Every Student Succeeding: Standing Tall

It has become a growing problem in schools across the country. Bullying is a subject not many want to discuss, but it’s an important topic nonetheless. Unfortunately for Laila Raymond, she was bullying’s latest victim.

“I know this child,” said Dr. Imee Almazan, principal at Fischer Middle School in San Jose. “What did she ever do to them that would warrant this treatment?”

The bullying started early. By the time Laila entered fourth grade, she had missed nearly a year of school.

“I think at some point, she just stopped talking about it,” said Lyssa Perry, principal at San Antonio Elementary. “And she would make up excuses of why not to come to school. It was never that she said directly, ‘I’m being bullied.’ It was ‘my stomach hurts and I don’t want to go to school.’ And it was this gut-wrenching feeling of this is going to happen when I get there.”

Worst of all it was constant. Day in and day out, Laila was left to feel insecure, isolated and afraid.

“One day I was sitting at the edge of my mom and dad’s bed and I said, ‘Mom can I be homeschooled?” Laila said. “’ And she’s like, ‘Why?’ And I just started breaking down in tears and said, ‘because people bully me and I can’t take it.’”

In time, Laila found her voice and her confidence. She confided in educators at Fischer Middle School who put an end to the bullying.

“I felt like she’s my child,” Almazan said. “And I became mama bear because I’ve known her for quite some time. When a family member is in need of something, we get together and figure out how we’re going to support our family member to be successful and be supportive.”

Now an eighth grader, Laila is focused and determined. She has dreams of attending Stanford University and becoming a pediatrician.

“Ever since I was 4 years old, I always told my grandparents I wanted to be a pediatrician,” Laila said. “They have it on a board at their house. And they have the date and when I said it and how old I was. So just from there, I’ve had a love for being a pediatrician.”

Almazan says it’s only a matter of time before Laila is trading in her school books for a stethoscope.

“I told her once, ‘Doesn’t Dr. Laila Raymond have a nice ring to it?’” Almazan said. “And she would just give me her 1,000 watt smile. And that’s all I needed to see and know that she’s going to get to her goal.”

The young woman who once stayed home to avoid her bullies has now conquered them. And now, no one dictates who Laila Raymond is except Laila herself.

“She is the champion we wish all students could be,” Perry said. “For so long, I think she always looked up to role models and looking for somebody and looking for that hero in her life. And I think little did she know, she became her own hero. And she became her own champion.”

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