LAKELAND, Fla. — Jaylen Arnold walks around the Southeastern University campus with confidence in his stride.
The 19-year-old is enjoying his second semester of college studying film.
“I kind of refuse to be an adult,” he said.
Arnold’s life was thrust into the national and international spotlight as a child after he started an anti-bullying mission called Jaylen’s Challenge. The cause was born out of his own bullying experiences while attending a school where kids would make fun of him for Tourette’s Syndrome.
“Bullies themselves are really insecure so they will already find ways to target weaker subjects that they see in school and you know the more that you tear someone down I guess the higher up you feel,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s just a really nasty chain of command we have in school today.”
The Jaylen’s Challenge Foundation website says “he set out to change the world, one person at a time, by spreading acceptance of who we are by awareness and education.
“The more we understand each other, the more we will love the differences we have and the similarities we share”.”
Even though he’s 11 years removed from the start of his mission, Arnold is still as dedicated to eliminating bullying as ever.
"I just want to the kids feel safe. No matter what anyone says about you, You’re specially made and you’re made for greatness," he said.
Arnold has won numerous awards for his efforts, including the Young Hero Award for Philanthropy, The American Spirit Award from Katie Couric, Community Hero Award from the Tampa Bay Lightning and the highly esteemed World of Children Award (also known as the Nobel Peace Prize for youth).
He even met the royal family after being given the Princess Diana Legacy Award in 2017. He’s the first American to win the honor.
He was featured on 10News WTSP after his trip to England in 2017.
The most recent connection he’s made is with international supermodel Daniella Braga, of Victoria’s Secret fame. The model joined Jaylen at a school assembly in January to encourage children to stand up to bullying. She even expressed interest in joining Jaylen’s foundation board.
"When someone like that who is gorgeous tells a little girl who feels like she's not important, that she IS, that inspiration is endless,” Arnold said.
Jaylen’s Challenge Foundation lists many of his accomplishments. Perhaps the greatest is the 67 suicides prevented by one of Jaylen’s many speeches to more than 240,000 students nationwide.
The impact of a decision to stand up to bullying by a then-eight-year-old Jaylen is still making a difference more than a decade later.
“We don’t know what the future holds, but all we know is that we are going to keep fighting for these kids to feel loved and important, to stomp out bullying,” he said. “Even though I’m not the same kid that was going through bullying I still see kids everywhere suffering with it and I just want to help in any way that I can."
Arnold cannot speak in schools as often as he once did because of his college workload, but his foundation has established programs like ambassador and intervention clubs at school campuses.
His motto is “Bullying No Way!”
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