Sat, May

Bullied Teen Wins $10,000 Scholarship for Anti-Bullying Video


CHAPMAN REPORT-A 17-year-old boy attending the Boys and Girls Club College Bound program in San Pedro won a $10,000 college scholarship this month from the Taco Bell Foundation for his personal anti-bullying video.    

Stephen Lee took the stance after struggling with bullying for years. He made the video with his own art work and the club staff helped him put it together. He received the good news call from the Live Mas team with the Taco Bell foundation while visiting his grandmother in Vietnam in July.  

“I was very grateful when I heard from a Skype call with the (scholarship) team early in the morning that I won $10K. I burst into tears. I am so grateful.”  

Taryn McNamara, the Taco Bell Foundation coordinator, said the Live Mas scholarship team gives out 220 scholarships across the country to students each year totaling $1 million. The scholarships range between $2,500 and $25,000 and are awarded to those who seem the most passionate about their future dreams and careers.  

“We’re looking at videos for kids with the most passion and desire,” she said. “We’re looking for the next generation of creators and innovators. We really like Stephen’s video and how he had so much passion for computer science.”  

Lee said the club at the Cabrillo Avenue site gave him the safe haven he needed to explore his dreams and passions. He was able to enhance his skills in art, animation, graphical design, game design and video editing. He was tutored, guided to prep for college and he even played ping pong. 

It was the first time he felt accepted despite “my quiet nature,” he said. Middle school and high school were filled with years of dealing with bullying. Students would attack him “verbally” he said and began making fake posts on social media using his name. His grades suffered horribly in those early years and he later spent much of his time feeling lost about his future. 

Once he attended the club, however, his life began to change for the better. His parents, Hudson and Sylvia who came from Vietnam and are U.S. citizens, were so delighted he felt at home there that they drove and picked him up from the club nearly every day and on the weekends.  

His father, Hudson, said when his son called “and told me he had won a 10k scholarship during work, I was so shocked and speechless I didn’t know what to say to him. I am very proud of him.”  

Eventually, the younger Lee said he found the courage at last to go to administrators at South Torrance High school where he attended and officials there acted on his concerns.  

But the club, he said, is where he made his discoveries that he enjoyed computer science. Family members in the field also taught him about coding and he was able to design three computer games at the club.  

“The Boys and Girls club…helped me calm down whenever I was stressed,” Lee said. “I have a lot of friends over there that I talked to. However, I talk to the staff a lot as well. I felt very comfortable talking to every single one of them. Even when I had a personal problem, they were there to hear me out and give me advice without judging.”  

His suggestions to other children who are bullied is to understand that no one else can solve “your problems” and to look to the people who do support you, a family member, a friend. “There’s always at least one person who is there for you.” 

“I feel every single situation is different and I feel that some people had it even worse than me,” he explained. “All I can say is what I learned. Learn to laugh at yourself, but don’t put yourself down. Don’t take actual constructive criticism as an attack, but learn from it. Lastly, don’t expect anyone else to solve your problems.” 

His future plans, he said, include making an app that will help school teachers and administrators determine whether students are being bullied.

See Steven’s video.

(Diana Chapman has been a writer/journalist for nearly thirty years. She has written for magazines, newspapers and the best-seller series, “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” You can reach her at: [email protected].)

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