At White House Conference, President Obama, First Lady Focus on Bullying

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"We want to make sure that people leave our program understanding that just like eating poorly, taking drugs, smoking -- bullying is unhealthy for us," said Robyn Holstein-Glass, the Executive Director of Project Change, which organizes the anti-bullying program.

The program focuses on peer mentoring, based on the idea that young students will be more likely to confide in older students whom they see as a mentor, rather than a teacher or guidance counselor.

"It gives them kind of more of a connection – you have a relationship with a teacher, a teacher is a mentor but really the age gap makes a difference," Sousane told ABC News.

Sousane said a parent thanked him personally for helping her daughter who was being bullied.

"It made me feel really empowered that I could change something in the community," he said, "That I could make a difference."

That is exactly the message the White House wants Americans to take from today's conference – while the federal government has focused on this issue, it's individuals like Sousane, Martinez and Holstein-Glass and their communities that can have a powerful impact.

"As parents and students, as teachers and members of the community, we can take steps, all of us, to help prevent bullying and create a climate in our schools in which all of our children can feel safe, a climate in which they all can feel like they belong," the president said.

Holstein-Glass said that was what she wanted to hear from the president today at the White House conference.

"This is a problem – we need to show respect for each other. This whole idea that we can get ahead by putting other people down is not acceptable," she said.

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