CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Will Taylor told the story of 15-year-old twins who were bullied because they are overweight.
Their story followed another real-life account of a 16-year-old boy who was tormented by his classmates because he is gay. That boy's teacher even asked if he "could be a little less gay?"
One 17-year-old girl received death threats for being Muslim and another 15-year-old girl had pencils thrown at her for being biracial.
"People told her she wasn't white enough to hang out with the white crowd or black enough to hang with the black crowd," Taylor said, standing on the steps of the state Capitol on Monday. "She said, 'I'd rather be my own person than 400 people who are all the same.'"
Taylor, a Step by Step AmeriCorps VISTA member, spoke during the second annual Bully Awareness Vigil hosted by Step by Step, an organization that works to foster, support and grow community leadership, especially among underprivileged youth.
This week marks the state's Bully Awareness Week. October is National Bullying Prevention Month.
Bullying has declined in West Virginia's high schools, proving that bullying awareness is working, said Tonya Barnett-Huff, director of Bully Free West Virginia.
In West Virginia high schools, nearly 19 percent of students reported being bullied on school property in 2011, compared to 23.5 percent of students in 2009, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey by the state Department of Education.
The number of high school students in the state who have seriously contemplated suicide has decreased, too, from 18 percent of students in 2009 to 13 percent in 2011, according to the report.
While the decrease in bullying in the state's high schools is a good sign, Barnett-Huff said more awareness must be spread in West Virginia's middle schools.