For the sake of others: Jaelyn Kohl
November 17, 2013
School: Steamboat Springs High School
Q. Why did you join It Takes Courage?
A. I joined my sophomore year of high school because Heather Savalox came to the Steamboat Springs Teen Council, of which I am a member, with her story asking for our suggestions. Immediately, her presentation struck a chord in my heart, and I knew that I wanted to help. When she was finished presenting, my friends and I all asked if we could join her team and speak about our personal stories to add another level to the presentation. I was bullied throughout elementary and middle school by my peers. By the time I heard Heather’s story, I had found myself. I wanted to pass on my message to other kids in the community to tell them it does get better, what the mean kids say doesn't matter and that kindness always will prevail.
Q. What is it like to be part of this grass-roots organization?
A. It’s very humbling, really. To see how far we’ve come in just two years is mind-blowing. When I get to tell my story and reach out to so many people who I don’t even know, I am reminded of the importance of what we do. No one else in the community does what we do. I’m not saying we should be exclusive; I’m saying that there are so many people in our lives that care about what happens to these kids but just don’t do anything. We are here to represent the kids who are scared to have a voice, and that’s the most incredible part.
Q. How do you see yourself helping to prevent bullying in your school?
A. My dad has taught since I was a little girl to never tolerate a bully whether I am the one being bullied or its some kid I’ve never talked to. I think because he engrained this so deeply in me that I have become so attached to what It Takes Courage does. Most of the bullying I see happens secretively behind social media, like Facebook or Ask.fm, and I never let those types of people get away with thinking they can be so hateful with no repercussions. I’ve never smacked anyone for being a bully, but I make a point to show victims they do have the power to stick up for themselves and to show the bully there is no reason to be antagonistic. I try to take every moment to show someone kindness because I’ve seen the impact a smile can have on someone’s rainy day.
Q. Do you have a story about being bullied or bullying someone else that you tell to your fellow students? Why do you tell it, and what is the lesson of the story?
A. I was bullied in my younger years, which put me in a depression. I was lucky that it never got to a point where I ever wanted to hurt myself, but I did have thoughts like, “Wouldn’t life just be easier if I wasn’t around?” It took a lot of self-motivation and positive influences on my life to get me to where I am today. I tell my story because I have seen all sides of bullying and suicide. My portion of the presentation is expressing to the kids that spreading love and positivity is what this world needs. Bullying won’t be tolerated. I want them to know that love and kindness will always triumph over every awful word someone says. It’s their job to pay it forward and make the community better.
I’ve been called an old soul since I was able to voice my own opinions. I guess I’ve just been through a lot of things many people have been lucky not to have experienced, and these things are what have made me as strong as I am. My ultimate goal is to be a journalist. I hope to end up where I can combine writing, music, travel and people — my passions. If I can combine all three, I’ll have accomplished all I set out to do. I have always set high goals for myself. I am planning on attending the University of Colorado Boulder in the fall. I feel very lucky to be able to do the things I love in such a gorgeous place, but I am itching to get out of here and see what the world has in store for me next.