After Quinton Aaron’s remarkable performance in The Blind Side, he has decided to devote himself to spreading awareness on the ever increasing presence of bullying. We got the opportunity to speak with Quinton who, with and his dedicated staff, has been on the road in his “Justin Bieber look-alike” tour bus, as he jokingly described, on his way to complete a 45- day road trip to over 30 states. Through their partner, Brown Paper Tickets, The Quinton Aaron Foundation is riding to many locations and schools in an Anti-Bullying campaign to bring awareness to this crisis that is overwhelming our schools. Their main effort is to educate students, teachers and, yes, even parents about their roles in bullying and what each one can do to further prevent bullying in their schools. Through this campaign, Quinton and his team hope to make a positive impact on children who may be suffering from bullying. He shares his advice on how kids can cope with bullies and how everyone can make a difference on stopping bullying.
Quinton is certainly becoming an inspirational hero to many young kids and even adults through his foundation and his own personal work. In this interview, Quinton shares some of his own insights from his experience with bullying as well as talks about his future plans in offering solutions to this nation’s problems.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Well, first, Happy Easter! Do you have any big Easter plans at all?
Quinton Aaron: I visited the church with my family and spent some time with them. I have been on the road most of the day riding to Syracuse, New York for the Quinton Aaron Foundation.
TCC: Now you said, as a reason you began this campaign that you wanted to educate younger children and teens about bullying. What kind of results or transformations have you witnessed as you continue to educate kids about this matter? Any specific stories?
QA: It’s a new campaign so we are hoping to find good results. We are just starting to first reaching out to kids about our program. Kids can start interacting with us as if they’re in a Drama Club or something. We have kids come to interact with video messages twice a month for example. And the kids really seem to find support in it. I had, in Atlanta, one kid come up to me with tears running down his face, and he talked to me about how kids were teasing him and bullying him and, you know, I comforted him by talking to him and telling how none of it mattered. What mattered was what he thought of himself. And his school-work.
TCC: Kids certainly look up to you, especially with celebrity status, as a result of the work you do. If you could sum up in a couple of sentences what you wish kids would get out of this tour and your personal work, what would it be?
QA: I would make them put their focus where it belongs which is in their school and their school work. When they are in school, they don’t need to focus on what other people are saying about them or get distracted by negative comments or verbal abuse because that means nothing. The only thing that matters is what you think of yourself.
TCC: As you progress into your tour, how do you feel about the response from your audience? How are people responding to your message?
QA: I think that they love it. I mean, this is something that people are facing all over the world. They can relate to it on a personal level. I feel like I can get kids more involved too with this tour and the places I am visiting.
TCC: In your opinion, who would you say is the most responsible when a child is getting bullied in a school or a public place?
QA: Part of the blame is with the parents. It starts at home. I feel that, whether good or bad, parents need to be stern. I remember when I got out of line my mother would develop this look and I instantly knew that I was going to get my butt whipped. (Laughs). I mean, kids these days are getting away with a lot and that is because their actions have no consequences.
TCC: I read this tweet from you a while back, “My little homey Miles the Monkey is showing you all what we do when there's bullying happening...” I like this representation of how people react when bullying is happening. Who is Miles the Monkey? How did this picture come about?
QA: (Laughs) A good friend in L.A. came up with Miles the Monkey. He had a prototype created that was similar to the ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ monkey, but he put them into one monkey. It shows what we do when we don’t speak up and offer our help to those that get bullied. The headphones show that the monkey can’t hear what’s going on. It’s got its shades on, looking cool, hiding its eyes instead of opening our eyes and actually seeing what is happening in front of us. A hand covers the mouth which shows that we don’t speak up when bullying is happening.
TCC: Especially this day and age, bullying has become, I hate to say, more hurtful in the form of cyber-bullying. What is your opinion on that; how can we tackle that, no pun intended?
QA: With cyber-bullying, it is definitely something that if it’s reported on what students are doing, measures must be taken. There needs to be consequences. Parents can take their ipads away or cut off computer access at home. You know, put them back into the dark ages. You eat then go upstairs; they need to learn their lesson. Kids can write anything they what and they get away with it; they get away with murder especially. I remember a kid who hung himself because of all the nasty things kids were telling him at school and on the Internet. Next day in school, the school was made aware and kids came to school with nooses around their neck to make fun of him. It was horrible. Actions have consequences; you don’t know how much you hurt other people until it’s too late.
TCC: Unfortunately, kids these days have to face all these different forms of bullying. What kind of advice would you give another child who may succumb to cyber bullying?
QA: First get them to believe that what they see on internet has no relevance to their lives. The internet, yeah, you can do a lot of things but regardless, you have to have thick skin. I remember in Elementary school I had, you know, crooked teeth and glasses and I didn’t know how to fight and defend myself. My mom had that mindset that boys will boys. They are going to do what they want. So I learned how to fight when I was young although I am not encouraging kids to fight or to use violence because violence does not solve everything. But there are measures parents can take and they have to step in. This is why I am on this tour, to educate teachers and parents and students that they must be the solution not the problem.
TCC: On tour you go to schools and speak directly to bullies and those who get bullied. What is it like to see, for example, a bully being made aware of the people he/she is hurting other people?
QA: I spoke at schools where there are kids literally in tears asking me to talk one on one. And we have our chats based on what they are going through. I tell them my reason for coming here is for them; it makes no difference what other people are saying about them.
TCC: You know, you are certainly an inspiration for people like myself because I fit the description of skinny, lanky kid and I used to get bullied all the time, sometimes now in college as well so I really appreciate the work you are doing with bringing this message across to kids. Making them aware. Looking towards the future, what do you think are you’re next steps with the tour? Will we see another one?
QA: Oh yes! We would love to branch out. Spreading this message and visiting many places and I love the life on the road . I love the life on road and we have the tour bus that Justin Bieber has, he rides one of them and everybody says, “Oh look you ride in Justin Bieber’s bus!” But we definitely want to do more, for my foundation and not only bullying but childhood obesity as well. I want preach healthy lives and also lead by example. I am soon going to be on the next season of Extreme Makeover weight loss edition. They are going to coach me into losing weight and reaching my goals. My followers and kids that look up to me, you know, I am showing them that it doesn’t come easy without hard work.
Follow Quinton as he continues on his tour through Twitter.
To lend your support to this admirable campaign, you can donate directly to the Quinton Aaron Foundation through their partner BrownPaperTickets.com.
Visit The Quinton Aaron Foundation to learn if Quinton is coming to a city near you! While you’re there, you can also have a chance to win awesome prizes through the Honda Motorcycle Fundraiser while helping the Quinton Foundation through your proceeds.