Jen Pilgreen, Deseret News
OREM — Miss Utah Kara Arnold is joining a small group of students from Utah Valley University who are trying to address the issue of bullying.
The group called "Pick on This, Make a Change,” is taking its message to schools all across the state. It came together when a UVU competition asked them to create and execute an anti-bullying campaign.
The group's members understand bullying from personal experience.
"Thankfully, someone took a stand and helped me take care of the bullying," said UVU student Sydney Tycksen, "and if it wasn't for that, it probably would have gone on for a really long time."
"When I was in high school, I happened to be a bully," said Abraham Hernandez, also a UVU student. "Unfortunately, I didn't have a program like this that told me that bullying was inappropriate."
Arnold said she accepted the invitation from the UVU students because she has met too many children who have been bullied.
“I know that it is so important in our community today and families are being impacted all the time,” she said. “It’s something that needs to be addressed and we can address.”
The 22-year-old aspiring doctor from Bountiful said she put medical school on hold for a year, instead appearing at school assemblies sometimes multiple times a day to perform science experiments and show without words that the lab isn't just a man's world.
She said the anti-bullying campaign fit well with her platform "Discover Your Potential — Step Up with STEM." STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and Arnold's platform focuses on encouraging women to explore opportunities in those fields.
Because of her chosen career in science, there have been times when she hasn’t felt comfortable and felt intimidated.
“If I can share that experience with even one other person and hopefully give them the confidence that they need to get through it, whatever experience they are going through, it will hopefully save one more life,” she said.
The National Education Association reports that one in three children from sixth to tenth grade in the U.S. is a victim of bullying.
Together, they plan to reach out to as many Utah schools as possible to try to deliver their message.
"It's those little moments that really make the biggest difference," said Arnold. "And I've seen that, being Miss Utah, there's been quite a few children who've been comfortable enough to come up to me and trust me and telling me about some of the hardest things they're going through."
Monday, the group prepared to take its message to junior high and high school students throughout the state.
Arnold said people can turn the bullying situation around and make a positive impact on someone’s life.
“I was often a friend of a victim,” she said. “Being that friend is the most important part because that victim has someone to turn to.”
"I've really seen to where it can lead to thoughts of suicide and that is what we are trying to prevent," said Priscilla Silva, another member of the group.
They all agree there is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
"We can address this issue and we can change it," Arnold said.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc
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