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Bullied to Black Belt
MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (Larry Davis) -- "I felt the heat on the back and somebody blowing my hair I grabbed the back and when I grabbed out I just saw....ashes."
That was Devin Lewis, two years ago, after someone set fire to his hair on the back of a Middletown school bus. His hair was singed and his pride burned.
Bullied in the past, Devin made a vow, "I'm not worried I'm not planning on letting people bully me anymore."
The incident on the school bus led to a lot of change. The school district realized it had to do a better job in approaching bullying.
As for Devin, he made some changes too, all for the better.
"I was determined to make a big change in my life and let this be for the better instead of let it take me to some darker place or to being negative."
Devin and his mother went public with the bullying incident.
"There's nothing worse than the wrath of a mom; an upset mom at that!"
"He was already being torn down by words and then something physical like that I was afraid that he was going to go to a dark place and not want to come out or think that everybody in the world is out to get him."
Fellow students, some he didn't know, rallied in support. But a big change came when Devin was awarded a scholarship to Ultimate Leadership Martial Arts in Springboro.
Instructor Michael Mershad, himself bullied as a child, knew Devin could have traveled to that dark place.
"He chose I'm not going to sit back, and woe is me I'm going to play my video games, I'm going to make something of this I'm not going to let this be the end of my story I'm going to have this to be my launching pad."
Devin said, "I decided I wanted to be able to defend myself and not have to be afraid anymore."
This past summer Devin earned a black belt in tae kwan do.
"I thought if I could really reach out to getting my black belt then there really wasn't going to be anything out of my reach at that point. If I could get it there then there was nothing I couldn't do."
But this wasn't all about Devin earning a black belt. His suffering made Middletown school officials take a look in the mirror.
Shortly after the attack on Devin, students made an anti-bullying video. Since then, new programs promoting a positive environment among students have been introduced at the school.
Two years after having his hair set on fire, Stephanie Mckeehan says her son has earned respect and dignity.
"Devin knows who he is and he doesn't have to be anybody else but Devin and it doesn't matter if you want to accept him or not, he is who he is and nobody is going to make him feel bad about himself."