Middletown’s most celebrated teen wears a Miss Teen Ohio International crown for a lot of reasons — and one of them is she hasn’t forgotten the challenges of being bullied as a youngster.
Recent Middletown High School graduate Au’Lauren Million took her tiara — and beauty contest gown and sash — to the Atrium YMCA on Thursday to give an instructional pep talk to dozens of area children about how to overcome bullying.
It’s a labor of passion for the elegant Million — who was her high school’s Homecoming Queen last fall and later this month will compete for in the Miss Teen International Pageant in Charleston, W.Va.
Her advice was detailed and practical.
“Don’t be a bully. Be a buddy,” Million told the children attentively sitting on the gym floor.
“I was teased so I know what that feels like and that is another form of bullying,” she said as she addressed the different types of bullying and strategies to counteract the abuse.
She then encouraged the youngsters to give examples of bullying they have experienced and take some tries at answering how to respond to situations where they are verbally or physically threatened by peers or others. Then she asked the children what qualities make for a “buddy” and stressed how being such a friend is the ultimate antidote for bullying behavior.
The 17-year-old has traveled the country as an anti-bullying proponent, encouraging youth and making appearances outside America, having just returned from a speaking engagement in Haiti.
“I enjoy speaking to young people … because I was severely bullied in elementary and middle school so I feel like it is my duty — and my calling — to raise awareness about this epidemic that is occurring,” she said.
“One in four children are bullied every day and over 3.2 million students are bullied every day so I think it’s very important and very vital in society today that a young person like myself is raising awareness about his problem that is occurring,” she said, adding one her goals is to see all schools incorporate an anti-bullying program into their curricula.
This sort of activism is nothing new to the heralded teen.
Million is a long-time school volunteer working with youngsters in Middletown City Schools. She even created the “Crown Academy,” which focuses on community service and leadership.
Her volunteer efforts during her just-completed senior year included speaking to youngsters at all of Middletown’s elementaries and middle school on a variety of subjects beyond anti-bullying, including breast cancer awareness and the district’s “Learning Is Cool” initiative.
Middletown City Schools Spokeswoman Destini Burns said Million’s extensive volunteer work reflects well on the entire school system and city.
“Even after graduating from Middletown Schools, Au’Lauren is still showing everyone what it means to be Middie,” Burns said.