12-year-old gets $50,000 grant to stop bullying

Polk Co. student uses own disabilities to help

What were you doing at the ago of 12?  Maybe you can't remember, but if you can, it might be fair to say you certainly weren't doing anything close to what one Bay area boy is up to.

Jaylen Arnold has accomplished more in his short life than many people have accomplished in a lifetime.  Not only does he deal with Turret's Syndrome and Autism on a daily basis, but he has been bullied for much of his young life.  So much so, his mother, Robin, says she was forced to pull him out of school.

Jaylen though, refused to be a victim any longer.  A little more than two years ago, Jaylen decided he would do something about the bullying.  He says, he saw it happening all around him.  Not just to him, but to other kids in his school, and for him, it just wasn't right.

"I know that it hurts people in the inside more than the outside, because words are worse than fist, or punching or kicking," explains Jaylen.  "Turret's Syndrome has bothered me throughout my life.  I found a way to embrace it, more than to fight it"

One in four children will be bullied this year, which equates to more than 18 million kids.  According to the Jaylen's Challenge website, 3 million students are absent each month, faking sick because they feel unsafe.  Even more staggering 282,000 students are physically attacked in middle schools each month in America. That works out to about 9,400 a day.  It's a real problem that Jaylen says can be stopped. 

We caught up with Jaylen in his science class.  On this particular day, it was a popcorn experiment that was keeping Jaylen busy.  The life of the party, you could say.  Making his classmates laugh and lending helpful hints to the conversation to solve the problem that was, how many kernels would be left un-popped.

Jaylen counts, his classmates, they write.  Trusting what he has to say; accepting him as just another student no bullying to be found and according to Ethan Whittaker, who has been a classmate of Jaylen's for about three years, Jaylen can take some of the credit for that.

"About third of fourth grade, he started this great thing called Jaylen's Challenge," says classmate Ethan Whittaker.  "He has been trying to teach kids not to bully and about bulling and I've just been there to watch it grow and get bigger.  He has taught me about Turret's Syndrome and how not to bully and things like that."

Another classmate, McKenna Inglett says she saw one of Jaylen's presentations and it completely changed her life.

"I thought it was really unique, because it actually changed [my] life," says McKenna.  "I have tried to change some people that were bullying me.  ‘Well you need to stop because that's not a good habit for you.'"

That non-profit organization known as Jaylen's Challenge has truly taken off.  So much so that Jaylen announced Monday, with the help of the Polk County Sheriff's Office and Lakeland Police Department, that he would be partnering with local law enforcement to what he calls, "Stomp Out Bullying."

Through the new partnership, Jaylen's Challenge will begin a week long campaign to educate 7,000 Polk county students about bullying and the harmful effects of bullying.  For more information on Jaylen's Challenge or to help donate to his non-profit, which uses the money to donate educational materials and fund programs for schools, visit JaylensChallenge.org

"I decided to help the kids in the class at the school that I was going to," says Jaylen.  "I saw them getting bullied and I thought about them. If they are getting bullied that bad, imagine how the world, how bad it is around the world. So I decided to stand up and try to make a difference."

For more information on Jaylen's Challenge or to help donate to his non-profit, which uses the money to donate educational materials and fund programs for schools, visit JaylensChallenge.org .

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