Third-Grader Writes Anti-Bullying Book In Hopes Of Creating Safer Culture In Schools
From the tender age of two, it was clear that Meeka Wojciechowski was something special and not because she outshined her peers athletically, academically or any other way. In fact, quite the contrary as Meeka has always cared deeply about helping others find their sparkle.
“She believes in celebrating the individual,” says her mom Karen.
So it came as no surprise when Meeka started asking her mother where she could volunteer to cheer people up. She began going to nursing homes and children’s hospitals, eager to find a way to put a smile on whoever’s face she encountered. At age five, Meeka started participating in different pageants —partly because she loved shiny crowns and dancing but partly because she felt passionate about squashing the act of bullying.
“Bullying can and does happen in many places, in many ways and on any regular day,” says Meeka, who first was introduced to the anti-bullying message when she was volunteering at a special needs pageant called Miss Amazing. It’s there that she learned about the Live Out Loud Charity (LOLC), which focuses on suicide prevention.
Soon thereafter, Meeka was given the opportunity to audition for a fashion show hosted by LOLC. It’s a show that combines suicide awareness, bullying awareness, mental health education, entertainment, runway modeling and personal stories with the crowd. Every participant has a connection to bullying or suicide, and many of them share their heart-wrenching stories. At the LOLC Indianapolis show, Meeka was so inspired by the tales students told that she asked her parents if she could enroll in the 12-week class that teaches core character development and trains people on what to look for with regard to suicide awareness (i.e., questions one should and shouldn’t ask, as well as where to point people for resources). Upon completing the training, one can become a spokesperson for LOLC.
Meeka was all in, but initially her parents worried that the subject of suicide was too intense of a topic for their daughter to tackle. Still, Meeka was adamant, especially when she learned that Indiana has the highest rate of youth suicide.
“Meeka always says that not talking about [feelings of depression, anxiety and suicide] is clearly not working so maybe we should try talking about it to highlight the problem,” says Karen, who took the class with Meeka. “Bullying and mental anguish all ties in together. Combatting bullying is important because bullying is often what leads young people to take their own lives.”
One weekend when she was visiting her grandma’s house, Meeka began to scribble down a story about an animal who gets bullied at school. His animal peers witness the bad behavior but stand by helplessly, not knowing what to do. Though the students are initially afraid to talk about what they saw, they muster the courage to go to the principal’s office where they learn the difference between tattling and reporting a bullying incident. The principal goes on to teach the animals about how to create a respectful environment in school. The back section of the book includes discussion questions that help readers talk through what they learned from the book as well as scenarios of what they may deal with in real life.
Meeka penned “Another Tuesday at Popcorn Elementary: No Bullies” in a single weekend. She typed and retyped it three times. Her brother Ivan helped with illustrations. Karen formatted and self-published it in December 2018. Meeka wrote the book for no other reason than to help spread the message of not bullying.
“I’m proud of my book because it’s a fun story made by kids for kids to help everyone learn that it’s okay to be yourself and that every individual is worth celebrating,” Meeka says. “I like that my brother helped illustrate it with me because now he is 10, and he’s getting less cooperative.”
A third-grader at Eagle Elementary in the fall, Meeka has read her book to several kindergarten and first-grade classrooms at her school. She plans to write a follow-up book on teamwork.
“Whatever Meeka does, she gives 100 percent,” says Karen, noting that besides volunteering 20-plus hours a month at organizations like the American Cancer Society, Make-a-Wish, 500 Fest and March of Dimes, her energetic daughter also participates in modeling and dancing.
Accepted into the Indianapolis School of Ballet’s Pre-Professional program, she danced in the 2016 and 2018 productions of Butler University’s “The Nutcracker.” She also performs at fashion shows and has done some professional modeling with Kid Fash Magazine. In February 2018, Meeka claimed the title of USA National Miss Indiana Princess. Not long after she was crowned, Meeka and Karen met an 8-year-old girl with alopecia (a disease that attacks hair follicles, causing it to fall out). Meeka was dressed in a lovely teal gown, and the little girl was ecstatic to meet a “real-life princess.”
At the time, Meeka had long, curly “pageant hair” that flowed down her back — hair that Meeka loved to style. One day Karen asked her daughter how she would feel about donating some of her locks to the little girl with alopecia.
“I, in no way, pressured her to do it, but she didn’t even have to think about it for a second,” Karen says. “She agreed immediately.”
So last September, on her eighth birthday, instead of having a party with friends, Meeka went to the salon to cut off nine inches of her hair, then presented it to her new friend.
“I think you’re beautiful just the way you are,” Meeka told her. “But if you want to choose your look, I want to give you my hair.”
The tender gesture didn’t surprise Karen one bit as she has found her happy place in volunteering. According to her parents, she fits better within the world of giving and sharing than she does with using and taking. In fact, she volunteered so many hours during her reign in 2018 that she was named USA National Miss Indiana Hoosier Hospitality Princess. And in February 2019, she held onto her title when she was crowned 2019 USA National Miss Indiana Princess for the second year in a row.
“Whatever you set her on, she’s going to give you her all,” Karen adds. “She has a huge heart and wants to fix the world.”
Copies of “Another Tuesday at Popcorn Elementary” can be purchased for $20 at Best Friends Coffee & Bagels on E. Main Street in Brownsburg. A portion of the book sales benefits the LOLC suicide prevention. For more information about the Live Out Loud Charity, visit liveoutloudcharity.org.