One day after school last year, Mahealani Sims-Tulba came home in tears. When her mom pushed her to talk about what was wrong, Sims-Tulba revealed that she was being bullied by classmates who gave her a hard time about her hobby of competing in beauty pageants.
“They would tease me about it, and it was really upsetting,” recalls Sims-Tulba, 13, now an eighth-grader at Sacred Hearts Academy.
In an effort to spread the word about bullying, Sims-Tulba wrote and illustrated a children’s book geared for grades K-3 titled It’s Okay To Be Different.
“The story is about a mynah bird who is different than all of the other mynah birds,” Sims-Tulba explains, “so everyone teases her. She goes to her friend the owl, who tells her, ‘It is OK to be different, and no matter what, you should embrace yourself.’
“I wanted to help tell kids at a young age that bullying is definitely not OK,” she says. The book is set to be released soon – and when it is, Sims-Tulba will visit schools to read the book to students.
But championing against bullying is just one facet of Sims-Tulba’s community outreach. The Ewa Beach resident, who is the daughter of local comedian Augie T, also serves food and reads to children once a month at the Waikiki Health Center homeless shelter. Through a forthcoming initiative called Keiki That Care, she also will work to collect toys and clothes for homeless children at this shelter and others.
Recently, she participated in organizing a prom dress drive with Beautiville Salon, Spa and Beautique to gather prom supplies for low-income girls.
“I know girls who can’t afford prom dresses, so I just wanted to help out,” says Sims-Tulba.
Sims-Tulba also was appointed as a representative for the state Resources for Enrichment, Athletics, Culture, and Health program, which is designed to establish extracurricular programs in middle schools.
For her myriad of efforts, Sims-Tulba recently was recognized by the state Senate and Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui for excellence in community service. Earlier this summer, she represented the state as Miss Hawaii Jr. High School America in the national pageant, where she won the community service award.
Sims-Tulba’s parents are thrilled by her work. “It’s awesome. My wife and I are very proud,” Augie T says. “It is fun watching her grow up and having that kind of passion to help people.”
In the future, Sims-Tulba hopes to write another book related to anti-bullying and possibly create her own service organization.
“When I help out and see the smiles on people’s faces, it just makes me feel like I have done something good for these people, something to make them happy,” she says. “I just want to continue volunteering, and I just want to keep making changes in people’s lives.”