One teen took matters into his own hands – and sets off a chain reaction.

Leadership, integrity, focus and excellence are the four core principles at Buffalo Creek Academy in Buffalo, New York. And one 7th grade student exemplified all four when going out of his way to help a friend.

Why One Boy Was Being Bullied at School

close up of two people's legs and shoes
Photo by Rogério Martins

Melvin Anderson was one of those kids that was being relentlessly bullied for something trivial. Kids at the charter school mocked the twelve-year-old for his old, worn-out shoes. They called him dirty. The bullying made Melvin feel “sad, mad and very disliked.” 

Still, Melvin didn’t say anything to his parents or teachers — not even to his best friend, Romello Early. But Romello didn’t need his friend to talk to him about it; he could tell that the taunts were really bothering Melvin.

“It just put a real bad ache in my stomach to see somebody have to go through that and to be picked on just based on appearance,” Romello said. Although Melvin didn’t complain, Romello trusted his gut feeling. He started saving his allowance. He put aside money each week until he had the $135 he needed to buy his best friend a new pair of shoes. 

Romello opened up to his mom about the situation: “Can I use my allowance, or you can take something away that I would get for Christmas?”

Romello’s mother agreed. “I was floored, because most kids are not willing to give up something to another child; most kids are about themselves. Just to see at that age he was acting as an adult, it touched me in a way that I almost can’t even describe.”

She took her son to the store and, the next day, Romello surprised Melvin with a new pair of Nike shoes. Melvin was shocked.

“I’m really appreciative of what he did for me,” said Melvin, modelling his new pair of sneakers. “I’m doing chores at home so I can earn some money to try to pay him back,” the boy added modestly. 

But Romello doesn’t want to be repaid for the shoes. “That’s just a gift from you to me,” he reassured his best friend. 

When Romello saw Melvin being picked on, he sympathized with the boy because he remembered being bullied himself. “At my old school, throughout all the grades, I was picked on because of my height,” Romello explained.

How One Sweet Boy Took Matters Into His Own Hands

close up of a blue gift tied with ribbon
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood

When classmates began bullying Melvin, it really hit home. “Nobody else should have to go through what I felt,” Romello thought. He tried to find a solution to spare his friend the same pain that he had lived. That’s when he remembered the four principles that he sees displayed every day in the school hallway: leadership, integrity, focus and excellence.

Romello showed leadership by taking action to turn the situation around. He showed integrity by supporting his friend when others were making fun of him. Romello showed focus by identifying the problem and coming up with a solution. And he showed excellence by going above and beyond, saving up his own money to buy his best friend a pair of shoes. 

Melvin was touched by his Romello’s gift. After thanking his friend, he took the shoes straight to the school dean. He put them down on the dean’s desk and said, “Melo bought me some sneakers!” The dean was so proud of Romello that he asked the boys if he could take a picture of them and share their story — not just as an example to the kids at Buffalo Creek Academy, but as an example to the world. 

“I was so moved,” Dean Brown said. “[It’s] everything I want these kids to be.” The story connected with him on a personal level, too: when Brown was growing up, it was his older brother that used to buy him the shoes his parents couldn’t afford.

“It meant everything to me,” the dean said — and it was a gift he never forgot. To this day, Brown gifts his brother a pair of shoes every year on his birthday. 

How One Teen Proved the Importance of Standing Up for His Best Friend

The school’s four core principles are skills that the students will need to truly succeed in life. When a leader sees someone in need, they don’t mock that person— they help meet that need.

True to his quiet nature, Melvin had never asked his parents for a new pair of shoes or told them that he was being bullied. It was a wake-up call for them, and they are encouraging their son to be more forthcoming about his needs.

“He’s a very humble young man,” Melvin’s father said. They hope that the kind gesture by their son’s best friend will inspire others in the school to help, not hurt.

Back at Buffalo Creek Academy, the dean had a talk with all the students, reiterating that “there’s no place in the world for that [bullying].” The boys’ story inspired school officials to kick off an anti-bullying campaign.

At a time when we hear story after story about how a child has been bullied into desperation, it’s stories like this one that offer a breath of fresh air. They remind us that one individual can make all the difference — and that adults in positions of power who encourage and support those individuals can multiply that change exponentially.


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