FORT MILL — When Juhi Patel talks about her plans for the future, it’s easy to envision her meeting all of her goals.
At age 12, the rising sixth-grader is already working toward making the world a better place.
Patel created two groups last year while in fifth grade at Sugar Creek Elementary School – I Stand For Me and Being That Girl.
I Stand For Me was created after Patel did a research project about bullying.
“I realized it was a really big issue and I thought I could do something about it, that I could at least spread awareness in my community,” Patel said.
Patel formed the group during recess with friends. All of her friends had experienced bullying at some point, she said, though it was typically nonviolent. Often, bullying is verbal, she said.
The group thought about ways to spread an anti-bullying message and met with guidance counselors and the principal about their ideas.
The name of the group came from another idea she had.
“You should stand up for yourself, and not just sit around and watch,” she said.
Patel’s second group, Being That Girl, came from the notion that one girl can change the world.
“I know some girls in my school that have really good talents. I said, ‘why don’t you do something with that?’ But they don’t know what to do. And I thought girls have many talents they should share with the world and make a difference,” Patel said.
The groups were formed just as school was ending last year, but Patel hopes to revive them as she enters middle school in the fall. She and her friends have met during the summer to talk about how they can revive the groups in middle school. Ideas have included passing out flyers and meeting with administration to get their support.
They’ve launched websites for both groups in the hopes that they can spread their message beyond Fort Mill – maybe even throughout the world.
“I want to start this from school to school,” she said.
When I Stand For Me reforms in the fall, one of their first orders of business will be trying to establish their new middle school as a “No Place for Hate” school, she said. Sugar Creek Elementary School is the only school in the district with that distinction, and Patel would like to see more.
The “No Place for Hate” distinction is given to schools through the Anti-Defamation League after they commit to a “Resolution of Respect” and complete activities that promote kindness, respect and an anti-bullying atmosphere in the school.
Entering middle school can be a challenging time for any student, and Patel recognizes that rallying students for an anti-bullying club might be tough.
She’s up for the challenge.
“My mom was talking to me about this because she said, ‘You know, people might laugh.’ And I said, ‘Well, I do want to make a difference and I’m not going to give up on that,’” Patel said.
Patel plans to write letters to the governor and to President Obama to ask for their help encouraging young people to create clubs like hers at their own schools.
In her free time, Patel is also pursuing other interests. She has created six websites and is building an app with a friend.
Her father, Bhupendra Patel, is proud to see his daughter working hard and being socially responsible.
“Every parent wants their child to succeed, so it’s a very good thing,” he said.