the upcoming Homecoming dance. Little do the students know that this assembly is more than just an excuse for shorter classes; they will be hearing from possibly the best guest speaker Millard West has ever had.

Kyler Erickson had spoken to the staff members before the start of the school year, and on Thursday, Sept. 28, he came to speak to students during an all-school assembly.   Erickson, a Millard South graduate and former UNO basketball player, was invited to speak in order to provide students with more insight into the #BeKind campaign.

“Initially I was hesitant about #BeKind because they were pressing it on us so much, and people were turning it into a joke,” junior Reagan Koza said. “After hearing Kyler Erickson however, I felt inspired. The part that spoke to me the most was when he asked himself if he was living for himself or for a bigger purpose. He found a way to incorporate sports into a bigger purpose, and I feel like that’s something we can all do whether we’re involved in sports, clubs or youth group.”

Erickson began his speech by talking about his early years. He was an average kid with a love for basketball. During his first two years at South, he did not make varsity. This pushed him to train harder than everyone else, going by the motto ‘when you fail, you can get bitter or get better.’ Once junior year hit, he reached his goal of making the team, and in his senior year it got better. He led Nebraska in scoring and his team was ranked number 1 in the state. He was a full-on jock, and Erikson thought that was all that mattered.

“I think that students identify with Kyler and can make a better connection to him,” principal Greg Tiemann said. “He is reinforcing all of the things Dr. Sutfin and myself have been saying, but when I say it it seems more like a lecture. With Kyler, it’s friend to friend.”

The atmosphere of the room changed dramatically as Erickson brought up his next topic- the 2011 Millard South shooting. You could have heard a pin drop as Erickson revealed he was in the nurse’s office when the shooter was in the school, right next to the administration office where the principal was shot and the vice-principal was killed. Erickson’s experience forged a connection with his audience because most had vivid memories of that tragic experience.

Photo by Sydney Looney
Guest speaker Kyler Erickson takes time to meet with students after his speech. His message on mental health made a big impact on many students in the audience. “For those struggling with mental health issues, I’d tell them they’re important, they’re loved and they matter,” Erickson said. “Life is hard, but it’s much easier when we help each other through it and overcome the issue together.”

When Erickson began college, he said it was the worst six months of his life because he was suffering from nightmares and was scared to admit it. He sought help and was diagnosed with PTSD and depression which led him to make the decision t

o take four months off of school and basketball to make a full recovery.


“It’s important to discuss mental health because that’s how we overcome the stigma associated with it,” Erickson said. “When more an

d more people come out and tell their stories, that allows people who are struggling to come out and admit it. A huge weight is lifted off of their shoulders.”


The main message was that students often live for themselves to meet goals that have little significance. After the shooting, Erikson realized he should be living for something bigger than himself.

“I remember when the shooting happened,” Tiemann said. “I felt so bad for Millard South because I knew if that happened here, it would be so hard to heal. With his depression, Kyler made the choice not to go father down that negative path and uses his gifts and talents as a way for others to hear his story.”

Erickson has been giving talks for three years and went on a tour across the country last year to share his message. He has been able to share his story with hundreds of thousands of people and hopes to speak at an international conference someday. His main goal though is to continue reaching others and make a difference.


Erickson’s openness and honesty led students to share their own stories with him after his speech. Some were moved to tears by Erickson’s hopeful message that everyone is important, loved and they matter.

“I do what I do because I feel a very deep responsibility to make the world a better place and to erase the stigma associated with mental health,” Erickson said. “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and regret not living a life for something bigger than myself.”

Erickson ended his speech by saying everything in life can be done selfishly or unselfishly. He challe

Photo by Sydney Looney
Senior Emma Ahrenholtz closes the assembly. She challenged everyone in the audience to strive to make a difference with the #BeKind campaign. “Kyler’s message resonates with each and every one of us,” Ahrenholtz said. “He’s from Omaha, he’s from Millard South and because of that his message is stronger and pushes us more to take action.”

nged the audience to not ask why the world is so messed up but also what they can do to make it better. Here he brought everything full circle by addressing how the #BeKind campaign is providing everyone an opportunity to make a difference.


“The most important takeaway is that every single one of us can make a difference,” senior Emma Ahrenholtz said. “I hope students internalize the #BeKind message and apply it in their everyday lives. It makes a big difference.”

The assembly ended with Ahrenholtz explaining #BeKind further-how it’s not another anti-bullying campaign, but rather a pro-inclusion campaign. She encouraged everyone to take little steps because even a small act of kindness makes a big difference. Millard West will continue to build off of the #BeKind campaign throughout the school year and hopefully for many years to come.