Like any other kid on the planet, Jake is just a boy who wants friends. Unfortunately, his differences (he has autism) make him a walking target to bullies at school.
But one day during gym class, Jake did one of the most powerful things that few would have the same courage to do: He spoke up.
In the moving video from UpWorthy, Jake delivers a message that’s exactly what his classmates needed to hear.
“I don’t think you guys see me for me. I just think you guys see me as a big target,” Jake says as his eyes well with tears. “I want to try to be your friend but you don’t try to be mine…and that really makes me feel bad that you don’t really want to know me.”
Jake’s message is an invitation for us all to talk about bullying, as any child across the country could be in the same situation as he, whether their families know about it or not. In fact, 3.2 million students in the U.S. are victims of bullying each year, and if things aren’t handled correctly, bullying can turn tragic, as demonstrated in the 2011 documentary Bully, which followed the lives of five kids who faced bullying on a daily basis. The film particularly focused on 11-year-old Ty Smalley and 17-year-old Tyler Long, who took their own lives because they were fed up with bullying.
Happily, Jake, who’s now a junior in high school, told UpWorthy that things are getting much better at school.
“Bullying has had a big impact on my life, but since the movie I’ve made a lot of friends. Recently, I have joined my high school football team! At first I thought they would all be complete jerks, but actually they are pretty cool guys and have helped me through a lot of situations — they stand up for me!”
“For other kids with autism, if you’re getting bullied, try and tell them to stop and not give a reaction — if that doesn’t work, go to an adult. It might seem hard cause we can’t handle stress as well as other kids, but you will get through it and you’ll be awesome — actually you already are!”
Who’s our new hero? Clearly, it’s Jake.