“Problems are not reasons to give up, but a challenge to improve ourselves, not an excuse to back out, but an inspiration to move forward.” -Unknown
My name is Sierra Phelps. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m your average eighteen year old. I attend college and love hanging out with my friends. The only difference between them and me are the scars that cover my arms. Despite feeling like they set me apart, after years of struggle, I’ve realized that I’m not the only one. Others simply have scars elsewhere or wounds on the heart that can’t be seen. Even if we are aware of the scars, we don’t always know the reasons behind them.
I have had a lot of experiences and people have left their mark on me in one way or another – some more negatively than others. By this, I mean that I have been bullied. It started at the end of junior high but only got worse during high school. I think people like to believe that it goes away and doesn’t stick with you, but I still remember things that were said to me in freshman year. I feel like sometimes I am still trying to build myself back up from where they tore me down. I know I’m young, but I’ve also talked to people much older than myself whose wounds are still easily reopened when they talk about it.
You may be wondering, “Why should I care?” or “Why should I listen?”
You should care because bullying has a negative impact on our society. You’d be surprised how many times in the past couple months that I’ve stood in a room where someone says, “Raise your hand if you’ve been bullied.” It always breaks my heart to see every single hand go up in the air. It is a more prominent problem than we used to believe it to be, and if you pay attention to the media, I feel like more often than not, there’s a story about bullying on the news.
You should care because the effects of bullying are endless. Some people have flashbacks where certain events or words trigger these terrible memories. Sometimes people have difficulties trying to make relationships and have a lack of trust for others. A lot of the time, one’s self-esteem is extremely damaged due to bullying, and they often have lingering feelings of anger, bitterness, and loneliness. Many people also skip class because they’re bullied and have lower grades. Being bullied can also cause someone to start harming themselves physically, and in extreme cases that we sadly hear about, can also cause them to take their own lives.
You should care because bullying can happen to anyone. The person sitting next to you in class, your child, your best friend, or you dearest loved one.
I am here to not only express to you the problems and my concerns, but also to tell you what I have started with the help of many great people to help spread awareness and educate people on bullying. Because even though bullying can never truly be eliminated, it can definitely be improved and lessened and that is something that we want to fight for.
The story behind the group that was created was in large inspired by an extraordinary young man, Kennedy LeRoy, who took his life on June 12, 2015 in part to bullying. The lives of many people in the community of Chino Hills, California changed forever, but none more than the LeRoy family. He left behind a note explaining why and his desire for others to not be victims of bullying; just one aspect of his suffering. He wanted others to hear his message and stop the cruel effects of bullying.
In the days following his death, I posted something simple on the Chino Hills Facebook page. I was overwhelmed by how much support it received and by how many people also wanted to do something to change. On this day, a call to action was heard by members of the Chino Hills community: the family and friends of not only Kennedy, but other victims of bullying, parents, and students who did not want to see another youth suffer. It was this call to action that brought together a group of volunteers dedicated to making a difference who formed Kennedy’s Voice.
The purpose of Kennedy’s Voice is to support those who are/have been bullied, educate and empower students on how to safely intervene, and teach parents how to appropriately respond and get involved when they learn their child is being bullied. Kennedy wished for his message to be spread. He wanted to be the starting point of something that can hopefully change and improve the lives of many, and he is doing just that.
Though we cannot guarantee no one will ever be bullied, we can assure you that we are committed to providing a numerous amount of resources to help victims of bullying, support their families, treat the bully in a reputable manner, and educate bystanders on how to act if they witness someone being bullied. Currently, we are aiming for changes in the Chino/Chino Hills community. However, we would love to see the changes create an impact and grow to more communities.
Our nation sees far too many of these stories in the headlines and it’s time to do something about it. It truly takes a village. Help strengthen the voice of victims and families of bullying and help Kennedy’s voice be heard.
Though bullying has a way of tearing you down, it doesn’t mean that you never have to get back up. With a good support system and some guidance, there is no reason that you can’t keep fighting for the life that you deserve. The things the bullies said or the way they treated you does not define you as a person. You are so much more than capable of moving forward despite whatever challenges have held you back.
Are you interested in joining Kennedy’s Voice? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
“From outer space, you are part of the earth. From 35,000 feet, you could be an ant. One hundred feet away, you are both human beings. Form 50 feet, your gender cannot be identified. From 10 feet away, it is not distinguishable if you are friends or enemies. Face to face, this moment feels like your whole world; like no one can help, like it will never change, like there is no hope.”
So begins the video that introduces Kennedy’s Voice to the world. Kennedy Leroy was a 16-year-old boy who attended high school in Chino Hills. Due to aggravated, continued bullying, Kennedy decided to take his own life in June of 2015. His death resonated with the community, particularly one girl who had just graduated from Kennedy’s high school, and who was a victim of bullying herself..
Sierra Phelps reached out to families, professionals and community members, and together, they formed Kennedy’s Voice as a resource for how to handle and prevent bullying in our surrounding cities and beyond. Recently, they released their very first video. Please take a moment to watch the video, and let us know your thoughts below.