EDEN — Mentors Tyvon Smoot and Demontez Canada never planned on making national news headlines at the start of their senior year.
Their only goal was to help fellow student Caleb Wrenn permanently erase the memory of a terrible first day at Reidsville High School and to befriend the incoming freshman bullied for his stature.
On Monday, the duo continued their mission to speak up and stand up against bullying by addressing the Holmes Middle School student body during World Day of Bullying Prevention.
The assembly discussions were part of an October initiative at Rockingham County Schools to prevent bullying.
Students and teachers across the district wore blue shirts on Monday in a collaborative effort to “BlueUP” bullying and make it a part of history.
Canada and Smoot created an open discussion with students about the topic.
The childhood friends, who experienced bullying by the same person in elementary and middle school, asked students to define what bullying is and also shared how it can be prevented.
Some students also explained the terrifying feeling of being bullied by fellow classmates and the insecurities it creates.
“You really don’t know what to do,” one student said, describing that they felt hurt and angry by the actions of peers.
Similar sentiments shared by Wrenn, whose story went viral after his sister Leah tweeted a text message thread between the siblings that captured Caleb’s first day.
The younger brother shared that he sat alone at lunch on his first day of high school and that some classmates thought he was a loser, just because he was short.
After seeing the older sister’s call to action asking students to let her brother know he was cool, Canada, Smoot and other Reidsville students sprung into action.
Their actions to consult school administrators led to instant change for Wrenn, who will never again have to eat lunch alone.
“We really know how it really feels to be bullied,” said Canada, following a presentation to students in the middle school’s gymnasium. “So for us to see someone being bullied, we don’t physically know how they feel, but we can tell — because being bullied makes you feel weird. You don’t want to be at school — anymore because nobody cares about you. We don’t like when people feel like that because only bad things come from those situations.”
Holmes Middle School Principal Nicole Lancaster said that administrators and staff are very excited about the bullying initiative taking place within the district and that the school plans to carry it forward throughout the school year.
She also believes students will benefit from Demontez and Tyvon’s testimony.
“I think it’s beneficial for students to have role models they can look to and explain to them what bullying is and share ways that they can help support classmates who they see that may need a friend or need someone to step up or speak out for them,” Lancaster said.
As for the childhood friends, who have walked the same school hallways throughout their academic careers, they plan to cherish the opportunity they’ve been given to help deter future bullying and promote community.
“It’s inspiring,” Canada said. “It makes me feel like I really did something, I completed a mission or an assignment. That’s how I feel because I don’t like bullying. It shouldn’t even be here honestly and I feel like everybody should just come together as friends.
“That’s how I feel,” Canada said.