University of Massachusetts Amherst junior Krysten Moore of Mahwah, New Jersey, was once an overweight middle school student who, by her own admission, got “bullied ruthlessly” by her school mates. Now, a scant seven years later, the electrical and computer engineering major is a national advocate for bullying victims. She is a National Youth Ambassador for Love Our Children USA™, has educated more than 100,000 school children about bullying, and has won several New Jersey pageants to give her a platform for her cause.
Moore came to her anti-bullying advocacy the hard way. “I was bullied back when I was in middle school,” she explains. “I was bullied ruthlessly and came home crying every day. I was very overweight when I was younger. My nickname was ‘Krysten wants Moore food.’ Looking back, I laugh at it because it was clever. But at the time it really hurt. Now I want to make sure that nobody feels the way I felt.”
When Moore outgrew her weight condition in the eighth grade and started high school in the ninth, she also graduated from that vulgar brand of bullying into a much more sophisticated kind: “cyber-bullying.” What triggered this outbreak of virtual bullying was her newfound passion for pageantry, a passion that resulted in Moore being crowned Miss Teen New Jersey twice.
As one result, though, certain high school classmates created mean-spirited websites posting crude remarks about her. In addition, she would receive fictitious electronic messages from people posing as boys who liked her, and her written responses would be posted for everyone to read the next day.
“Cyber bullies are inescapable with today’s technology, they actually come into your home and can follow you around wherever you go,” she says. “In some ways, cyber bullying seems more real than traditional bullying.”
But, instead of getting mad, Moore decided to even the score for bullying victims everywhere. In 2004, she became the National Youth Ambassador for Love Our Children USA™, an organization that fights against childhood violence and neglect, and STOMP Out Bullying™. She continues to visit numerous elementary and middle schools speaking about the negative effects of bullying and has educated more than 100,000 school children in the process.
In her junior year of high school, she founded SHINE (Students Helping Instill New Esteem), whose goal is to give children a sense of respect and consideration for each other, while understanding and accepting each other’s differences. In 2007 SHINE was chosen as one of the top 100 new nonprofits by the Case Foundation.
SHINE continues to evolve. “Last June, along with STOMP Out Bullying, we launched an anti-bullying hotline, open 24 hours a day,” Moore explains. “That hotline has helped 1,300 students so far and saved the lives of 33 kids threatening to commit what is now called ‘bullycide.’”
“A lot of these students just want to talk about it because they have no one to help them,” she observes. “The anonymity of the hotline lets them talk freely about it. We try to tell them there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, even though it might look like a dim light right now, and we help them through it.”
Moore’s work hasn’t gone unrecognized. Listed in the 2004/2005 Who’s Who Among American High School Students, she was featured as one of New Jersey’s 2008 Super Teens by Next Step Magazine. Meanwhile, Moore has appeared on The Rachael Ray Show, the CBS Early Show, Good Day Street Talk, and was even chosen to ring the closing bell at NASDAQ with Melania Trump and Cameron Mathison. This year, she was also recruited to do a self-esteem workshop at one of President Obama’s 100 Youth Roundtables, and in 2008 Moore received President Obama’s Lifetime Call to Service Award, recognizing her for over 9,000 hours of community service.
And, just for good measure, she has won several New Jersey pageants that have given her a platform for her worthy cause. In this case, “platform” has a double-meaning. Her own “platform,” as the service section of a pageant is called, is “The Education and Prevention of Childhood Bullying.” And she has used that “platform” as the launching pad for her multifaceted, national, anti-bullying campaign
Her next project is a documentary for MTV, scheduled to air this January. “Just last Saturday I finished the shooting for an hour-long documentary,” she says. “It’s called ‘Bullied,’ and it’s basically a documentary about me and a few other students and what we went through when we were bullied and how we overcame it. Hopefully it will turn out as an inspiration for bullying victims everywhere.”
Moore says that “The power lies within each of us to be a positive role model to our peers. My hope is that no one ever underestimates the influence of their actions or the power of their words. With one small gesture, we can change a person’s life…whether it’s changed for the better or the worse depends on the gesture we choose.” (November 2011)