Read Jeff's story.
I live to help kids like me
If you’ve ever had someone hurt you intentionally and enjoy it, you know the unbearable pain that can come with it. My name is Jeff Veley and I lived with that pain for 19 years. I know what it's like to be relentlessly tormented at school. I was the fat kid with learning disabilities that was the butt of the joke and was always picked last. Every day I would leave school feeling hopeless only to be emotionally and sometimes physically abused once I got home. I felt worthless.
There were many nights in elementary school that I can remember coming home, going to my room, and slamming my head against my bedroom wall as hard as I could. Though I was only in third grade, I hated myself and wanted to give up on life. “Why can’t I finish my work like the other kids?” I thought. “Why doesn’t anyone want to be my friend?”
In ninth grade I moved to what was rated as the second worst school in the city. It was there that the taunting and teasing turned into threats and acts of violence. I was a nerdy white kid from the wrong neighborhood in an urban school where I didn’t fit in. My attempts to make friends were pathetic, at best. Gang members at my school added my name to a hit list. I was chased, assaulted until I was black and blue, and jumped on my way home. After two years of high school, my dad (and hero) passed away from a freak accident. Fighting constantly with my mom, I nearly wound up in jail. I left home and was placed on a homeless assistance program. Thankfully my grandparents took me in. One night a counselor asked to share my story with a group of troubled teens. The experience changed me. This night turned into a weekly engagement and then a social work career a year later. I was far from qualified but by sharing my story, my passion for helping others, and my faith in God, the doors kept opening. From after school programs to residential treatment facilities, I finally found myself speaking on national stages. Bullying was the topic that I took head-on. I teamed up with the very artist that created this piece to share the skills that I used to manage enemies and make friends. In this work, I found my purpose, my calling and my reason to live. I’m thankful that my mom and I saw a complete 180 in our relationship and God gave me a second chance.
Sometimes it takes a moment of pain to find your potential and discover your true strength. I believe that I went through bullying, emotional/physical abuse, and the loss of my dad so that I could go back and help kids like me. When you find your way out of the dark alley, you then know the way out. You can leave it behind forever or you can turn around and lead others out of it. For over 10 years, I’ve been going back and showing kids the way out, no matter what it takes. To some, it’s crazy. To me, it’s my calling.
Sometimes in a moment of pain you find your potential and discover your true strength. You are stronger than you think. When you learn how to cope (deal) with your pain and become resilient (strong on the inside) you can find peace and the motivation to move on. Today I travel across America teaching students how to face adversity, grow in resilience, and solve their own social problems. People call me a bullying expert. I’m simply a guy who decided not to get upset and started treating my enemies like friends. Love changes it all. My goal is to empower people to love well, promote peace, and live by the Golden Rule. I believe that peace is not only the absence of conflict but also the presence of love.
My name is Jeff Veley and I live to help kids like me.