Anna and Victoria Mendez
by Shannon Luders-Manuel
from Los Angeles, California in United States
We believe all children deserve protection from harassment, abuse, and ridicule regardless of race, color, creed, gender identity, or sexual orientation. — Anna Mendez
In 2009, 16-year-old Daniel Mendez died by suicide. The San Clemente high school student had been the victim of bullying, beginning in middle school. The charge? He had Italian and Mexican heritage and was "too nice." His death came as a shock to his family and friends, for whom he had always put on a positive face. But he felt that no one could help him, as the middle school administrators hadn't done enough to address the bullying. After Daniel's death, his classmates showed their support by starting starting a group on campus called "Cool 2 Be Kind," dedicated to raising awareness about bullying. The group leads marches, holds dances, and participates in other activities to spread their message.
Daniel's younger sister, Victoria, attended San Clemente High School in the following years. Her parents offered to let her go to a different school, but she confidently chose to attend the same school as her brother, or else the bullies would have won. Upon entering high school, she was enthusiastically elected president of Cool 2 Be Kind. Now a student at Stanford, Victoria's leadership in Cool 2 Be Kind helped the group flourish. There are now 77 chapters, both in the U.S. and abroad. The movement has also gained recognition from the larger community. Cool 2 Be Kind has won a Commendation by Mayor of San Clemente and Council Members; an Ambassadors of Peace Award by Violence Prevention Coalition of Orange County; a Commendation by Orange County Board of Supervisors; a State of California Senate Resolution and Certificate of Recognition; and even a personal letter to Victoria from former president Barack Obama.
Daniel's mother, Anna, has also used the tragedy to help prevent it from happening to others. She and her husband, Dan, created the nonprofit National Association of People Against Bullying (NAPAB), which advocates on behalf of bullied children and their parents. Just like Cool 2 Be Kind, NAPAB has received a lot of recognition, including from the Orange County Violence Prevention Coalition and the California State Senate. Orange County has recognized Anna as an "Everyday Hero." NAPAB speaks free of charge at events, schools, and community gatherings. They also partner with Cool 2 Be Kind to give presentations at school assemblies. Anna and Dan have noticed that students are much more likely to take in the message about bullying when it comes from their peers. In 2013, Anna published a memoir about Daniel to further help parents and children understand the damaging effects of bullying.
Losing someone to suicide can devastate any family, and many are not able to recover. The Mendezes are heroes, facing their grief, helping others through the grieving process, and trying to prevent similar tragedies. In fact, they have even received feedback that their services have kept a number of people alive.
Page created on 6/18/2019 7:49:34 AM
Last edited 9/6/2019 6:59:36 PM