FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- On a typical Tuesday at Illahee Middle School in Federal Way, students aren’t just running to their next class. Many of them are running from something-- or someone - who makes them feel bad. Kajmere Houchins is tired of it.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s all because of bullying,” she said.
Bullies: big talkers intent on belittling or worse. So Houchins is intent on stopping it, starting with a school assembly she led Tuesday, because she knows how it feels.
"I was bullied because I’m short. I was bullied because my parents are gay,” said Houchins.
The 14-year-old has started a petition to give students a bigger voice on anti-bullying policies that go beyond middle school. And when Houchins speaks, people listen. Because more than most of us, this 14-year-old knows how to fight back and win.
“Having cancer, it prepared me for life,” said Houchins.
Diagnosed at age six with Stage 4 neuroblastoma, her doctors say it’s a miracle she survived. Then she developed acute myeloid leukemia - twice.
“Every night before we’d go to bed we’d pray. And every morning when we woke up we’d pray. And I’m here today,” recalled Houchins.
Now six years in remission, Houchins is on a new mission. She’s circulated a petition on change.org that seeks to amend existing laws to require schools to include students in developing anti-bullying policies. The Washington State Board of Education is set to vote on it next month.
On Tuesday, standing in front of her peers — and standing up to the bullies — Houchins put everyone on notice.
“It was very nerve wracking, but to the kids who have bullied me before, it was kind of like a wake-up call,” she said.
No longer known as that kid who got cancer, Houchins is an ally who simply wants to be known as the kid who beat bullying.