Skip to content

VIDEO: Vernon woman who overcame disability awarded for anti-bullying work

Samantha Sewell is a recipient of a 2024 Courage to Come Back Award

A Vernon woman who overcame a speech disability — and bullying because of it — has been honoured for her anti-bullying activism.

Samantha Sewell was awarded the coveted Courage to Come Back Award on Thursday, May 23. The annual awards recognize people who have “come back” from illness, adversity or addiction to do something good in their communities.

Sewell was born with apraxia of speech, a neurological disorder that impedes speech and causes anxiety. As a child, she was told she would never be understood by others.

But through hard work and dedication, Sewell overcame the odds and said her first understandable sentence when she was 15 years old.

High school was a nearly unbearable ordeal for Sewell, who was bullied because she spoke differently from others, and who was underestimated and fell behind due to a lack of special provisions for her disability.

She endured years of physical and emotional bullying — not just from other students but also by a teacher, who told her she was “retarded” and sent her to practice in a closet. She became depressed and even considered suicide.

But Sewell never retaliated. Instead, she went on to start an anti-bullying movement called Be Someone’s Hero, not a Bystander.

“I realized that my disability and the bullying were nothing to be ashamed of and that others were going through very similar things,” she said.

She got involved with beauty pageantry, and after winning her first beauty pageant, she realized she could use it as a platform for her anti-bullying movement.

Sewell decided she wanted to make a living by making a difference. She continues to win beauty pageants in B.C., Canada and internationally, growing her platform and spreading her hopeful message.

Sewell, a sought-after model, was named Miss Universal Global in 2024.

Despite the immense amount of focus, work and preparation it takes for her to speak publicly, Sewell speaks about anti-bullying and inclusion on radio shows, at schools, New York fashion shows and other places.

Sewell was one of five recipients of the 2024 Courage to Come Back awards, winning the award in the youth category.

READ MORE: Inclusion looks good on everyone: Anti-bullying shirts support Kelowna activism

READ MORE: Vernon group complements anti-bullying with compliment delights

Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started at the Morning Star as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
Read more