NEWARK, AR (KAIT) – What started as an effort to end bullying at her school in New York has taken one 17-year-old girl all across the country.
Her anti-bullying crusade brought her to Arkansas on Monday for the very first time.
The Cedar Ridge School District in Newark brought in Jamie Isaacs, who at age 17 is already a published author, a lawmaker and a renowned anti-bullying advocate.
"I think I got some awesome feedback," Isaacs said after speaking to the packed Cedar Ridge gymnasium. "I think that those who came in not really being too educated about bullying or felt as though they didn't really know what to do if they were being bullied came out feeling a little bit better, a little more educated."
Isaacs has spoken to schools recently in New York, Illinois and Florida. Her speech at Cedar Ridge was her first and only stop in Arkansas, where she shared how she overcame merciless bullying.
She told the Cedar Ridge students that it all started in second grade when she began to get taunted on the school bus by someone she considered a friend. Isaacs suggested the bullying started because her classmates were jealous of her supportive family. The bullying, she says, only became more violent from there. At age seven, one of her classmates threatened to kill her.
She finally moved to a private school in eighth grade after her tormentors grew in number and intensity, attacking her online through email and an Internet messaging system. She says through all the attacks, the school did very little to punish the bullies.
"If you see something, you have to say something," she said. "I don't even know how much I can street that because it's so important. A lot of kids are afraid of being called a tattle tale, but they're not. They don't realize if they are telling someone about someone being bullied that they're actually saving a person's life."
In eighth grade, Isaacs started an anti-bullying foundation with her parents. Her mother encouraged her to write a book, which Cedar Ridge special education teacher Cindy Paarman read to her students last year and then sought out Isaacs to come and speak.
"We as adults can talk to students all day long. Have we been through it? Yes, but we're a lot older than them, and sometimes they think what do we know?" Paarman said. "But hearing it from another student their age who has been through it, they can really relate."
Isaacs has helped craft several bills in her home state to make bullies and schools more accountable. Hearing how much she has done inspires senior Jakobe Hardee to do more with his school's tobacco prevention program.
"I know how much she helps people by doing this even on a larger scale than we do here in the community," Hardee said. "In the community we set up booths and give out this information to people, [and] we see a change here. So, I just know that what she does is a giant change."
Isaacs plans to meet with some Arkansas state legislators on Tuesday about anti-bullying legislation here in the state. Despite all this political work, she has no aspirations to become a politician.
Instead she wants to keep running her anti-bullying foundation and offer therapy to disabled children through horses.