Meet Jo-Annie DeJesus
The collaborator of: Anti-Bully
I have always known that my purpose in life is to help people, but it became even clearer to me when I was 18 and volunteered at a non-profit organization that served a diverse, low-income community. This experience ignited my passion for community work, and for over 20 years, I have been providing my community with tenant rights, fuel assistance, legal advice, and referrals to mental health providers. However, I dropped out of high school at 16 and did not understand the value of education until I realized that it was necessary to advance in my profession. After raising three children and working full-time, I returned to school at the age of 37 and graduated with honors from Quinsigamond Community College with an Associate degree in Social Sciences and a certificate in Human Services. I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a focus on drug and alcohol counseling. It is an honor to work with and alongside so many amazing individuals, and I look forward to continuing my work with the community.
Bullying has always been a concern of mine since I experienced it since kindergarten for simply being different. As a brown girl with a unique name that many could not pronounce properly, I was consistently made fun of. I wore thick glasses, had curly hair, and spoke with an accent since English was not my first language. I had no friends, and people only talked to me to bully me. This left me feeling insecure and ashamed, and I felt alone. I did not even share my experience with my mother, who worked in the public school system, because I thought no one would
My experience persisted for the first seven years of my academic career, and I often faked sickness to avoid going to school. I was ridiculed for speaking my native language and was told to only speak English since I lived in this country. I felt like I was never good enough.
Things changed when I entered middle school and met a diverse group of kids, some of whom even looked like me. They encouraged me to speak up and not let others bully me. With their support, I embraced everything that made me different, and I never allowed anyone to bully me again. I stood up for myself and spoke up.