As parents, we all want our children to learn and grow in a safe environment, but bullying continues to threaten the well-being of many of our island youngsters. October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a month-long effort that encourages everyone to take an active role in the bullying prevention movement.
The potential consequences of bullying are unsettling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, victims of bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, and poor school adjustment. Meanwhile, students who bully others are more prone to substance use, academic problems, and violence later in adolescence and adulthood.
School districts and government agencies are at the forefront of addressing the problem. So it’s not often you’ll find a victim of bullying, let alone a child, with the moxie to launch her own grassroots campaign. But that’s what Mahealani Sims Tulba has done. At the seasoned age of 13, Tulba started B.R.A.V.E. Hawaii, an organization aimed at bringing awareness to bullying and finding solutions to create a healthier school environment.
B.R.A.V.E. stands for “Be Respectful And Value Everyone,” and originated in the summer of 2014 after Tulba was crowned Miss Junior Teen Hawaii.
Once a victim of bullying, Tulba is eager to help others. She wrote and illustrated a book, “It’s OK to be Different,” and shares it during her organization’s various public-speaking events. B.R.A.V.E. provides tips for children and parents, and resources for local businesses to further the cause.
She’s gotten tremendous support from her dad, local comedian Augie T. Augie is a partner in the organization and does events and school visits with her. In addition to bullying, he addresses issues like drugs, suicide and teen pregnancy during the sessions geared toward high school students. Earlier this summer, he put on “Laugh Under the Stars,” a benefit comedy concert for B.R.A.V.E.
Photos courtesy of Augie T/B.R.A.V.E. Hawaii