By Michael Coppola
Back in the spring of 2023 I reached out to the Be A Friend Project and spoke with the co-founder Jennifer Young asking if I could participate in their Broadway Kids for Kindness event. When looking into the organization, I felt a sense of connection because of the struggles I’ve been through with bullying. Jennifer had told me that all the slots were filled but I was welcome to attend and participate in the final songs of the benefit.
I arrived at the benefit only expecting to perform, but to my surprise later towards the end of the benefit I found out that I was their Friend Mail Recipient for the month of May! I had no idea that this was what was happening and I was honestly just so in shock. All I could think about was that people cared about me. People who I had never met before wanted to learn all about me and write letters to me! At the time, I did not know much about their Friend Mail program but when I found out that 700+ people were writing me letters I was just so beyond grateful.
During this time, it was my first year in High School and it was rough for me. I didn’t have many friends and I felt depressed because my High School experience was no better than my Middle School experience. But when this Friend Mail came to me it gave me hope that I would find people who want to be my friend.
As I opened my letters I said to myself, “Why am I deserving of these letters, I feel like there are others who deserve this more than I do”. And these thoughts made me realize that I needed to step up and also help other people who have been through the things I have been through. Luckily, a few months later I was offered a position on the Be A Friend Project’s Teen Kindness Board.
Now being a part of the Be A Friend Project every month I get the opportunity to write to the Friend Mail Recipient as a Teen Kindness Board member and learn about them and their struggles and try to give them words of encouragement like people did to me. When I send my letters to recipients I feel that I am making a difference and that, hopefully, my words can make them feel better and inspire them to move forward.
The Be A Friend Project has really impacted the way I see the world. In just a few months I feel that I have become a more selfless person and found a meaningful way to give back to the community in so many different ways. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me and I hope that my work can impact so many people’s lives.
About the Author:
Michael J Coppola is a passionate 16 year old who has been a performer in theatre and arts since he was 6 years old. Just recently he had the honor of being welcomed to be part of the Be A Friend Project (BAFP) Teen Kindness Board. Some of Michael’s interests include makeup, fashion, and especially singing and acting. At school he enjoys learning Chinese and writing, in hopes to write his first musical in the future. Michael identifies as Gay and Gender Queer and has been advocating for the rights of LGBTQ+ youth since he was very young. He hopes that his work can positively impact others.
About the Series:
The Be a Friend Project was founded in 2015. It is non-profit organization that provides support to youth who are experiencing bullying across the nation. Through a partnership with The Matthew Shepard Foundation, the Be a Friend Project will have a recurring series on Matthew’s Place to highlight members of the organization.