The pills were in his mouth. That's how close Tipton, Iowa teen Jake Stallman came to suicide two years ago, the Des Moines Register reports. In the face of constant bullying—first, because he was overweight, then, once he'd slimmed down, because he was gay—the 15-year-old saw no way out. He thought better of it, and went to his mother, Tania McAtee for help. Together, the two started an advocacy group called Tipton Against Kids Being Bullied.
McAtee went first to the principal, then to the school board, demanding they do more to prevent bullying. She distributed fliers asking parents to speak out. Not everyone approved—one person called to say, "Your son is a [gay slur] and we are coming to kill him." But "we quickly learned we were not alone," McAtee says. "There were other kids who were being bullied for other reasons, and their parents were just as concerned." Jake, meanwhile, now feels confident enough that he's become his school's first male cheerleader. This weekend, he'll receive an award from the Matthew Shepard Foundation, a group he also blogs for, in recognition of his work.