Monday, Sep 01, 2014
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Teen cyber-bullying activist turns to message of abstinence


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Devoting her time to a cause is nothing new for Sarah Ball.

While in high school, Ball, became an advocate, pioneer and spokeswoman for anti-bullying awareness in Hernando County.

Now Ball, 19, has a new mission.

Beginning in August, Ball will join a grounded organization, A Silver Ring Thing, on a 10-month journey, visiting cities throughout the United States, to spread a message of abstinence.

Ball grew up with a strong spiritual foundation and parents who were always supportive of her. Yet she never expected to commit to such a cause, even though she had always practiced the message.

But Ball’s life mission changed during her freshman year of high school when her perfect world was tarnished after a breakup with her boyfriend.

An eager socialite at Hernando High, Ball saw the cruelty of girls her age, some close friends, who smeared her name and taunted her on social media.

Her experience, that lasted months, forced Ball to face the realities of teen taunting and an internet platform that can quickly get out of hand.

But a supportive and quick-thinking mother discovered her daughter was being bullied after checking Ball’s Facebook account. Jennifer Ball suspected something was wrong even though her daughter did her best to hide it.

“I thought it would never go away,” Sarah Ball said. “But I thought I could handle it on my own.”

With her parents’ support, Ball turned the experience into an opportunity to change laws about cyber-bullying accountability in Hernando County schools. She facilitated the conception of Unbreakable, a local movement to raise awareness about cyber-bullying.

In three years, her life has taken some exciting turns. She juggles college classes, a work schedule and her relationships with family and friends while also taking on speaking engagements about topics of real value to her peers.

Ball is humbled by the attention that has included several articles and news pieces that featured not only her fight to overcome that ugly time in her high school experience but her grit and commitment to help others who might suffer the same.

She holds a collection of letters from different organizations, including one from Senator Nelson. Each expresses gratitude for her selfless work that has brought attention to a growing epidemic and is effecting, and killing, our nation’s innocent children.

Senator Bill Nelson wrote in a letter to Ball, “It causes me great pride to see bright young Floridians excel as you have. I celebrate your achievement along with you and wish you ever-brighter success within the purpose-filled future I am sure awaits you.”

Other documents she cherishes include awards, from the Megan Meier Foundation, the Link Award from the Spring Hill Kiwanis Club that was created it in her honor, and the Kids are Heroes Award from St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.

All this attention might change the humbleness of a young adult just beginning to find her way.

Yet Ball sits behind a pair of sunglasses on a warm May morning like any other eager new adult embarking on an exciting journey.

“I’m a little nervous about the trip,” Ball said, referring to her 10-month stint speaking with a group of others on their national tour. “I’m not real comfortable talking about sex.”

But the message is as important as her movement to bring awareness to cyber-bullying, she said. In fact, the two are related since many teens struggle to gain acceptance through behaviors, like engaging in sexual activity, long before they are emotionally ready.

When the message is important, Ball doesn’t hesitate. And her belief that society has over-glorified sexual activity as a right-of-passage is just the message she feels young people need to hear from another peer who has been on the vulnerable side of peer pressure.

Respect is missing in teens and young adults, she said.

She will miss her family with whom she has always been close. But she is also looking forward to the opportunity to see life from a different set of lenses

“Even though she has healed from it all, she has never stopped talking out on it,” said Jennifer Ball. “She has said ‘because people are still taking their own lives from this.’”

Her father, Brian, is equally inspired by his daughter.

“Sarah chose a path that put the focus on others going through the same experience,” Brian Ball said. “Sarah chose a path to help others which eventually, unknown to her at the time, helped herself.”

For Sarah Ball, there was no other alternative. She felt a responsibility to make a difference. And her mission is just beginning.

Email Hernnado Today correspondent Kim Dame at damewrites@yahoo.com.

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