July 13, 2013

Citizen of the Week: Evelyn Heider

The Daily Citizen

— When Evelyn “Evey” Heider, 5, decided to dress herself one Wednesday — an outfit complete with stripped pants and a witch’s cape — she didn’t know she would be made fun of at City Park Elementary where she attends.

Mean words and laughter from other students aimed at Evelyn’s fashion made the already shy child more introverted.

“She did not like that,” Evelyn’s mother, Elise Perez, said. “I told her, ‘Why not do something about it?’”

So Evelyn started her “Show The Love” campaign. The premise is to tell people they should show acceptance of differences and not say mean things. Evelyn talked to students at City Park and handed out pencils that said “stand up to bullying.”

Standing up against bullying was a turning point for Evelyn, her teacher, Jenny Shoemaker, said.

“I think that helped push her to where she is today,” she said. “She does not care what people think of her, she dresses how she wants and is proud of it. We could all learn some positive ideas from Evey.”

Evelyn’s newfound self-confidence is infectious, Shoemaker said, adding that she’s the “kind of girl you would want your child to be in a friendship with.”

“She has a great outlook on life and does not like when someone is picked on,” Shoemaker said. “She would stand up for her friends if someone was being mean. She often reminds everyone ... how to be a good friend.”

Evelyn took that same platform to the local National American Miss Dalton Pageant where she won and went on to be first runner-up at the National American Miss Georgia. She has been invited to compete in the National American Miss Pageant at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., set for Thanksgiving week.

“Everyone was talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up,” Perez said.

Evelyn told the judges about bullying.

“We were floored by her,” Perez said. “She is so shy. To get in front of all those people with a microphone made me very proud.”

For the state competition, Evelyn got up in front of the judges and said, “I don’t like your hair. I don’t like your dress.” Then, to clarify, she told the judges, “That’s being a bully. And that’s not nice.”

Maturity like that is hard to find in kids her age, Shoemaker said.

“I think it’s fantastic that someone her age is already aware of the (discrimination) around her,” Shoemaker said, “and how she could take that situation and turn it into a positive.”

For overcoming bullying and spreading a message of acceptance, The Daily Citizen names Evelyn Heider Citizen of the Week.