Change Maker: Caitlin Prater-Haacke

11156257_883911371669156_1522010853924911_n It’s most likely you’ve heard Caitlin Prater-Haacke’s name associated with the phrase “positive post-it”. In 2014 Caitlin experienced targeted bullying, but her response to it was to fight bullying with positivity. She created positive messages on sticky notes and stuck them to every locker in her school. Colourful messages such as, “you are beautiful”, “I love you”, and “you make me smile” covered the hallways. The story was picked up by CBC The National and soon became viral. Through it was born the internationally celebrated “Positive Post It Day” and a movement of positivity.

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Caitlin and I on the far left with the other girls who attended the 2014 EF Tours Global Citizen Trip.

I was lucky enough to have met Caitlin for the first time a few months before, in March of 2014. We had both been selected as one of ten youth from across Canada chosen to be an EF Tours 2014 Global Citizen and travel to Europe. In Europe we attended the first ever We Day UK in London, England, a Science and Innovation Summit in Berlin, Germany, and toured Munich, Germany as well. When you have the opportunity to travel with a group of complete strangers, an amazing thing will often happen: knowing each other for a few days feels like a few years. Everyone on this trip was beyond amazing in their own right, having created fantastic initiatives in their communities and striving for excellence in all areas of their lives. This group has continued to inspire me much past the initial trip itself. Caitlin was definitely one of these. The youngest on the trip, she was determined, energetic, and ready to learn, explore, and create positivity. I remember sitting in a coffee shop with her in London and sharing stories together of adventures we had been on, challenges we had faced, and our dreams for our futures. I know Caitlin will continue to create positive progressions with anything she takes on in life, and I couldn’t think of a better person to feature as the first ever ‘Change Maker’ on PopActivism. For those who are interested here is a link to: Caitlin’s original EF submission video and my own original submission video. Thank you so much again Caitlin for sharing your story with PopActivism and for your ongoing support and friendship!

Students holding up positive sticky notes created to support Caitlin’s initiative.

You’re Positive Post It Initiative has created an international movement! Can you speak a bit about the original act that caught the worlds attention? What motivated you to fight bullying with positivity? In October of 2014, a student at my school used my social media to write and post a status about me- leaving several lies and slanderous phrases for my friends list to view, like, and share. While I was certainly distraught by this act, I soon made the decision that I wanted to respond with a non-traditional route. After some research on Pinterest, I learned of two students who put up Post-Its with positive messages in their own school, and it was surely a light bulb moment. My motivation became the students, adults, and ederly of Canada that face bullying every day. “With the technological advances facing modern day society, cyber bullying has become far more prominent.” This phrase is often the basis of many of my speeches, as I explore the ideas of cyber bullying, and just how we can put a stop to it with an act of positivity.

Caitlin speaks on the power of positivity.

You have gained international attention from your ‘Positive Post It’ Initiative, founded a Post It Day across Canada, have a Facebook fan-base of over 14,000 people, and have travelled to speak about your initiative from New York to Japan. Did you ever expect this initiative to create this much attention? Since you have such a large online profile now, do you ever receive hate messages? What is your response to them?  Shortly after the first Positive Post-It Day, it soon became apparent that it would be celebrated on an international scale. One thing that many people don’t know about me, is that the first time I put up Post-Its, I did it anonymously. I didn’t want the ‘who’ to be as important as the message. I never expected that a random act of kindness in my school would go viral, especially given that I didn’t want anybody to know in the first place. Often, I receive many positive and uplifting messages on my page- and those have trumped the negativity. I have made the decision to not let any one person get me down, because an act of kindness will, and did, take the world by storm.

Caitlin with her “Mini Kindness Krew” on Canada Day 2015. The team helped her with the float as well as with a number of Kindness Campaigns.
Caitlin spoke at the 2015 TedxTeen in New York City. Her speech called “How to Make Positivity Stick” can be found here:

 For anyone who is reading this and experiencing bullying, what would be your advice to them? As well, if you could speak to a bully themselves what would you tell them? One piece of advice, while it may seem miniscule, is to remember the power of Positivity. Often times people bully because it is all they know. And if we make the self-conscious decision to show one and other care and empathy, it goes a long way to changing our lives. Truly, my advice is to find an act of kindness, and show your bullies that you will not let their acts and words get you down- Take power over the situation. Furthermore, showing a bully kindness in a verbal matter is key. If you can speak to them, let them know that what they are doing is wrong. Chances are, they will realize the error of their ways. But if not, let others help you complete this task. Speak to school administration, your boss, the police- There are many of great tools and organizations that work with bullies on a hands-on level. 10420290_769494113110883_3495570163765941627_n Online bullying is a humongous issue for many people in this digital age. Especially because it can be hard for an outsider to know someone is experiencing bullying until its too late. Can you give any advice to parents, peers, and others who think someone they know might be getting bullied online and are not sure how to help?  Often, an act of bullying can escape ones own hands. It is important to let professionals that are experienced and trained to deal with bullying help. Call your local RCMP, school, or even the Kids Help Phone. There are many great groups that can help, and all it takes is a phone call. 11021519_854279637965663_3233909568293210601_nWe actually met on EF Tours Global Citizen Trip to Europe in 2014 before the Positive Post It initiative had been created! You had already done so many amazing things in both your local and global communities. Can you speak about any other initiatives you’ve been involved in? What is the next project you’re going to be working on?  My family and I often take part in “Random Acts of Kindness.” We do things such as give treats and gas cards to strangers, work with the homeless, or leave Christmas presents for our neighbors. One time, we did a weekend bottle drive to make over 80 Build-A-Bears for sick children at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Essentially, we love getting out in our community and surprising strangers with kindness. You never know just how much you could be helping an individual or family.

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Caitlin atop her Positive Post-It Day float in Airdrie, Alberta’s 2015 Canada Day Parade. The float consisted of a robot made out of sticky notes!

What would be your advice for young people who want to make a positive difference in the world? What is one action they could take today to make a difference? There are many great things you could do in your community, whether that be volunteering in a formal or informal sense. Talk to a local group and see how you can help, or even decide to do a random act of kindness. It may be something as simple as paying for someone else’s coffee, or buying an apple for a homeless man, but no good deed goes unnoticed. Find what you are passionate about, and make a change- its a two step process guaranteed to change the world! kids-help-phoneOn your Facebook page you have shown your support for other organizations and movements such as the Bystander Revolution. What are some of your favourite organizations/movements that you are supporting at the moment?  Some of my favorite groups and organizations include the Kids Help Phone, and Alberta Safe and Caring. They both work with students affected by bullying and mental health issues, and are great contacts for students. They both also work strongly on the education of students and youth about bullying! Next year is your final year of high school, what are your plans for after that? What would your dream job be?  I plan to pursue a degree in Political Science and a Doctorate in Law for University. My dream job, that I intend to pursue, is to be Prime Minister of Canada. 10609680_769478006445827_2653178077531969990_n

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