SULPHUR, Okla. - Sometimes, life's greatest lessons are not taught from a text book.
In Mrs. Cole's 4th grade class, kindness, grace and love are paramount to the curriculum.
9-year-old Mahkenzee Kennedy even started an anti-bullying campaign at Sulphur Intermediate School.
In tears, she shared, "I was bullied. I was called fat."
It began in kindergarten. Nobody knew she had a medical condition called hypothyroidism, making it almost impossible to maintain her weight.
"She started hating school. Nobody would play with her. Up until a few months ago, she wouldn't even eat lunch, even though I would make it because she didn't want to eat alone. She's afraid to join a group in fear of rejection. It's hard for her," said her mom Teena Kennedy.
The words cut deeper than any weapon.
"It was really rough when your kid is 6 or 7 and others are saying God made a mistake and they would rather not be alive, that's hard to hear as a mom. No child should ever feel that way. It really hurt me to know people allow their kids to talk like that," Teena told News 4.
But, Mahkenzee had a great idea - to put "Buddy Benches" around her school.
"It helps kids who may be too shy to say they need a friend. They sit on the bench and that tells others they need someone to talk to," said family friend Tiffany Gonzales.
Around $600 each, she rallied her friends and launched a series of fundraisers.
"We did a car wash. And some kids went there and washed cars. And we did a bake sale," Mahkenzee told News 4.
Her stance against bullies was the reason Mahkenzee was nominated for Pay It 4Ward.
"It's quite a remarkable thing Mahkenzee has been able to do at her school. It's a topic that's very front and center right now. So, on behalf of First Fidelity Bank, I'd like to give $400 to Mahkenzee to pay it forward," said First Fidelity Bank representative Michelle Jensen.
We surprised Mahkenzee and her classmates recently with the honor and $400.
This money will help buy another Buddy Bench.
Mahkenzee would also like to pay for an anti-bullying assembly for her school.
"She said, 'Mom, I have to stand up for me and the others who get bullied and I have to stand up for them.' She's been a voice. A lot of people know about it now," said Teena.
No longer a victim, but an advocate for others. Cruelty and harassment now has a powerful opponent in Mahkenzee Kennedy.
Pay It 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.