When I was in grade school, I had lots of friends. I remember slumber parties, birthday parties at Chuck-E-Cheese, and laughing with my best friends.

This is what every child should be doing.

But over time, there was a change in it all. When all of my friends got cool winter coats with different sports team logos on them, I asked my mom for one too.

My mom was a single mother and we couldn’t afford much but she did her very best for me.

I came home to a Mighty Ducks winter coat laying on my bed. I wasn’t sure how “cool” my coat would be compared the coats that my friends had but, I wore it to school the next day anyways. Compliments were far from what I received.

I was laughed at, made fun of, and one little boy ripped my new coat on purpose. I went home and cried and didn’t wear my coat to school anymore. I never told my mom what had happened.

Then, things got worse. I remember being cornered in the girl’s bathroom by people who I thought were my friends. The boys were standing outside of the open bathroom door peering in and watching as the girls tried to urge me to fight.

This continued all the way into the classroom coatroom. I never told anyone but luckily, my mom was moving us to a new town due to work anyways.

Then high school came around. One of my favorite things to do was to play basketball. I absolutely loved it. I played on several teams, especially the summer before freshman year of high school, resulting in a dramatic loss in weight.

Entering high school as a freshman is hard enough for many, let alone someone who is different. Whether that be someone who is overweight, under weight, small in stature, very tall, or has a learning disability. The world is filled with people and everyone is different in various ways.

But, in high school, a time when young people are learning exactly who they are and what direction in life they want to take, it can be very difficult to find yourself and your desired pathway.

There are so many influences surrounding you. You may not be “cool enough” or you may not fit in with certain groups. Since I had lost so much weight, being 5’11” at the time and weighing 112 pounds, I stood out like sore thumb. I was a target for insecure sophomores and those in the grades above me to make fun of me.

I remember being told to “eat a cookie or something” in the locker room during gym class and having a car pull up alongside me while I was walking home from school with my best friend and they yelled “how does it feel to be anorexic!”.

When I made the freshman basketball team, I remember having such mixed feelings. I was so happy to be playing a sport that I loved so much but at the same time, I was not happy to be surrounded by a team of girls which the majority of them didn’t want to include me in anything. I was not invited to outside team activities nor invited to join certain groups during practices.

I would overhear whispers in the locker rooms that I wasn’t good enough and that I shouldn’t be on the team. I would always go home and cry. I toughed it out the remainder of the season but the following year, when I made the junior varsity team, I couldn’t handle it any longer and I quit before the first game. This broke my heart. I cried to my coach in the locker room but all she had to say was “I’m sorry”. Although I liked my coach and I knew that she meant well, I truly wished that she tried to make things better.

My feelings were hurt but I never told anyone how much it really affected me, especially my mom. I never felt like there was anything that anyone could or would do. No teachers, coaches, administrators, nor counselors. I just brushed it all under the rug.

Over the recent years, more and more stories make the news and media about bullying and suicide. It’s a growing problem that gets recognition but still continues to explode. More and more children are skipping school, going home from school crying, and even taking their own lives as a result of being bullied. Social media is supposed to be a tool that helps people, companies, and organizations in various ways but it is being used as another vehicle for bullies to reach their victims.

If I felt like I didn’t want to tell anyone what was happening to me, I can understand how there are so many children out there who feel the same way. The term “bullying” wasn’t really used years ago but since there have been so many cases of children being bullied or committing suicide due to being bullied, the term is being used everywhere. But this cannot let us trivialize the term because children’s lives are at stake.

Bullying and cyber-bullying have become nothing shy of an epidemic. A lot of light has been shed upon trying to solve this problem but, how come there is a new horrible story in the news almost every week? How come there are so many children who suffer from being victims of bullies every day? What needs to be done to put an end to this? What do parents and schools need to make a difference?

These questions are what helped me decide to become a part of GAB. What I dealt with as a child is incomparable to what is going on in schools, on sports teams, and online these days. I know that my teachers, coaches, councilors, and principles would have cared about what was going on but maybe they just didn’t know how to handle it. That is why GAB is imperative.

GAB will be able to help adults make the best choice in controlling this epidemic. GAB will be a prime resource for school authorities, parents, and students and will provide information, advice, and outlets on bullying to all. The Peer Ambassador Program and other programs that will be implemented will provide relief to coaches, teachers, parents, students, and athletes. When there is a problem, find a solution.

GAB’s solution to bullying is to spread awareness, provide information and tools, teach and train students how to be an upstander and not a bystander, get people involved, make a strong presence in the community and gain support, and much more.

The opportunities are endless and the sky is the limit when it comes to ways to well-prepare adults and students to help put an end to this bullying epidemic and to simply spread the love.

I am extremely honored and excited to be a part of GAB and to help make a difference, one student at a time. I want to help create ideas, inspire others, support those involved, empower students, and grow the organization as a whole. If each individual makes the choice to be a better person and to help others, then we will conquer this epidemic in no time.

Sahara De Vore, Board Member

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