CHICAGO — Myisha Lavonne spent most of her freshman year of high school eating lunch in a bathroom stall.
Terrified of bullies who made fun of her clothes, of her body developing earlier than other girls and of her parents' perceived lack of money, Lavonne dined sitting on a toilet seat.
"I was 14. I remember it all," said Lavonne, now 35.
The Bowen High School and DePaul University graduate said she moved 11 times during her childhood, living in places all over the South and East sides and south suburbs. She also attended five elementary schools and four high schools. During that time, the one constant was bullying: Either she was the target or she observed others getting the wrath.
Lavonne on Wednesday launched an app she developed that she hopes will prevent future bullying called "Save Our Students." The free app allows a principal or other school leader to create a username, share it with the school and then students can anonymously report themselves or others getting bullied.
"Nowadays, the bullying is so bad, a lot of kids are committing suicide. They feel like there's no one to talk to," Lavonne said. "It's a lot worse than when I was a kid."
Lavonne is the oldest of six siblings and the first in her family to graduate from college. She has a bachelor's in psychology from DePaul and is working on a master's/doctorate. in the discipline. Her in-progress thesis is titled "The importance of mental health in youth and young adults," and she'll use data acquired from the new app in her final report.
One of Lavonne's professors at DePaul, Kenya Grooms, said the "Save Our Students" app "aligns nicely with how young people can and will respond to bullying."
"As a student she was strong-willed and passionate about getting the right credentials to do this type of work," Grooms said.
Another DePaul professor, Deborah W. Holton, said Lavonne "is on a mission to make a positive difference in the world."
"Ending bullying is a vital step in that direction," Holton said.
Lavonne's next step is marketing the app to the Illinois State Board of Education. No schools have signed up thus far, but Lavonne says every school needs the app.
"Our youth is where our future starts and where it has the potential to end," she said. "There's an overwhelming amount of students who are suffering in silence because they are embarrassed and/or afraid. ... No student should ever be afraid to go to school."
For more information on "Save Our Students," click here.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: