Nothing is more daunting than a worldwide epidemic spiraling without any real remedy in sight. Bullying is a tragedy which many of our children face daily. In some cases, the consequences of bullying have proven deadly. Addressing such an overwhelmingly wide-spread problem can seem downright hopeless. We ask ourselves, “What can one person possibly do that would make a difference?” There is one person who dared to face this serious and complex issue, head-on. Meet 10-year-old visionary and activist, Autumn Smith. This young changemaker is determined to stop bullying, one shirt at a time.
Creating the ‘Bullying Stops Here’ Shirt
Sadly, the smiling girl in the photographs wasn’t always so happy. Autumn too, is a survivor of the growing bullying epidemic and therefore, is no stranger to the painfully deep impact bullying inflicts on kids. Bullying is such a massively wide-spread problem in the US alone that according to www.stopbullying.gov, 1 in every 3 to 4 children are affected.
According to her mom Cynthia Smith, Autumn is resilient by nature, as well as extremely compassionate where others are concerned. After years of experiencing bullying, she knew she had to do something to take her power back and to help others regain theirs. Though trained in martial arts, Autumn knew a physical fight wasn’t the answer. She didn’t want to hurt anyone. Autumn wanted to empower and encourage kids to work together in taking a stand.
Autumn envisioned the entire student body at Meredith Hill Elementary School, consisting of 600 students, standing in solidarity while unanimously displaying the message, “Bullying Stops Here.”
In early March 2019, Autumn’s vision began its journey to fruition. With strong support from her mom, the very first “Bullying Stops Here” t-shirt, was printed. This young change agent decided to provide every single student at her school, with a shirt. Autumn and Cynthia realized a goal of this magnitude would require a community effort. With that, they launched Autumn’s anti-bullying Facebook Page.
Autumn would need to raise $1500 to provide 600 shirts for her school. For every one shirt she sold, she could provide three shirts to her schoolmates. Autumn planned to spend this Summer reaching her goal. She wanted to see her schoolmates proudly wearing their shirts in October for National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. For Autumn’s 10th birthday, she decided to gift each child in her class a shirt. The kids graciously and excitedly accepted her gifts. “The entire class decided to wear their shirts for their 4th-grade field trip,” shared Cynthia.
Receiving the green light to distribute Autumn’s shirts schoolwide, has been a process. According to Cynthia, Autumn’s teacher, her school’s PTA, and the Federal Way School District’s Administration clearly expressed their approval of Autumn’s mission. “Each of our schools, including, Meredith Hill Elementary, is wholly committed to a safe and welcoming place for each one of our students. There is no place for bullying in any of our schools. We have effective, caring staff in place that foster and maintain a positive culture and climate. We are proud of students who demonstrate leadership and contribute to making a positive difference in our schools and community,” said Federal Way School District Chief of Communications and Strategy, Kassie Swenson.
Cynthia shared they weren’t able to gain the principal’s permission. Though Principal Helen Babbin was unavailable for comment, Swenson assured Babbin is in full support of Autumn’s mission. She clarified that to achieve Autumn’s goal, parental permission for all students is necessary to allow them to receive a t-shirt and/or to be included in a photo.
Spreading the Word
Despite any hurdles she’s faced, Autumn’s unwavering commitment to her cause has not been detoured. She remains determined to stop bullying, and her message is being heard. In addition to spreading her message through her shirts, Autumn reaches out to people who could use her support. She says she wants everyone to, “Always remember you are not alone.”
Autumn was recently surprised to find out her message has now even reached kids on the other side of the world!
Autumn remains humble and grateful to the people who have helped her on her journey so far. She has three close friends (Xiomara, Drake, and Aliyah) who have really stepped up to share in Autumn’s anti-bullying efforts. Autumn’s goal is to provide school children with shirts, so if your child’s school would like to get involved with Autumn’s mission, she would be happy to hear from you.
Autumn was just elected July’s ‘Super Kid’ by the Puget Sound radio station Warm 106.9. Check out Autumn in Kids in Cars Cruising for Kudos!
Get Your ‘Bullying Stops Here’ Shirt!
If you missed Autumn at Auburn’s Kids Day last month, you have another chance to support her coming up! Autumn will be selling her shirts at AuburnFest on August 10th, so be sure to stop by and check out her colorful selection of shirts.
One color that won’t be available at AuburnFest is the unique teal, that is only available at ‘A Little Knitty’ in downtown Auburn. “I love that Autumn is making lemonade of her lemons,” said Jen Reeves, owner of ‘A Little Knitty.’ “The t-shirts have given her a voice when she felt she didn’t have one, and I love being part of that for her.”