gabrielle jones*Cleveland, Ohio high school student Gabrielle Jones refuses to be a victim.

She has become a victor instead by writing an award winning essay on bullying and her experience in dealing with it.

The empowered young superstar wrote the essay as part of the Maltz Museum “Stop the Hate” essay contest and she is $50,000 richer because of it.

Gabrielle’s win doesn’t come in cold, hard cash. Instead, she has received a scholarship from the organization.

“Growing up, I was always bigger than my peers,” Gabrielle stated to WKYC-TV. “I was friendless because no one wanted to hang out with the fat girl.”

Gabrielle then describes her experience being bullied by the other kids.

“During recess, the kids would ask me to be their horse and they would push me on the ground.”

Gabrielle went on to talk about the damning psychological impact of the abuse.

“Kids would throw candy wrappers and Debby Cakes on my seat and tell me to eat it. Every day I would come home and run to my room and cry my eyes out,” Gabrielle said.

After confronting her bullies head on, Gabrielle writes about how she rose above the bullies and became her own woman.

“I was not going to allow myself coming into an adult to be a victim of hatred and bullying,” she said.

Gabrielle went on to become the Student Council Vice President.  She plans to go to law school one day and eventually become a judge.

Yesterday, I wrote about the bully training program called “Basketball Wives” and the role that we all play in teaching our children how to treat one another.   While we might deem it relatively harmless for a 12-year old girl to see 35-year old baby’s mamas jumping over tables to beat each other down, the fact is that this leaves a very powerful impression on our young people.   When we teach our kids to be the very worst of themselves, they end up behaving like the perpetrators who nearly ruined Gabrielle’s life.

Most kids aren’t as lucky as this young woman.  Many of them suffer from depression, low self-esteem and even end up suicidal.   There are few places lonelier than inside the mind of a middle school kid being treated horribly by his/her friends.  The scars can last for a lifetime.

What’s worse is that many of the kids who bully others have not yet developed enough empathy to understand the impact of their actions.  A woman explained to me how she sought out the girl she’d bullied in middle school and apologized because she had no idea how hurtful her actions were to the other person.  If adults do not go out of their way to teach children how to care about one another, they may not figure it all out until it’s too late.

Gabrielle, I am oh so proud of you.   I also encourage others who care about the Gabrielles of the world to identify them where they exist and help these young people work through their most difficult years.   We must stand up to the madness right now.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and author of the forthcoming book, “The RAPP Sheet: Rising Above Psychological Poison.” To have Dr. Boyce commenttary delivered to your email, please click here.

boyce watkins