HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mahea Sims-Tulba remembers the emotional pain she felt as a fifth-grader when other kids started verbally bullying her.
"It was because I wanted to enter a (beauty) pageant," she said.
She was told she wasn't pretty enough or smart enough and was too fat to enter a pageant.
"Hearing my best friends tell me, 'You're not good enough," it made me feel worthless. It wasn't a one-time bullying thing. It persisted for many years," she said.
At first she hid it from her parents but they eventually learned about it. Then as a teenager she went on the offensive. She wrote and illustrated a children's book about bullying called, "It's Okay to Be Different."
"I wanted to be able to tell my story in a positive way, and also a way that I could reach out to children and people who have been through what I've been through," she said.
The story is of a Mynah bird named Ani that other birds make fun because she doesn't look like them A friendly owl shows Ani that being different can be fun.
Mahea goes to schools and libraries to read her book to kids, and hears their stories of being bullied.
"It's an eye-opening experience for me," she said.
Mahea also formed a foundation called B.R.A.V.E. that stands for "Be Respectful and Value Everyone."
She and her father, comedian and radio personality Augie Tulba, have spread her anti-bullying message to more 40,000 students statewide.
For her efforts Mahea was recently presented a Prudential Spirit of Community Award in Washington, DC. She was one of about 100 teenagers in the United States honored for their volunteer work.
"Being in a room with like-minded people really opens your eyes and sparks an inspiration in you to want to do more," she said.
Mahea, 18, just graduated from Sacred Hearts Academy.
She plans on attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa to study digital media and learn new ways to share her story.