Scholar Class – 2011
Rachael Smith grew up in Ellsworth, Maine but moved to Berwick, Maine at the end of her seventh grade year. She came out as bisexual her freshman year of high school, but the negative reactions she received and her own internal battle to accept herself led her to self-harm. As a cover and a way of coping, Rachael began to attend church and ignore her inner feelings. Eventually though, she realized how unhappy she was and came out fully and proudly.
Despite feeling different from her peers, Rachael found her niche in high school extracurricular activity. In high school, she was the Vice-President of her school's National Honor Society, Senior Class, and Student Body. Even though she was out and had learned to handle any bullying and harassment, Rachael saw a lot of her LGBTQ peers struggling to handle high school. Additionally, the number of suspensions in her high school rose from zero in September of 2009 to over 60 in September 2010, many involving violence and bullying. To address this, she founded her school's first Civil Rights and Social Justice Team (CRSJ) to address bullying and violence in her school. She still wanted a way to reach some of her peers who might be bullies themselves or who were too scared to join CRSJ. As a cumulative, senior year project, Rachael planned and coordinated a large scale anti-bullying event at her school, which involved 100 students and 25 staff members. With the help of the Maine Youth Action Network, the event taught participants about leadership, courage and empathy. Students were selected from all cliques and grades. On the feedback survey, the students and staff rated the event as a '9.22' on a 1-10 scale. The event has caused some important discussion in her school about acceptance and has helped students realize that they are more similar than different.
Rachael hopes to eventually become a civil rights attorney. She has realized that anti-bullying in schools is something that she feels passionate about and hopes to help promote tolerance and acceptance by implementing similar anti-bullying workshops in schools all around the U.S.