Though Jeremy Ray Taylor’s characters may be portrayed as afraid and anxious in scary productions like ‘It’ and ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’, the actor spends his real life talking to people on how to prevent negative emotions by building a more positive and safe climate in their schools and communities.
Working with the organization Safe and Sound Schools, Taylor, along with the band Chasing da Vinci and the organization’s co-founders Michele Gay and Alissa Parker, will visit three high schools who win the “Good Days” tour campaign and contest. The tour will bring an entire day’s worth of activities meant to promote the organization’s message of making your community a more positive and less stressful place.
“Since we’ve founded the organization, it’s been really important for us to get involved with youth leaders,” said Gay, who, like Parker, lost her daughter at the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012. “And so, we found this one here, and he is a lot of fun so he is the perfect champion for this campaign to promote a positive climate in our schools.”
Taylor’s segment will focus on what he calls SPARK (Small Personal Acts of Real Kindness), which will talk about ways to make people’s attitude a little better by doing small things like opening a door for someone, he said.
“Especially as kids we see changing the world as such a big thing, and it’s such a scary thing. If you just look at it as small personal acts of kindness and if we all do it, it changes everything,” Taylor said.
This is a similar message Gay promotes during her presentations and lectures, which will also be a part of the tour. She has traveled across the country speaking at and running training workshops for high schools who have decided to become a safe and sound school.
Providing programs for students, parents, teachers, community leaders, security professionals... anybody involved in the culture of a community, Gay said the goal is to reach out to as many people as possible.
And Gay’s message has inspired people in the communities she visits to remain involved with her organization long after she leaves. Safe and Sound Schools has a network of students, parents, school faculty, and other community leaders who continue to work toward a comprehensive approach to a positive climate both physically and psychologically. Advocates can join or start clubs and take on leadership roles within the organization, she said.
“One middle-school student gathered together all the scouts in their community, cub scouts, boy scouts, etc. They desperately needed some signage, and believe it or not, signs are an important thing for the community. They wanted to make sure if they ever had an emergency at the school, first-responders would know where to go to get to that person who needed help. So these guys went out and found a printing company that could print the signage, and this kind of massive army of scouts and facilities directors put all these signs up throughout the district,” Gay said.
Like performing acts of kindness for another person, interacting with people in-person and talking with them sets off a spark (pun intended), creating the positive energy the organization set out to ignite.
“Actually getting to meet people, is just so powerful,” Gay said. “You literally see the lightbulb go off, and I think that, as a part of what we do, we are a very grassroots organization.”
Getting to interact with people and hear their stories is Taylor’s favorite part of the experience as well. “I think that having people listen to you and really want to try is really really great because all these kids want to fix this problem, because it is a big problem of just being so stressed out because everything is so fast. Having people listen to you and really want to help is a great thing and the energy we get at these schools are amazing,” he said.
First taking the stage at the age of eight, Taylor landed his first role in the blockbuster film “42: The Jackie Robinson Story.” In his career, not only has Taylor played a supporting role alongside Harrison Ford, but has also become a child-star in the horror genre, appearing in the Nickelodeon series “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” and the Stephen King megahits “It” and “It: Chapter 2.”
Along the tour, Taylor will also break into the music industry, as he will join the band Chasing da Vinci on stage when he performs his feature on the song which the tour is named after, “Good Days.”
Looking toward the future, Gay said she hopes her organization holds more events like the tour, with the goal of reaching out to as many people as possible.
Despite the negativity that may circulate on social media or within some community members’ minds on the issue of school safety, Gay wants to remind people who think her organization’s mission is going to be too big, too expensive, or it seems like we are not getting anywhere, that they are experiencing a lot of traction and that people are doing the small acts they can do as an individual to creat a positive climate.
“I think the antidote is to counteract that with positivity. What we are doing is adding more positive to overcome the negative,” Gay said.