When she was a child, Alyssa Wyspianski always dreamed of becoming a princess. In 2013, her dream came true when she was voted Miss Teen Manitoba.
"My mom was crying because it was like, 'She's a real princess now,' " said the 19-year-old. "I really like being onstage because everyone feels beautiful. It's so perfect."
Wyspianski didn't always feel like royalty. In middle school, the pageant winner was bullied and had a tough time fitting in.
"I didn't know what to do. I felt terrible about myself," she said. "I was not a happy little girl. I felt hated by the world and I didn't want to be there anymore."
The bullying didn't stop at school. It would follow her home after class on social-media sites such as MSN Messenger.
"They would write notes in class and call me a slut," she said. "I didn't want to tell my mom because I was so embarrassed, but it kept happening at school and when I came home."
Wyspianski remembers being picked on for her weight and her good grades. Eventually, her mom filed a restraining order.
"I was a chunkier kid. I ate chips and ice cream all the time," she said. "They always said, 'Nobody likes you and you're going to go nowhere in life.' "
Now, she uses her new title to travel to elementary schools and talk to students about bullying. She also shares her story with Girl Guide troops.
"I can't let them suffer," she said. "You see so many stories about bullying on the news. I can't let them feel pain like that. These kids are the future."
She holds group discussions about bullying and teaches students how to prevent it in their schools.
Wyspianski encourages students to role-play and share their own stories about being bullied in the classroom and online.
"You can feel the emotion," she said. "If someone is going to cry, I'm crying, too. I feel like I can reach out to those being bullied."
She also teaches students how to spot a bully and avoid becoming a bystander. Even today, she says there is still a lot of bullying that goes on at school and online that parents don't know about.
So she teaches kids to speak up.
"I want them to understand there's always someone who is there for them," she said. "We need to talk about it, and that's what these kids are doing now."
Although she loves to share her story, Wyspianski admits the memories of middle school continue to haunt her and affect her self-esteem.
"I never thought I was going to win (Miss Teen Manitoba). They (kids in middle school) said a lot of cruel things," she said. "But I was finally appreciated for being myself. I want these kids to feel the same way."
Her desire for volunteering and speaking to youth began when she was a Girl Guide.
Today, her bedroom is decorated with Girl Guide sashes bearing volunteer badges. Her latest sash, Miss Teen Manitoba, is still in use. She wears it to different volunteer events such as fundraisers for Feed the Children and Special Olympics Manitoba.
In May, Wyspianski will pass her crown to the next Miss Teen Manitoba, and she hopes to pursue her goal of becoming an actress.
"My mom said I couldn't get a tattoo until I followed my dream," she said. "I told these kids to follow their dreams, so I have to do it, too."
Most importantly, she wants girls to feel special, with or without a crown.
"I hope the bullying ends and they find ways to deal with it and talk to their parents," she said.
"I want them to learn to stand up instead of being a bystander."
If you know a special volunteer, please contact Elizabeth Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org.