Folsom's Erika Lee Shines the Light on Bullying
Photo by Dante Fontana © Style Media Group
When 12-year-old Folsom student and bullying victim Ronin Shimizu committed suicide last year, it galvanized a whole community. Area schools held vigils and made pledges to stomp out bullying, and thousands of dollars were raised online to support Shimizu’s grieving family.
But long after the initial reaction died down and people went back to everyday life, one Folsom resident made a personal commitment to never let families and teachers forget Shimizu’s legacy.
Erika Lee, whose younger sister attends Folsom Middle School where Ronin was a student, was bullied at school too, so his story resonated with her. She decided she had to do something different, something with real impact to remind students that they all have a role to play in creating a supporting and welcoming community for one another.
Lee quickly got to work, handwriting signs and posting herself outside of Folsom Middle School during the morning commute. Her positive messages—“Be the change you wish to see,” “Think before you speak,” and “Only you can stop bullying”—remind students, parents and teachers alike that each of us has a responsibility to stop bullying in its tracks.
Lee returned day after day until she became an expected feature of the morning school ritual. “Over time, I started to see more and more people stopping and showing me their support,” she remembers. “Some of the kids even made me their own signs to display.” She now has about 13 signs she erects around her on the sidewalk, all with different messages. “I hope my efforts will make students and parents more understanding of one another and more willing to seek help,” Lee says. To kids being bullied, she offers this advice: “Only you know what is true about you. Don’t be afraid to speak up—not just for yourself but for others too.”
— Michelle McDaid
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
A: Nothing. What I did, what happened to me, and how I dealt with it has made me who I am today.
Q: What comes to you naturally?
A: Being kind and open to all who come into my life.
Q: What are you most proud of?
A: My loving and accepting family.
Q: Favorite humanitarian cause?
A: Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Q: Best words of wisdom you’ve received?
A: If you can’t be positive in life, your life can’t be.