As a young child I was diagnosed with a severe food allergy to peanuts. I could not touch, breathe, or be in the same room as peanuts. I grew up knowing what I could and could not eat, and how to handle situations around me. As I got older it became harder and harder. Peers around me would tease me, call me names, and even wave candy in my face. Teachers would hang signs up in the classroom to show that no peanuts were allowed in the classroom. This made me even more of a target than before because everyone knew the sign was because of me. When the bullying got worse my parents had to meet with school board members to implement a 504 plan to insure that I was safe on school grounds. My parents have been so supportive throughout my life of having a food allergy and being a target because of it. That is why it is so important to tell someone you trust if you are being bullied or witness the behavior.
I always knew that I was different because of my food allergy. When I reached the ninth grade I became a patient at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in a sublingual food allergy study for almost 5 years. I was scared and nervous throughout the whole process, but I knew in the end it would pay off. I can now have two table spoons of peanut butter daily. Going my entire life without eating peanuts I did not know how to react to this. I knew that this study did not just help me, but it would help others overcome their allergy as well.
These are the very reasons that I have chosen a platform of “Bully Free Starts With Me”. I am educating young children to know where to turn if they are being bully. Not only that but to not let the words, actions, or ignorance of others defeat them. I am sharing my message to as many people that I can. Our state senators, representatives, governors care so much about bully prevention that is why I am working as a voice with them. Every step we take, whether it is small or large we are meeting part of the challenge to being bully free.
No matter what people say to you it does not define the person that you are. Yes, I was bullied in school, but I now use my story to empower those around me. If we all foster love, I believe that bullying will eventually end. One word or action can change a person’s life. Stand up for those around you.
Join me in taking the pledge Bully Free Starts with Me,
Miss Arkansas International 2017