Editor’s note:  This post is written by Parker Korpi, a Greenway High School Senior.  Parker founded the group, Rise for the Change, last year when he was a junior after witnessing bullying in his school.  Rise for the Change has between 10 to 15 members and meets once a week on Thursdays at Greenway High School.  It’s a place where group members can, safely, be who they are and talk about issues that are important to their lives.  This is an example of what young community members are doing to support the work of Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success.

 In Parker’s words:

Have you ever wondered what it feels like to walk in another person’s shoes? It’s a hard thing to think about but everyone’s different in their own way. We all have our motives, the things we value and our dreams. We all have one thing in common though, we all wonder how to accomplish our dreams. What steps can we take in order to make this world a better place.

People ask me, “Why did you start this?” and I reply with, “Someone needs to rise up and make a difference, we need to stop giving up. Look around you, all the people that you see are dealing with some type of struggle. Whether it’s stress, depression, anxiety or anything else. How can we open up to these people, how can we save them from giving up? Maybe a walk in their shoes will do the trick, but we will never find out if we stop trying. You, yes you, behind the computer screen or phone screen, I’m going to let you take a walk in my shoes.

Let me start with the fact that I used to be a kid that never understood how the world worked. Hiding in the corner and never saying anything, because of the fear of failure. Depression struck me at the age of 15, which also led to suicidal thoughts. Scary thing to think about, but should be talked more about. The next thing I knew, I was handed papers that said I had autism. Feeling different from the world, and worried that I would never fit in. An idea floated in my mind after watching a YouTube video called Dream. That idea was it’s time to make a change, no more living like this.

The next day at school, I had witnessed a kid being bullied because he was different. My heart dropped.  To myself I was thinking “this isn’t right, this needs to be stopped.” Then it came to me – what if there was a website that teenagers could go to for support and help in their life. The website was named Beyond Suicide and Bullying. It’s helped so many people as I have heard.  It offers strength and hope to keep moving on. The next thing I knew I was setting up my first meeting with my support group, known as Rise for the Change.

Student at Greenway High School meet weekly to provide a place where all feel welcome.

Rise for the Change offers kids a chance to rise up and believe in what they want to believe.  .

Eight people showed up. Eight people willing and wanting to make a difference. Rise for the Change offers kids that chance to rise up and believe in what they want to believe. We want teenagers to know that dreams aren’t temporary; they last forever. It shows them that in order to change the world, you need to start with yourself first. We meet every Thursday at 3:10 to 4:30 after school.

Our mission for this year is to pull the community and the school closer together, and also have the teachers and students communicating more. We want this to spread like a wildfire. Teenagers all over the world need to know that it’s OK to be you because, trust me, you’re pretty amazing. A kid that was lost and hurt, didn’t know where he was going in life. He wondered if it was ever going to change. Then suddenly the lightbulb turned on. He had his chance, and he took it. Now that mountain of fear that was in his way all along was actually a tiny ant hill. The sun started to rise, and he finally knew who he was all along.

Now that you’ve taken a walk into my shoes, I hope you understand that you should never judge a book by its cover because it’s what’s in the pages that truly counts.