Paige Rawl, an author who has documented her struggle to find acceptance after being born HIV positive, visited Hood College in October as part of the school’s First Year Read program.
Rawl is co-author of “Positive: A Memoir,” this year’s First-Year Read, a required reading chosen for first-year students. Sophomore Abbey McAlister nominated “Positive” for the First-Year Read last year, so she had the pleasure of introducing Rawl to Hood. McAlister said she believed the book would be beneficial for first-year students because it had helped her in times of transition.
The book follows Rawl’s struggle with bullies in middle school because of her HIV status. The bullying got so bad she left for homeschooling, a hard decision for the extroverted teen. When leaving, her principal said, “I wish you could go to this school, but I can’t protect you.”
During that time, she realized her passion for educating people on HIV and AIDS and advocating against bullying in schools. Not long after, she transferred to a high school with a zero-tolerance bullying policy. She spent her first year keeping her HIV secret. However, after developing strong relationships with students and staff, she talked to the principal and began sharing her story with her school.
She went on to Ball State University but took some time off after “Positive” was published to promote the book. She originally intended to study molecular biology for HIV research, but she plans to switch to business and entrepreneurship to help her build her foundation, Paige Power. The foundation will allow her to educate low-income schools on HIV and anti-bullying advocacy.
At Hood, Rawl began her discussion by explaining the basics of HIV and AIDS. She explained how every strand is different, how one can contract the disease, and how she copes with having the disease.
She shared statistics about bullying, including that 64 percent of bullying incidents go without being reported, and she spoke about students getting bullied even at home through cyber bullying.
She gave students a piece of advice surrounding bullying: “Think about what you say before you say it, think about what you do before you do it.”
She also urged parents to be involved and take their children’s reports of bullying seriously.
After reading from her book, Rawl took questions from the audience and held a book signing.
Video Interview with Paige Rawl