SAWYER ROSENSTEIN, 18
PICKED ON AND IGNORED
In seventh grade Sawyer Rosenstein was a character out of Glee
-funny, theatrical and focused on making it as an actor. At school, "I was one of the odd ones out"-which, he says, made him a target for bullies, who mocked him in the halls. Several times, he says, he reported problems to the school. "They weren't doing anything."
A LIFE CHANGED FOREVER
One Tuesday in May 2006, a boy he'd tried to avoid sucker punched him, he says, bringing him to his knees. Two days later he was in the hospital, where doctors delivered devastating news: The punch may have caused a rare spinal blood clot, paralyzing him from the waist down. Crying at night, "I'd ask, 'Why me?' I had fits of depression."
A VOICE FOR VICTIMS
Now heading to his sophomore year in college, Sawyer is speaking out in the hope that schools will take bullying seriously. He and parents Cheri and Joel sued the school district for ignoring his pleas and failing to enforce state anti-bullying law; in April the district settled for $4.2 million while admitting no wrongdoing. "I want kids to report what's going on," says Sawyer, who underwent 19 surgeries. "I want accountability."
He battles daily pain, and a simple shower takes an hour. But the chatty student prefers to talk about his new passion, outer space; he teaches classes at a space center for kids and does a podcast on celestial news. "I could feel sorry for myself," he says, "but I've got a life to live, and I'm happy."
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- with Sydney Berger.