Incoming First Lady Melania Trump has signaled that cyber bullying will be one of her signature causes in the White House. Nineteen-year-old Chase Marvil of Greenwood is way ahead of her: he started his program, “The Inspiring Project” as a Woodbridge High School student to reduce online bullying and the sometimes catastrophic consequences that come with it. His project has become so popular that it’s reached teens in seven countries and made Marvil a local celebrity on Twitter and Instagram.
TSD connected with Marvil to learn about the initiative and where he will take it next.
TSD: Tell us about the Inspiring Project and why you started it?
Chase Marvil: The Inspiring Project is something I started in November, 2013, as an idea that I had to bring some happiness to the people that followed me on Instagram. I would post inspiring messages and photos to my feed and open my inbox to anyone who needed to talk.
Eventually, one person reached out to me and said that they were having a bad day and just needed someone to talk to because their family did not want to listen. I had a conversation with this person, and after a few messages, they thanked me for my time and I encouraged them to never give up and continue to be the best they can be no matter what the obstacle.
That’s probably when it first started.
I then began to get messages from other people, and the idea of having my inbox “open” caught on. As the popularity of my idea spread, I decided it would be cool to turn my positive posts on social media into some sort of visual project, and I came up with the hashtag #theinspiringproject.
TSD: How many people have you reached so far? And what have been your greatest successes?
CM: So far, between being on social media for three years, many events we’ve been to, being featured on MTV for a campaign they were doing, being in the top 15 for the national Jefferson Award, etc, the project has impacted and is known by over 91,000 people from at least 7 countries. And I myself have exceeded 21.1k followers on Twitter and 34.1k on Instagram.
My greatest successes is that of receiving letters from all over the globe in my mailbox from people who thank me for what I’m doing and tell me their stories. I’ve gotten letters from as close as Virginia to as far as England and Switzerland.
TSD: What do you think are some of the greatest factors causing bullying and teenage depression?
CM: A lot comes down to the environment they are in. Some teens and even adults are in a situation where they simply can’t talk about their problems and feelings because the resources either aren’t there, or they do not help to the need of that individual. Social media is a main factor because anyone can go online and make fun of or intimidate someone whom they don’t know, or do know and make that person feel down. Use of the Internet and therefore cyber bullying is just increasing.
TSD: What have you learned through this experience?
CM: Even from being from a small town, in a small state, I can still create a major impact on the country and even world that I live in. I have been able to partner up with organizations from Oregon, California, and Pennsylvania and it just proves that there is so much opportunities for people. The numbers of people that I’ve met and talked to and the numerous letters that I’ve received has just boosted my inspiration to continue to do what in the beginning, I thought nothing of. All of this has led to my project’s motto, “You don’t have to be anyone in particular to create a huge impact on life.”
TSD: Tell us about Chase Marvil – what are your favorite things to do when you aren’t starting a big initiative like this?
CM: I am a small town boy who enjoys helping others. I have always been that way; my family has always been close and we always reach out to people in need. I love playing baseball, going to the beach, hanging out with my friends and just having fun. My grandparents were my biggest supporters and they always said, “Whatever you put your mind to, there is no doubt you won’t complete it.” And I have been determined to never let them down.
In my junior and senior year at my high school at Woodbridge, I created a huge “Inspiring Wall” for the school lobby, which was 800 index cards with inspiring messages from all the students and staff in the school. My senior year I created a similar wall using actual photos – 600 of them – of people in the school holding a note about what inspires them. (Hilariously, some of them wrote that I inspired them!) I also made walls in the three remaining schools in the district. That also boosted my project tremendously.