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University of Alabama student Noelia Voigt used her passion for writing to create an anti-bullying children’s book as part of her many efforts to educate and support victims of bullying.
The book, “Maddie the Brave,” is dedicated to Madison “Maddie” Whittsett, a 9-year-old girl from Birmingham who committed suicide in 2018 after being bullied by other students at her school.
A cartoon version of Maddie is seen on the cover with a crown, a shiny heart on her shirt and a blue flowing cape printed with the words “QUEEN OF BRAVE”.
Voigt, who participates in the Miss Collegiate America pageant system, wrote the book after securing the 2020 Miss Alabama Collegiate America title early last year.
Voigt said the pageant system’s collective platform as an organization is anti-bullying, and pageant participants have carte blanche in how to defend. BRAVE is the acronym for the organization which stands for “Building Respect and Values for All,” Voigt said.
“My favorite thing about competitions is that it gives us an outlet to do things like that; give our heart to the community and do our service to people,” Voigt said.
The book follows a day of school with Maddie, starting at home when she wakes up and starts her morning saying positive affirmations with her mom. At school, Maddie’s character experiences, testifies and reacts to various bullying scenarios; show compassion to other students, deal with a bully, and use affirmations to instill self-confidence.
Voigt said she was inspired to dedicate the book to Maddie after learning about her story. Voigt contacted Maddie’s parents and got their blessing to use their daughter in the book, she said.
The book was published in August 2020. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Maddie Foundation, which was established by Maddie’s family after her death to raise awareness of harassment. The rest of the funds earned by the book will be directly reinvested in the printing of other books.
The books have so far raised more than $ 1,000 for the Maddie Foundation, Voigt said.
This week, Voigt is competing for the title of Miss Collegiate America at the 2021 National Competition held in Little Rock, Arkansas, representing Connecticut. The contest began on June 19 and is expected to end on Saturday, according to the contest website.
Another anti-bullying project Voigt has worked with is the Bully Buddy app, which was created by Tara Townes after Townes’ son was severely bullied for having a rare disease. Voigt’s role with the app was to help with beta testing, be an app ambassador, and translate the app into Spanish. The app provides tools and resources related to reporting and documenting bullying.
Voigt said she also hopes to start a One Love club in UA. One Love Foundation is a non-profit organization that promotes education about healthy and unhealthy relationships and helps young people learn to identify and avoid abuse.
Voigt is a UA second year student studying interior design. She said she plans to continue advocating for these causes in the future and as she embarks on her next career.
“I think it doesn’t matter, you know, if I’m going into interior design or any career I’m going to take the time to stand up for these things,” Voigt said.