Pageant winner Mikaela Carson toured two states sharing her anti-bullying message and organization ABLE — Anti Bullying Lifelines and Education — to help students deal with school bullies and to inspire bullies to change.
Bernard Thomas, The Herald-Sun/AP
Bullies are most-often thought of in a physical sense, a person who pushes others around and uses his or her size advantage to strike fear into others.
That kind of bullying continues today, and is joined by more subtle siblings that victimize many, and often without knowledge of those in positions to stop it.
Miss Northeast Counties Mikaela Carson knows this first hand. The Overland Park, Kan., resident said she was on the receiving end of social bullying throughout school. Good family support, she said, helped her through it, but when a family friend committed suicide as a result of bullying, she began to understand how widespread and deep the problem was.
"I realized how many people go through these things day, after day, after day," she said.
Carson participated March 17 in the Kirksville, Mo., St. Patrick's Day Parade and distributed material on ABLE — or Anti-Bullying Lifelines and Education — a grassroots effort she established to bring attention to bullying in its various forms and empower people to stop those behaviors.
"I want to empower young adults to not just say they won't be a bully, but understand when you see someone being victimized there is a moral obligation to help them," Carson said. "If you were in that situation, you'd want someone to help you.
"I really felt very strongly with my personal stake in this. It would ultimately be my goal that no one would have to experience the things that made my friend choose that way out."
Carson has presented at schools across Kansas and Missouri, working to educate youth on forms of bullying and related impacts. She closes each session by asking the students to sign an anti-bullying pledge in which they commit to be a "lifeline" to those in need.
"We hold to the belief that every individual has the right to live without fear of intimidation, slander or isolation regardless of their race, gender, religion, social standing, physical characteristics, sexual orientation or any personal traits or choices. We believe that we are indeed ABLE to make a difference and pledge to do our best in this endeavor," the pledge reads in part.