In grade school, Charles Kolin, was bullied, called names, excluded from groups and shunned by classmates.
Now, nine years later, Charles turned his life around and is creating awareness of how bullying affects kids and teens and needs to be stopped.
His past bullying inspired him to seek a platform to create more tolerance, kindness, acceptance and inclusion. That platform is Unity Day, October 23rd, when Congress is expected to pass a resolution to unify the country. Charles went to Washington and met with dozens of Senators and Representatives with his unity message. A Congressional resolution is expected later this month. Salonpas sat down with this inspiring Wellness Warrior to learn more about his mission:
When did you first encounter bullying in your life?
My bullying began in 5th grade. I moved into a new town and was the “new kid.” The bullying I experienced was mostly verbally and psychological. I was told things like “you suck” and “everyone can come over to my house today . . .except for you Charles.” In middle school, it grew into name calling and even more exclusion kind of behavior. Being told to go kill myself was something I heard five days a week multiple times a day. I tried to advocate as best as I could but nothing was really done.
How did you handle bullying behavior?
It wasn’t easy. I tried my best to tell teachers about what I was experiencing. When nothing was done I tried my best to push through it. Eventually, I decided to speak to someone to help me work through the emotions I had to deal with on an everyday basis.
What advice do you have to other teens about how to handle bullying?
My advice to teens who are experiencing bullying are 1.) talk to teachers, parents and friends. Tell them what you’re experiencing. Don’t give up. Keep talking until you are heard. 2.) Don’t allow the things you hear to become your identity or reality. Know that you matter.
What inspired you to bring awareness to anti-bullying? What was the catalyst to create Unity Day?
What I discovered in my journey is most people don’t realize what encompasses bullying. When people think of bullying, they think of students getting physically assaulted at school, they think of getting attacked on social media but they don’t think of exclusion as a form of bullying. Being made to feel as if you’re invisible . . . being made to feel as if you don’t matter . . . that you don’t have a single friend in the world is extremely painful. No one should feel alone.
There are also disabilities that you can and cannot see. For example, people who are part of the neuro-diverse community – Asperger’s, autism spectrum, ADHD to name a few – have a disability that people cannot see. They have a harder time fitting in making friends and being accepted by their peers and are often times misunderstood.
Describe what it was like to go to congress to bring awareness to bullying
Going to Congress was an unbelievable experience! I was honored that so many offices agreed to meet with a 16-year old student like myself.
During our meetings I talked about the kind of bullying I experienced in elementary and middle school. I also shared how moving to my high school, Greens Farms Academy, changed my life and how UNITY DAY – which I started at my school – could perhaps heal our country.
I also got an opportunity to explain about neuro-diversity. Most of the offices had no idea what it was. I then explained how those who are part of neurodiverse community, are left out, not included, and made to feel like they don’t matter.
Explaining to our politicians that we are all different in our own way. Some people’s brains are wired differently and look at things in a different way. I shared this example: Let’s say you have fifty people in a room and they are trying to solve a problem. Forty-nine of those people are looking at it the same way. Their brains are wired the same and they even have the same opinions but there is one person whose brain is wired differently. They are looking at it in a different way. It’s usually that one person who may hold the key or the answer for solving it. Instead of listening to that one person, the forty-nine people push him away, shut him down, tell him he doesn’t matter . . .bully him. This type of behavior leads to the problem taking much longer to solve or it never being solved at all.
The bullying everywhere needs to stop. Bullying in schools . . .bullying in our universities . . . in the media and by our politicians. We students look up to many of the politicians who are often role models for us. We watch the way they treat each other. If politicians are dragging each other through the mud, students then say, ” I can do that to.” It all needs to stop.
Describe a typical day in your life, from when you wake up to when you go to sleep.
I’ve always been an early riser. I get up, take my shower and then take my dog Reggie out before I leave for school. I usually check on my ESPN alerts. I love sports. I then take the train to school.
I’m in the process of learning to drive. I could rush myself with that but I’m fine with taking my time. I have my whole life to drive!
I am pushing myself this year and taking mostly AP courses. Luckily I have breaks throughout my day where I can meet with teachers, work on papers and prepare for exams. Soccer practice begins at 3:00. I’m on the varsity soccer team and practice every day. We usually have one game on a week day and one on a Saturday. Practice is over by around 5:00 and I jump back on the train to head home.
Dinner is important to my family. That’s the time we all check in with each other and share what happened in our day . . . our highs and lows. We discuss topics of all kinds and we usually laugh A LOT! I also do pray. Spirituality is important to me and often times it helps relieve my stress. It’s important to have a calm heart both when you start your day and when you end your day. My faith has helped me along my journey and I am forever grateful. After dinner, I’ll finish some homework, do some review and if there’s a game on watch a little football and hit the hay.
If you could share one thing with others, what would it be?
You matter. We all matter. We all have a purpose for being here. No matter where you came from, what you’ve gone through in life so far . . . .you’re important. You have a purpose. I am a surviving triplet. My brothers didn’t make it, yet I did. I know I have a purpose in this world. My wish is that people would remember that not only are they important but others are just as important. If we can all remember that, then the anger and contempt people hold in their hearts will disappear. Uniting and helping others, even if they are different then you, won’t seem all that hard.
For more information on anti-bullying, visit Unity Challenge, here.