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Aija Mayrock is not your typical college student.

After being personally victimized for about 8 years and hearing of a teen’s suicide due to bullying, Aija was 16 when she decided to take action. She wrote and self-published a book titled The Survival Guide to Bullying. Now the 19-year-old’s not-so-little book has been published by Scholastic and together they are setting out to help kids around the world and to erase the stigma attached to being bullied.

C: What is like being the voice of a generation on such a sensitive topic?
AM: “I don’t feel like I’m the voice of my generation! I think that it is tricky for such a sensitive issue. But, I feel really lucky that I’m able to have this book out because every day when I get messages from kids, it really makes me realize how important this issue is and that no matter what really difficult times I’ve been through, I’m lucky to have gotten through it and to have this book to help these kids.”

C: What’s the biggest upside of your whole journey- from being bullied, to writing a book, to being published?
AM: “I would say the two best things would be first, the strength that I feel from all of this. I know that I’ve gone through something really hard…and that I made something positive from a negative. The second thing is hearing from these kids all over the world. It is the craziest, most unexpected and wonderful thing.”

C: Has social media played a role in all of this? If so, how?
AM: “It’s been huge. Without social media I wouldn’t be able to talk to these kids. One girl commented this morning that my story made her realize that she can survive and that she’s really not alone. She said, “Thank God there’s another girl out there like me!” I said, “Yes, I’m here and there’s 13 million in America, you are so not alone!” So I think social media has been the most incredible platform for all of that.”

C: Were you always so optimistic, even in high school when you were going through your darkest days?
AM: “Well, I started off like this. In third grade I was so optimistic and fun, and as I started getting bullied, I actually kind of stopped talking. I thought maybe if I was invisible, no one would bother me. But I was very lucky because I won a film festival competition and redeveloped that confidence. And, to be honest, it’s something I struggle with every day. I’m not always confident and sometimes I feel really, really insecure. But, I have gotten to a point where I can get through those difficult moments.”

C: What piece of advice would you give young girls that might be going through something similar to what you went through, but don’t feel like they have somebody to talk to?
AM: “I would say, you need to become your own superhero and take charge of your life. I understand what it’s like to feel like there’s no one there. I thought my parents would never understand, but years later when I talk about it with them, I realize that they did understand and that I made such a big mistake by not telling them. I wasted so many years being so upset and so hopeless, when I had 2 people right there. And for girls who don’t have parents or people that they can trust, I guarantee that there’s one person in their life- it could be on the outskirts, it could be a soccer coach- but there is one person and you need to keep trying to find that person.”

C: What’s your number one goal for all of this?
AM: “I want to get this book in kids’ hands, and give a voice to the voiceless. I want all of these kids in the world to know that the bullying is here and now but it doesn’t exist in their future, and they don’t have to go through it alone. There’s a little bit of a stigma against bullying, like there must be something wrong with you if you’re bullied. I want to completely destroy that stigma because there is nothing wrong with anyone…”

C: #BUILTBYGIRLS is all about encouraging young women that they can be whatever they want to be and build whatever they want to build. You’re obviously very successful at a young age, what’s the one piece of advice you would give a girl your age trying to follow her dreams?
AM: “I spent a lot of years being told I would never be successful, I would never get into college, I would never have a book- all the nevers. I want to tell all of these girls to never believe the nevers, never take no for an answer! Turn around and show everyone what you can do and what you can achieve. Anything is possible if you work at it!”

Pick up a copy of The Survival Guide to Bullying here.

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