Seventh grader Emmariah Wyss knows how hurtful the R-word can be.
For one, she has a brother with special needs. And that exposes the 13-year-old Emma to a lot.
“My brother goes to a special needs school, so I see lots of special needs kids and I don’t want them to get hurt,” she says.
Since elementary school, Emma has dedicated much of her time to help rid the offensive term from within her schools and in everyday life. She began a movement to educate students about the derogatory word about four years ago.
It all began when Emma heard the R-word said in school.
She then told her mother was soon learned about the hurtful meaning behind the word.
Together they researched the term and ended up finding a campaign called Spread the Word to End the R-word.
“A couple days after learning about [Spread the Word to End the R-word] Emma immediately wanted to bring it to her school,” said Emma’s mother, Tonya Wyss, of Bay Shore.
And, she did.
When she was in fourth grade year, Emma vowed to rid the word from Gardiner Manor Elementary School — with the help of her teachers.
She set up the R-Word pledge, which is an event where students sign a banner promising not to use the word.
The pledge is the first Wednesday of every March.
Now as a Bay Shore middle schooler, Emma continues in her quest.
She brought the pledge to her middle school, and also speaks as a guest at the elementary school and Bay Shore High School.
“She talks to classes saying that they can make a change in their community,” said her mother.
The initiative has garnered Emma national attention from CBS. But that attention doesn’t phase her, said her mother.
“When talking about it with Emma she says, ‘Yeah, I just did it,’ and then she goes off to school,” said Tonya.
Emma uses her spotlight to help push the movement forward, even beyond the local level. She even ceated a video with the help of her family that discusses the impact of the R-word.
“The response has been amazing,” said Tonya Wyss.
Top: Emmariah Wyss signs the R-word pledge last week at Bay Shore Middle School. (Courtesy)