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The solution to bullying: Don’t be a bully. At least that’s what Jeremiah Anthony heard from a speaker at one of his high school’s “dismal” anti-bullying rallies. There was no other solution given, Anthony says. “Everyone sitting in the auditorium was stunned at how dumb that was.”
If simply telling kids not to become bullies is the solution to bullying, Anthony isn’t impressed. Even legislation against bullying falls short in eyes of this high school junior and the team of 10 he has working with him to combat bullying West High in Iowa City, Iowa. “Sure bullying is bad, but laws don’t necessarily stop things. Just look at our legal system filled with people who don’t abide the law,” says Anthony.
According to Pacer.org, nearly one-third of all school-aged kids in the U.S. are bullied. Unsatisfied with professional anti-bullying speakers’ attempts to end bullying and inspired by the kindness of other students, Anthony determined there must be an alternative solution to bullying.
“I went back to what I learned in first grade: Bullies bully to validate themselves and boost their own self-esteem,” he said. “They lack validation and self-esteem, so they feel putting others down raises them up.” Seeking a method for building others up through kindness and compliments without drawing attention to himself, Anthony launched the anonymous Twitter profile, @Westhighbros in October 2011. The following March, he launched the “Facebook version” of @Westhighbros.
I hope the positive movement spreads everywhere and that the world becomes a happier place. I don’t want to just end bullying I want to improve the happiness of my surroundings one tweet at a time.
Since its launch, @Westhighbros has sent more than 3,000 tweets of encouragement and kindness to fellow West High students. “Everyone has worth; everyone deserves a good time.” With that core belief, Anthony and 10 of his peers use @Westhighbros to send kind and encouraging sentiments to anyone and everyone in their school. “We compliment everyone from the popular to the not as popular,” said Anthony. “Even the bullies get great and sincere compliments. A compliment has to be sincere or it’s no better than an insult.”
Anthony’s experiment in kindness is working, and proving that kindness can overcome anything; and may even save a life.
While standing in the pizza line during lunch one day, Anthony was surprised to receive a hug from a classmate. Caugh off guard, Anthony asked why she was hugging him. With tears in her eyes, the young girl looked at Anthony and said “I was going to kill myself, but I saw your compliment to me on my Facebook page and I realized how dumb it’d be to kill myself and that I do have worth and people to care about me.”
Her story isn’t unique. “Unfortunately — or maybe fortunately — that’s happened numerous times,” said Anthony. He has heard story by story of students who are so encouraged by the simple words of kindness they receive from @Westhighbros that they are convinced suicide is not the answer.
In another example, Anthony told us about a student who sent his suicide note to the group on Facebook. “No sense in making my enemies happy, time to end this joke of a life,” the student wrote. A quick response from Anthony and his team of helpers reassured the student that his life had value and worth.
“Not only is he alive, but he’s helping others overcome their thoughts about suicide,” Anthony said.
“I hope the positive movement spreads everywhere and that the world becomes a happier place,” says Anthony. “I don’t want to just end bullying I want to improve the happiness of my surroundings one tweet at a time.”
His challenge to others? “People don’t necessarily need to start a social media account to do this. Every person is different. Every school is different. Every community is different. Find the unique solution to your problem.”
“If a little kid from some town in Iowa that no one has ever heard of can do this pretty much anyone can make their surroundings better. Leave your surroundings better than when you came in. If you see a problem don’t wait for someone else to fix it. Fix it yourself!”
More about Jeremiah Anthony: Jeremiah was born in Cochin in India. He now lives in Iowa City, Iowa. Some of his favorites include running track, reading history, actor Mark Ruffalo, actress Meryl Streep and Forrest Gump. He enjoys reading any book by Dave Barry and is a big fan of West High’s principal, Dr. A., “the best principal a school could have.”
Follow @WestHighBros on Twitter
Better yet, launch your own anti-bullying campaign and join Jeremiah and his team of 10 peers in spreading messages of kindness and encouragement to others!
Written by Melody Harstine Foster
I'm a freelance writer with a penchant for Pugs and a portfolio of articles from tech to beauty and beyond. A communicator at heart, my true passion is covering issues promoting positive change in our world. Connect with me on Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, or at melodyharstine.com.