She pulled my hair, hit me, and isolated me from my friends. I didn’t tell anyone for fear the bullying would get worse. By the time my mother discovered it, I was having stomach spasms and panic attacks. My doctor diagnosed me as clinically depressed and I took anti-depressants for nearly a year. It was a scary time for me and my family. My mother told me that I could choose to ignore what happened, I could blame others, or I could be a part of finding a solution.
I didn’t know then how that one question would change my life and how committing to be a part of change would impact the lives of kids all across my state.
We have spent six years fighting for kindness and for kids who think no one hears them, no one believes them, and that no one will help them.
My mom taught me that when we push through fear, there is something beautiful on the other side. I remember a judge suggesting to my mom that we stop our advocacy work because he feared for our safety. There were those who tried to tried to intimidate and harass us. I will never forget my mother’s struggle with fighting for me while worried about protecting me. We often talk about what our legacy will be and we agreed there is nothing more worthy than that of standing up for someone who can’t find their own voice.
Pushing through fear has led us to some remarkable places. We lobbied our Governor for nearly three years to appoint a statewide task force to studying bullying. I was the only student appointed and we spent a year studying the issue. We were one of only two states that didn’t have a formal definition for bullying. I served as the spokesperson for the group and testified before the Kentucky legislature. I stood with our Governor last summer to sign that bill into law that now protects all 640,000 Kentucky public school students.
I now realize my story isn't about a school or even a bully. It is about every one of us. It is about adults setting a good example and about me taking responsibility for my own actions. My life would be very different if my mom had chosen to be silent. I wouldn't see the power of my own voice to do good.
We all face difficult days and we are witness to the injustices of our world. The question we face in those times is do we ignore what we see, do we blame others, or will we push through the fear and be a part of a making a positive difference.
I am a believer that one person can make a difference but I also know that, together, we can change the world.