As another school year comes to a close, kids everywhere are engaging in the age-old tradition of signing their annual yearbooks.
They eagerly pour over the messages penned by their peers, the ones claiming to be BFFs 4ever! and sayings like, “dogs drool but you rule!”
However, for one 12-year-old boy, sadly, this was not the case.
Brody Ridder, a sixth-grader at The Academy of Charter Schools in Westminster, CO, asked his classmates to sign his yearbook. They declined.
In an interview with KDVR Fox31 Brody says:
“I went up to people and I asked them, “can you sign my yearbook and some of them were like no””
Saddened by the fact that he only collected two signatures from classmates and two notes from his teachers, Brody took matters into his own hands.
He inked his own yearbook message, writing:
“Hope you make some more friends. — Brody Ridder.”
And mama hearts everywhere just broke a little bit. Especially his own mother’s.
“It honestly broke my heart,” his mother Cassandra Ridder said. “And that was really hard to see and read as a mom.”
This was just the icing on the top of an already tough year for Brody.
He started attending The Academy of Charter Schools (a pre-K to 12 school) in grade 5, after being bullied at his previous school.
It was his chance to start over. To make new friends. To put his past heartaches behind him. Unfortunately, his struggles persisted. The bullying continued, just with different faces.
“They just annoy me to the point where I cry at lunch and I just have to leave early and it’s getting on my nerves and recently they started getting physical and I don’t like it.”
His mother decided to post a heartbreaking snapshot of the message on a private Facebook page for parents of the school.
She hoped that doing so would open their eyes and encourage them to talk to their kids about bullying.
The response? May just restore your faith in humanity.
Several parents shared the post with their own children, including 11th-grader Joanna Cooper’s.
Even though she didn’t know Brody, Joanna immediately knew she needed to do something.
She told the Washington Post:
“I’m going to get people and we’re going to sign his yearbook. No kid deserves to feel like that.”
And she wasn’t the only one.
Fellow 11th-graders, Logan South and Simone Lightfoot, also took up the charge, rounding together a group of their peers.
As did 8th grader, Maya Gregory, herself a victim of bullying in 6th grade.
“No one helped me when I was in that situation,” Maya said. “So I wanted to be there for him.”
As word quickly spread, dozens of kids stepped up and in – right into Brody’s sixth-grade classroom.
They lined up in front of his desk, all vying for the chance to fill up the pages of his yearbook.
I’m not crying, YOU are.
They penned messages like:
“Brody!! I know we don’t know you, but I know you are the coolest kid! If you ever need anything call your senior friends!”
“Hey Brody, we don’t know you but we think you are super cool and I’ll be your senior friend.”
“Hey, dude. You’re freakin awesome. Stay that way.”
“Hey buddy, never change, never put your head down.”
Some kids even shared their contact information and told him to get in touch.
At the end of the day, Brody’s yearbook was overflowing with messages.
Over 100 kids filled the void initially left by his classmates, including, ironically enough, several of his classmates.
That’s right. Once they saw everyone else doing it, his classmates FINALLY took up their pens. Something they should have done right from the start.
As a parent, you want nothing more for your children than to be loved and accepted by their peers. You hope against hope that they will find their people.
But the harsh reality is that so often this isn’t the case. Middle school is a cesspool. Full-stop.
So many kids struggle, but for one day at least, Brody was able to push his struggles aside.
He says of the experience:
“It just made me feel better as a person. I don’t know how to explain it. It just makes me feel better on the inside.”
Proving that small acts of kindness really do make all the difference.
His mother, Cassandra, is grateful for the outpouring of love.
She tells the media:
“It made me feel like there’s hope for the school, there’s hope for humanity and there’s a lot of good kids in this world.”
Here’s hoping that some of those kids show up in Brody’s grade 7 class next year.