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Young Achievers: Teen's campaign makes us NOTICE child abuse

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  • Meet Bailey Brooks

    School: North Mecklenburg High

    Age: 17

    Her dream: To get a NOTICE billboard in Charlotte. “I want people to see it and know what it means.”

    She stays busy: Bailey, a National Honor Society member, is on her school soccer and dance teams, North Meck’s Principal’s Student Advisory Board and the Teen Health Connection Advisory Board.

    Big lesson she’s learned: Public speaking. “I’m ready to do anything. If I had to talk in the Panthers’ football stadium, I could do it.”

    She’s taking a trip: Bailey was invited to attend the Moose International Youth Awareness Congress this May in Chicago. She’s going with 50 other students from across the country, and she’ll have the opportunity to win scholarships there.

    The most fun she’s had working on NOTICE: Visiting Boys and Girls Clubs and talking to children about how to recognize and report abuse.



Bailey Brooks just wants people to notice.

She first noticed child abuse after watching the Caylee Anthony and Zahra Baker cases unfold on TV.

Bailey, now a junior at North Mecklenburg High, has since launched a campaign to raise child abuse awareness, and officials at Mecklenburg County noticed.

The county’s prevention and awareness committee picked up her campaign idea, NOTICE, to use for the month of April, which is national child abuse awareness month. “We really just ran with it, and I’m so thankful she agreed to let us do that,” said Marni Eisner, chairwoman of Mecklenburg County’s Child Abuse Awareness & Prevention Month committee.

As a sophomore last year, Bailey decided to focus on child abuse for a project in the International Baccalaureate program.

“I got really mad when I was watching (the trials) on TV,” she said. “I asked my mom, ‘Why didn’t anyone notice these girls were gone?’ ”

She looked up the statistics on child abuse. In Mecklenburg County, according to Pat’s Place, there were 13,367 reports of child abuse and neglect in 2011. Pat’s Place is a Charlotte child-advocacy center that serves abused children.

“I was shocked,” Bailey said. “I did not know that many children were abused.”

So she created the NOTICE campaign. To raise awareness, she sold t-shirts with the word “NOTICE” printed across the front. Bailey added tags to the shirts with child abuse statistics and hotline numbers for Union, Lincoln, Gaston and Mecklenburg counties. She also sold buttons.

Bailey gave all of her proceeds to Teen Health Connection and the Council for Children’s Rights. By spring of 2012, she’d raised $5,000, and she continued selling into the next school year.

Bailey also made a YouTube video with Teen Health Connection and started the trend of posting pictures with messages like “Shatter the Silence” inked on her palm. Others started following suit on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, she said.

When the county committee was brainstorming ideas for April, members – who include Bailey’s mother, who works for CMS – already knew about Bailey’s project. She had made presentations to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools principals and the county’s Department of Social Services and Child Fatality Team.

“I know she did a tremendous job when she presented to the CMS principals – I heard she got a standing ovation,” Eisner said.

CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison, who wrote “Protect Our Kids” on his hand, said he was proud of Bailey. “Her innovative ideas and leadership skills are helping to raise awareness on an important issue in our community,” he said.

The committee decided to hold themed events each week and a picture-posting campaign online and at bus stops, showing local celebrities who wrote messages on their hands.

“It just goes to show we have some really awesome, creative students in our midst, and I’m really proud of the committee for celebrating what she came up with,” said WBTV anchor Maureen O’Boyle, who wrote “Stand up for Kids” on her palm for the photo campaign. “It’s a really cool concept.”

Sheriff Chipp Bailey, who wrote “See It Say It!” on his hand, said people need to ask themselves why a child might be absent from school or have unusual bruises.

“(The campaign) is a reminder ... to not just say, ‘Oh well, that’s probably something that happened on the playground,’ ” he said. “If you see a child who is for one reason or another exhibiting signs of possible abuse, then tell somebody about it, a police officer, a doctor, a teacher, just tell somebody.”

Kris Taylor, who works at Pat’s Place, is a county committee member and said she’s been impressed with Bailey and her work.

“She is a fascinating, brilliant, brilliant young woman,” Taylor said. “She’s done more at her young age than many people have done by the time they retire. She’s been an inspiration to all of us.”

The committee focused on schools last week and had elementary students make pinwheels, which is the state’s symbol for child abuse prevention. Middle-schoolers took photographs of themselves with messages on their hands and high-schoolers were invited to make posters.

Bailey said she hopes to spread her campaign to Union County Public Schools and will continue to bring awareness to child abuse.

“I knew this was something I wanted to do. It’s not just a project to me. I want people’s lives to be changed and people’s lives to be saved because someone noticed.”

Staff researcher Maria David contributed.

Ruebens: 704-358-5294; On Twitter: @YoungAchCLT
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