A Dawson County High School freshman has decided to speak out against bullying, an issue she has witnessed and experienced.
Spearheading her own nonprofit, "Rise and Shine Bullying Organization," Kirsten Hoge's cause has gone regional.
On April 7, Hoge will speak alongside Bobby "the Celtic Warrior" Gunn, a former International Boxing Association World Cruiser-weight Boxing Champion, at his title fight in Southhaven, Miss.
Hoge, 15, began her organization as an outlet for bullying victims to find support and relief. It has officially joined with Gunn's "Fighters United Against Bullying."
"We want to help [bullying victims], whether it means contacting their school or getting them counseling," she said.
Although there are other anti-bullying advocacy projects, Hoge said none really focus on victim services.
"I just felt like if I wasn't the one doing it then it wouldn't get done," she said. "I want to do this for other people."
To Hoge, her experience with emotional bullying in middle school sets her apart from other organizations. She openly shares her story because she wants to help prevent future bullying.
Hoge said she "remembers every detail" of how she was bullied.
"In seventh grade, everything seemed fine with my classmates until three days after we came back from Thanksgiving break," she said. "My two best friends since fourth grade turned on me." Vicious gossip, lies and "lots of harmful stuff" followed.
"They would call me names continuously," she said.
After getting punched in the chest early in her eighth grade year, Hoge transferred.
"When I moved schools, everything suddenly got better, so I felt like I needed to turn that into a positive thing for other people because it turned into a positive thing for me," she said.
With the Rise and Shine Bullying Organization, Hoge wants to focus more on emotional and online bullying.
A cheerleader, aspiring model and actress, Hoge hopes to start small, putting up posters at school against bullying. She eventually wants to speak at pep rallies.
Inspired by her grandmother, a former teacher, Hoge also would like to start a "secret closet."
"She would set up one room that kids didn't use and would get people to donate toothbrushes, clothes and deodorant for kids who didn't have it," she said. "Poor hygiene contributes to bullying. If you don't wear the right stuff, or you don't shower a lot, people will get picked on."
Gunn, who has announced he will be dedicating his upcoming IBA Heavyweight Cham-pionship of the World fight to bullied victims worldwide, has recognized Hoge's boldness.
"It is amazing how Kirsten has stepped up and rose above the adversity to become empowered to spread bully awareness," Gunn said in a statement. "She is a true inspiration and I believe with all my heart that she will make a difference and encourage others to get involved."
Hoge and Gunn are scheduled to speak to students later this month in Memphis, Tenn.