Change Agent

November 08, 2016

Jayla Moody wants to change the world. She wants to end bias, bullying and injustice. And she wants to do it through education.

ADL had a lot to do with those ambitions, says the sophomore at Mercer University in Macon, GA. She’s been involved with ADL since her sophomore year in high school, first in her community, then in Washington, DC, at ADL’s National Youth Leadership Mission, and last summer in Israel.

“I always say that ADL helped me find my passion,” Jayla says. “They taught me the importance of education, because they work so diligently and so hard inside of the schools. And they showed me you have to start really, really young [by stopping] belittling jokes and name-calling and bullying. A lot of students don’t see the importance of these things. But if we don’t tackle them as starting points, they will occur again.”

She’s already taken on just this kind of behavior. As a high school facilitator for No Place for Hate®, the ADL program that motivates entire schools to reject bias and bullying, Jayla faced students who didn’t want to talk about their roles in bullying—at first.

By the end of the session, “they really opened up and were able to tell me that, yes, I have bullied someone or, yes, I observed as a bystander. I told them the importance of serving as an ally [to a bullying target] and standing up for others. To see some of these students change their minds about the things they’ve been doing, or just to have the courage to tell me they’ve done some of these things, and that now or in the future they will be sure to change their actions, was extremely impactful.”

She’s opened the minds of her college friends to the complexity of Israel, which she toured last summer with ADL’s Campus Leaders Mission to Israel. The country wasn’t the violent, oppressive place she expected, and she was excited to have frank conversations with people from every sector of society.

“We talked to Israeli students and Arab students,” she says. “Some wanted a one-state solution, some wanted a two-state solution. But at the end of the day, the students were really advocating for peace. They just wanted the conflict to end.”

Now—in addition to working on several service projects at Mercer, writing for the school newspaper and shooting videos for ESPN-3—Jayla is organizing a No Place for Hate Week at Mercer in the spring.  

She’s also promoting social change in the most personal way possible: through her own actions. “I definitely try to be a light wherever I go,” Jayla says, “and to show that loving and caring, and being there for your neighbors, is just as important as advocating for social justice through rallies, or learning about it in school or talking about it on social media.”

One example: she’s written inspiring messages on 100 note cards and slipped them under random dorm-room doors for whoever might need them.  

“Just being the change that you want to see—I definitely see that as a ripple effect of my work with ADL,” Jayla says. “And I want to thank ADL for everything they’ve done for me and for giving me this opportunity.”