Photo by Kim Leeson

Photo by Kim Leeson

Last fall Lauren Bush, an eighth-grader at St. John’s Episcopal School, created a YouTube video called “Word Play” during a film class. The goal was to create something inspirational, so she chose to focus on anti-bullying.

“Bullying is such a prominent issue at our school,” Bush says. “I didn’t want to just say, ‘Hey, bullying is bad,’ and depress people. I wanted to show people what they could do to fix it.”

She rounded up some seventh-graders — the eighth-graders were busy with their own projects — and got to work.

The first attempt didn’t turn out the way she hoped, so she decided to tweak the plan and take out the talking, instead making the film a music video. Once she nailed down the concept, it took only a day to put the video together.

The video follows a young girl being labeled by her classmates as she goes through the paces of the day. She somberly walks down the school hallways with the words “loser” and “stupid” tagged to her back. Then, halfway through the video, another girl, tagged “empathetic,” approaches her and covers her first labels with new ones — “sophisticated” and “beautiful.”

After Bush made the film, one of her teachers learned the USA Network recently had launched a video contest, the Unite Against Bullying Commercial Challenge, as part of its award-winning public service campaign, Characters Unite. She urged Bush to submit her video for the commercial challenge, a nationwide contest for middle and high school students to submit their ideas for a television ad to help stop bullying.

Bush submitted the video at the last minute, even though it exceeded the time restrictions. Then one night she received a call from NBC.

“That was how she found out she’d won,” her dad, East Dallas neighbor David Bush, recalls.

At first she didn’t realize how big a deal it was, until the USA Network flew her and her mom to New York, where they used the ideas from her video as the basis for a public service announcement, in which Lauren and her brother Brandon made cameo appearances.

Later, the Bush family flew to New York again to appear on “The Today Show.” When she flew out of Dallas, Lauren Bush’s YouTube video had only a few hundred views, David Bush says, but by the time she returned it had been watched more than 30,000 times.

The whole ordeal has definitely blown her parents away.

“I know she’s my daughter, but even if she wasn’t, I’d still say she’s incredible,” says her mom, Shannon Bush.

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