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Upstanders
A high school friend teaches Amber Reyes the difference between a bystander and an upstander.

By Amber Reyes

There are too many bystanders in the world. People, every single day, stand by and watch horrible things happen without attempting to change them at all. Straddling both sides of the fence, I've questioned if upstanders really do exist at all. Erik, my absolute best friend, showed me that they do.

I spent the three years of my middle school becoming best friends with Erik. It didn't happen overnight though. When I was younger, I was a lot more stubborn than I am now. I was also scared of change, taking risks and standing up for people and myself. Erik, on the other hand, did not have that fear.

He demonstrated that about half way through sixth grade during an English presentation. There was this kid, whose name I've lost through the years, but I remember he was slightly on the heavy side. His desk broke in the middle of the presentation and everyone started laughing. He sat there on the floor in the middle of the room while everyone laughed and the teacher stood by watching. There were so many things wrong with the situation, but I couldn't move. All I could do was stand and watch as this kid's face turned red and my peers pointed and laughed. The moment lasted a few seconds but it felt like hours had passed just waiting for me to make the move I never did. Erik was the only one who did not stand idly by. He moved the desk, grabbed his friend's hand, helped him up and shut the class up. Erik earned my respect and soon after that, my friendship.

It's been seven years since then but I will never forget what I learned that day: upstanders are still alive in the world. Today I find myself on the line between upstander and bystander. For me that means being a role model. I may not have the courage yet to help the little old lady get her bags on the bus or tell my friends that what they're joking about is wrong but being an inspiration for strength is my way of being an upstander.

If my determination and ambitions in school, volunteering and afterschool clubs have been an inspiration to anyone than I will be making Erik proud.

With a Perspective, I am Amber Reyes.

Amber Reyes has graduated from Notre Dame High School in San Jose and will be attending UC Davis in the fall.

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