No one signed a bu’l’lied boy’s yearbook; then one message changed everything

Eleventh-graders at the Academy of Charter Schools in Westminster, Colo., with Brody Ridder, center, a sixth-gra’der at the school. After classmates declined to sign his yearbook, older students stepped in. (Courtesy of Simone Lightfoot)

Cassandra Ridder was crus’hed when her 12-year-old son Brody came home from school last week with only a few signatures in his yearbook — including his own.

“Hope you make some more friends. — Brody Ridder,” the rising seventh-grader wrote in his own yearbook, which was signed by only two classmates, two teachers and himself.

The note Brody wrote himself in his yearbook, which was only signed by two classmates and two teachers. (Courtesy of Cassandra Ridder)

“It broke my heart,” Ridder said.

Brody has been a student at the Academy of Charter Schools in Westminster, Colo., a public prekindergarten-to-grade-12 school, since fifth grade. He had several friends at his previous school, but over the past two years, he has struggled socially and has been repeatedly bu’ll’ied, his mother said.

“There’s kids that have pushed him and called him names,” said Ridder, adding that she decided to switch her son’s school before fifth grade to give him more academic support. “Brody has been through a lot.”

Although the bu’llying somewhat subsided after she addressed her concerns with school administrators in February, she could tell “the te’asing was still there,” Ridder said.

“When I was younger, I was bu’llied a lot like him,” she said. “If I could do one little thing to help this kid feel a little better, I’d be more than willing to.”

Maya Gregory, an eighth-grader at the school, felt likewise. She, too, was bul’lied at Brody’s age.

“No one helped me when I was in that situation,” said Maya, 14. “So I wanted to be there for him.”

She rounded up her friends, all of whom were eager to give Brody a confidence boost. The impromptu initiative spread throughout the school, and on May 25, the day after the yearbooks were distributed, a swarm of older students filed into Brody’s sixth-grade classroom, ready to sign his yearbook.

Although he felt shy at first, “it made me feel better,” said Brody, adding that he collected more than 100 signatures and messages of support in his yearbook that day. He also got some phone numbers and a gift bag.

“Just seeing him light up, it felt really good,” said Cooper, who is hoping to spearhead a schoolwide yearbook signing next year to ensure that this doesn’t happen to another child. “It was a small thing, but it made him so happy.”

Maya, for her part, promised Brody that beyond signing his yearbook, she would continue to be there for him. She gave him her phone number, and they have already met for ice cream with a few of her friends. They bonded over their shared experience with bullies, and she imparted words of wisdom: “Whoever is trying to bring you down is already below you,” she told Brody.

Ridder echoed his sentiment. While she never predicted her candid post would yield such a meaningful outcome for her son, she’s very grateful that it did.

“It made me feel like there’s still hope,” she said. “Not just for Brody, but for humanity.”

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