CRESTVIEW — Usually, Carson Caldwell focuses on promoting Riverside Elementary’s anti-bullying efforts or participating in the Emerald Coast Young Marines, but Thursday, the focus was on him.
The Exchange Club of Crestview dedicated its regular meeting to the 11-year-old, whose school anti-bullying program earned him the “You Make a Difference” plaque.
"I wanted to make sure that he knew that he was making a difference, and let other (children) know that they can make a difference," Youth Pillar chair Sharlene Cox said.
Carson started the anti-bullying club after witnessing student harassment at his school.
"This kid was being bullied so much that he wasn't attending school," he said.
After working with school administrators to form the club, he and members created anti-bullying posters and posted them throughout the school.
Carson’s mother, Michele, an Exchange Club member, taught him how to conduct formal meetings, from calling order to reviewing a previous meeting’s minutes.
The student, who became the club’s president, sold anti-bullying T-shirts and created a "bully box” where students could report school bullying.
In addition to club duties, Carson is a private 1st class with the Emerald Coast Young Marines.
Michele said she is proud of her son’s achievements, despite challenges.
"Recently, Carson was diagnosed with bipolar disorder," she said. "In October, Carson started on a medication for the disorder and it made a world of difference."
The medication helped him take control and witness other children being bullied, as he was, Michele said.
Creating the club has been a fulfilling experience for Carson.
"It’s a good feeling because you get to improve the lives of other people," he said.
Caldwell, who was happy to receive the plaque, said he plans on showing it to his friends at the Emerald Coast Young Marines, where Caldwell is currently listed as a private first class.