Student-run program encourages people to embrace their individuality

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Stay weird, stay different. It's the message that came from a passionate acceptance speech at the Academy Awards on Sunday night.

Graham Moore won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay, then shocked everyone when he confessed to trying to kill himself at the age of 16 because he felt weird and different. He encouraged others who feel the same way to strive for excellence, and when they achieve something like he did, to pass along his message.

It's a similar message the group REbeL has been sharing for years.

"I think REbeL is something that makes you feel really positive and really good all the time," said Cara Lunsford, a Blue Valley Northwest High School senior.

REbeL started at Blue Valley Northwest in 2008. Its goal is to change the definition of beauty and health for everyone. They have "Whiteboard Wednesday" to take a stand against the negative and find the positive.

"To be able to actually own something and being able to walk through hallways knowing that I have great eyebrows, or you know I love my fitness, I love my personality, whatever; something that is unique that not everyone else has you hold onto that so much longer, and it's just so much more important for you," explained Katie Pendergast, a junior at Notre Dame de Sion.

Many REbeL members who watched the Oscars were very familiar with the message Graham was sharing.

"I think we are definitely trying to promote that positivity, being you, staying true to you here at REbeL, so it was cool to kinda see our message that we believe so much in kinda blown up on to a bigger scale," said Lunsford.

It didn't hurt the entire world was watching and star power means a lot of people hear the message.

"If you have that stage to say what you want, you can really captivate the audience. I think that making a statement that he overcame when he was not feeling great about himself and look where he is today, is really empowering to young people who may feel the same way. Like he mentioned in his speech, they could turn their life around and do something really good with their life and they are definitely worth it and they are here for a reason." Lunsford said.

REbeL is in many schools across the metro and open to new chapters. Visit its website for more information about the organization and a workshop on Wednesday February 25.