Bullying can happen to anyone, and today, it can happen anywhere. With unfettered access to the internet and social media, teens are frequently victims of cyber-bullying—even within the protection of their home.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 20 percent of high school students are bullied on school property, while 15 percent are cyber-bullied.
On February 16, actor Quinton Aaron, known for his role as Michael Oher in the movie, The Blind Side, visited Newsome High School. The Tampa-based actor addressed students and parents about bullying and presented practical guidance on the subject.
“It was really cool to meet him,” said Ciara Thanasides, a sophomore at Newsome. “A lot of kids look up to him because he’s famous, and after hearing his story today, I know a lot of us will try to live up to what he said.”
Formerly a victim of childhood bullying, Aaron now wields his past experiences and stardom to draw attention to the bullying epidemic that plagues the schools. In 2012, he founded the Quinton Aaron Foundation, which seeks to put a stop to bullying.
“I wish as a child I had that person [a celebrity] who came up to me and told me that despite what I was going through, everything was going to be alright,” explained Aaron. “I had my mom, but I also had this big misconception that everybody living in the spotlight never had any problems.”
During school assemblies and lunch periods, Aaron rallied the students to battle bullying by speaking up and standing up for one another. Later that evening, Aaron, and his agent David Tyler along with Newsome Principal Carla Bruning, tackled the tough subject in a town hall meeting for parents.
Tyler stressed the importance of peer influence and noted, “The foundation’s future social media ambassador program will give students direct access to us,” he said. “By using social media, these student ambassadors will post positive photos with any new students to help make them feel welcome at the school.”
Though it was Aaron’s first visit to Newsome, it will not be his last. Aaron is collaborating with Newsome as it launches its social media ambassador program. Also in the works is Aaron’s documentary titled, Best of Me, which will feature Newsome High School students.
Aaron and Tyler traverse the country to engage with students, teachers and parents at school assemblies and town halls carrying a message of encouragement and offering resources to those who have fallen victim to being bullied.
The foundation accepts donations for travel costs. To learn more or to donate, visit http://quintonaaron.org.