Photo and story by Rayven Jones

The bubbly, youthful Shaddia Lee walked into New Hope Christian Elementary, a black Christian private school, on a Monday morning. She knew she was different, and her classmates knew it, too–she was darker than them, so they began to pick on her.

One day, Lee was skipping on the playground in her checkered school uniform, with a bright pink bow with two long strands, and Mary Jane velcro shoes. As she slid down the swirly slide, a biracial student was on the other end. She flashed a smile at him, but instead of smiling back, he scrunched his face up and said, “Burnt cookie.”

This, along with countless other cruel names, is what they often called her. The harsh labels caused her to lose self-confidence at a young age. This continued until she attended Bailey APAC Middle School. The name-calling began to slowly die down, but the impact remained.

Now a rising senior at Murrah High School, Lee reflects on her childhood. She wants to turn her bullying experience into an inspirational story to uplift boys and girls with dark skin like hers. She wants to be a voice for young people, including those bullied. She hopes her story will spread awareness and help to bring an end to bullying.

“I was bullied, bad,” she says. “Now I try to embrace everything about myself, and I stand out as a leader.”

And a leader she is. Lee is captain of the Lady Mustangs softball team, a member of Youth Leadership Jackson, she is the pianist for her church and the secretary of Murrah High School’s Student Council. She has been in the Power Academic Performing Arts Complex program since the fifth grade, where she shines as a young pianist in its esteemed music department.

In the fall of 2019, she plans to attend Spelman College or the University of Mississippi to major in a pre-law program and eventually become a patent attorney.

This summer at Youth Media Project, she wants to improve as a writer and speaker, learn the art of journalism, grow as a leader for the youth and make new friends. She hopes to use the skills she learns at YMP throughout the rest of her life.

YMP student journalist Rayven Jones is in the 11th grade at Murrah High School.