The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

April 5, 2013

From bullying survivor to advocate

ENID, Okla. — Though you might not think it by looking at her, Aly Akers, former Miss OSU and current Miss Green Country, was bullied because of her looks.

Now, looking to compete for the title of Miss Oklahoma and preparing to graduate from Oklahoma State University in May, Akers uses her past experiences with bullying to teach other victims how to cope.

Akers shared her experiences Friday during a meeting of the Enid Noon AMBUCS at the Northern Oklahoma College Gantz Center.

The 22-year-old said when she was in grade school she knew a girl who was made fun of every day she went to school.

“She had big, curly hair, it was unruly,” she said of the girl. “She got made fun of for what types of clothes she wore.

“In fourth grade this girl was sitting at lunch and one of her friends started handing out birthday invitations and everyone got one but this girl I knew,” she said.

Akers said as the girl grew up, she made cheerleader, moved onto another school and had all types of friends.

“Then she had a sleepover and some of the girls brought alcohol,” she said. Akers told how the girl’s mother confiscated the alcohol and told the girls it was the wrong path to take in life.

“When this girl I knew got to school Monday, the rumors were flying through the hallways,” she said. “The girl’s mom bought the alcohol and the girl was a slut. There were so many rumors about this girl. This girl had to eat lunch in the bathroom.”

Akers told AMBUCS members — as they might have guessed — she was the girl who was bullied.

She said she often asked, “Why me?” But it turns out it was part of a bigger plan.

“The Lord had a plan that one day I would be a victim, but I would be a survivor and then become an advocate,” she said. “I know what it feels like to get bullied.”

When she was 16, Akers began speaking with kids at schools about bullying. She developed a program called Prevent And Stop Tormenting, or P.A.S.T. She went online and to social media with P.A.S.T. She began putting the slogan on T-shirts, then rubber bracelets and teddy bears.

“As of a month ago today, I am a nonprofit organization,” Akers said. “Since day one, this has been my goal.”

She hopes to continue to speak with students and to provide each of them with a free P.A.S.T. bracelet and miniature coloring book. To do so, she’s going to begin organizing fundraisers and selling other items with the P.A.S.T. logo.

“I’m thinking some day millions of people across the world can see my story of bullying,” she said.

 Akers doesn’t just want to speak with children about bullying, she wants everyone to understand the totality of its impact upon victims.

“When children are starting to commit suicide it tears me up inside,” she said. “Last year, in Stillwater, I did a school assembly at the high school. It went great. A week later, a kid in junior high brought a gun to school and shot himself in front of his classmates.

“The news reports said he wasn’t bullied, but his friend that I made contact with said he was. He was bullied, but he didn’t report it to someone, he didn’t tell the school. He didn’t tell a teacher. So there is no statistic.”

Akers said she never reported her bullying either, something she tried to change with her teaching.

“In my program, when I go to these schools, I try to give these kids so many educational tools to deal with bullying,” she said. “You cannot go through it alone. You have to tell someone.”

Before ending her presentation, Akers ended with some bullying statistics:

• Every seven minutes a child is bullied at school.

• 160,000 kids miss school a day because they are being bullied. They either fake sickness or ask to stay home because of the abuse.

• 70 percent of school shootings are the result of bullying.

• By age 24, 60 percent of bullies have been convicted of a serious crime.

“Oklahoma has an anti-bullying law, but it’s a just a policy. Every school has to have a policy in place, but sometimes it can be just a poster,” Akers said. “These bully laws need to be stricter.”

A fundraiser for P.A.S.T. is set for 1-3 p.m. April 21 at Lot-A-Burger, 310 W. Willow. The come-and-go reception will have cakes and cupcakes, P.A.S.T. merchandise for sale and free small drinks.

For information or to invite Akers to speak, go to the P.A.S.T. website at www.preventand or find the organization on Facebook.

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