When Stephanie Ramos became a victim of cyber bullying, she quickly lost confidence in herself.
As part of her recovery from the emotional effects of being targeted, Ramos, now 19, decided to enter the National American Miss Kentucky Pageant. She won the 2011 pageant title and gives up her crown today in Louisville.
Ramos, a 2011 graduate of Danville High School, has spent the last year taking her anti-bullying platform “Stop the Hate Before Its Too Late” to elementary schoolers across central Kentucky. Gov. Steve Beshear as well as Danville Mayor Bernie Hunstad have honored Ramos for her efforts.
The anti-bullying campaign will not end even though Ramos will now be attending Western Kentucky University to study psychology and journalism. Also, Ramos plans to enter more pageants to help fund her college education and enable her to continue representing the community.
“Cyber bullying is really taking over,” she said.
When a female classmate at Danville High School repeatedly used the Internet to harass, ridicule and spread rumors about her, Ramos did not tell anyone at first. Eventually, she told her mother, Annette Ramos, what was going on. The school quickly became involved and suspended the girl for a few days. Also, the Ramos family, school officials, the other student and her family had a group meeting.
“The problem with the Internet is it gives people who might not bully others to their faces an opportunity to insult others,” Annette Ramos said.
The online bullying against Ramos eventually faded away, partially due to the uncomfortable in-person confrontation.
In her presentations at schools such as Tolliver Elementary, Ramos openly discusses the emotional pain she experienced during that time in her life and encourages students to tell an adult if a fellow student is harassing them. She also leads an exercise in which each student says something nice about another student with whom they are partnered.
Unfortunately, some youth do not report bullying and a growing number of victims are committing suicide. According to a report by the National Crime Prevention Council, 43 percent of teens have experienced some form of cyber bullying online. Thus, some states such as Delaware have implemented laws under which all schools must relay all reports of bullying to the Department of Education.
“When that girl started bullying me online, I completely lost my confidence,” Ramos said. “I didn’t want to go back to school.”
Annette Ramos said people like her daughter speaking out against all types of bullying is a great start, but more parents need to talk to their kids about the importance of accepting other people. Ramos chose to focus her anti-bullying educational efforts toward elementary schools, because once students reach middle and high school it becomes more difficult for them to change pathologies such as ridiculing others. Ramos would like to eventually talk to older groups of students as well as adults, especially since she plans to become a psychologist and open her own family counseling practice.
“I want to educate as many people as I can to love everybody,” Ramos said. “I also hope to be successful with my career and my family.”