While there are organizations like #ICANHELP, whose main purpose is to put an end to such acts, it can be much more difficult to find a solution at the local level. Liberty High School sophomore Reed Schmitt is on a mission to shed light on the topic and help provide a safe space for children who are suffering from bullying.
Beginning in elementary school, Reed had to find a way to defend himself against bullies. The toll it took on Reed became so devastating that when it came time to transition into middle school, he decided to change which school he would be attending. “I went through a year of complete social isolation,” said Reed. “I didn’t have many friends, so I transferred to Edna Hill instead knowing only one person. The teachers took me under their wings and truly changed the course for me.” With teachers like Mr. and Mrs. Kemper allowing Reed to eat lunch in their classrooms and rebuilding his confidence, Reed was able to take major steps in the right direction.
Reed was deeply affected by the negativity that he had faced, so he decided to start a nonprofit called The Stand to help other kids like himself who were dealing with being bullied. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding and insufficient members, Reed had to shut down his program. However, that did not stop Reed from finding another way to speak out. At the end of his 7th grade year, Reed was introduced to a poet named Shane Koyczan. “I heard Shane’s poem To This Day, and I loved it,” said Reed. “I listened to it constantly through my 8th grade year.” When Showcase of the Arts came around in his freshman year at Liberty, Reed decided to perform To This Day, which is an antibullying poem. Reed received overwhelmingly positive feedback about his performance. “A lot of people enjoyed it, so throughout the year, whenever I’d have the opportunity, I’d perform one of Shane’s poems.” When it was time for the Solo Ensemble Concert for band, Reed brought to life the poem People Are Getting Better. The piece focuses on the state of our world in society today, how it’s a bleak future, and we’re the only ones who have the power to change it.
Now as a sophomore, Reed’s first performance was at a choir fundraiser. He recited The Crickets Have Arthritis, a sad, moving piece about a boy with cancer. He followed that up with a second year in the Showcase of the Arts. “I performed Troll, which is a poem against cyberbullying,” said Reed. “I also had a little bit of choreography to go along with it.” While some might think that performing a poem simply means standing on stage and reciting the words, Reed’s versions are much more than that. “I like to put my own style into Shane’s poems. I want to have pieces of him in it, but ultimately I want to represent myself.” Reed listens to Shane’s poems and then tweaks miniscule things like chokes and catches of breath to give personality to the piece. “I try to really bring emotion to it instead of me just saying words on a platform to a crowd,” said Reed. He also has simple chord progressions written to accompany him. In the case of performing Troll, Reed had fellow students walk through the audience in masks, join him on stage, and then disappear behind the curtains, remaining completely anonymous. “It’s just like cyberbullying where people can hide behind a computer screen.”
While spreading the antibullying message through his performances has caught people’s attention, Reed’s ultimate goal is to restart The Stand. “We would drive around California and help put on activities for other students, creating more safe spaces for kids,” said Reed. If Reed does find a way to revive his nonprofit venture, it may be difficult to squeeze into his already packed schedule. He is involved in symphonic and marching bands, the acapella and chamber singers choirs, and he just made it into Rent a Carol for choir and the California Central Region Honor Choir. “Making the Honor Choir was a big deal for me,” said Reed. “I had to sing an Italian aria, do some scales, triads, and tonal recall, and then do sight singing to test my ability to read music.” For symphonic band Reed rotates instruments, but his personal favorite is a type of copper drum called timpani. In marching band, he plays snare drum and is the assistant drum captain on the band council. In choir Reed provides deep vocals for the bass 2 range.
When Reed isn’t practicing for one of his many activities, he can easily be found reading. “I think I read 1,000 books throughout elementary school and probably another 1,000 since then,” said Reed. “I will read anything, but my favorite genre is sci-fi.” Reed excels in academics, maintaining A’s in his classes and already taking advanced courses. “I was able to take biology as a freshman, which is a sophomore class; so, this year I am able to be in chemistry, which is a junior class.” While college is still some ways away, Reed is already looking to the future. “I would love to study musical direction and be either a choral or music director.”