SPC had the privilege of interviewing The Up High Movement’s founder, Jeremy Grace, on what the movement has meant to him and his community. Find out what sparked the movement, and why being on Ellen is no longer on his radar.
Was there something specific that sparked the idea of your movement?
The Up High Movement came about because, at the time, I had been having some issues with a really close friend and felt very lonely. On the day that I high fived Tori, who was the first person to receive a high five, it was because she looked sad and I didn’t want her to feel as bad as I did at the time, so I thought that giving her a really enthusiastic high five would be a good way to brighten her day. When a nearby schoolmate saw me high five Tori, they jokingly said, “You should do that all day.” I took them seriously and haven’t looked back since.
I eventually realized that if I’m doing this just to get on Ellen [DeGeneres], then I’m in it for the wrong reasons.
How has the movement changed your life?
I am now a more social person than I once was. Not that I wasn’t before, I was, but only with the people I was really close with. The Up High Movement has helped me come out of my shell and help me get to know some incredible people who I wouldn’t have otherwise met. I have made some truly great friends, like Justin Preston (the Founder of Rise Against Bullying) and Caitlin Haacke (from Positive Post-It-Note Day), among others. People have also come to me when they are stressed, dealing with a personal issue, or just want to get things off their chest. It really is an honour to be able to be that person who others feel they can go to and trust when they are experiencing a difficult time. I have gotten to know lots of amazing people and made lifelong friendships, and I have The Up High Movement to thank for that. I do find that I tend to be more positive in situations, or at least I try to be. It’s not always easy, but I try to remember what a great life and support system I have, and how fortunate I am to be where I am today.
Times can get tough, but you’ll get through them and you’ll be a stronger person.
You’ve spoken about being noticed by Ellen, and you even had a “tweet happiness day”; is Ellen still on your radar?
Being involved with and meeting Ellen would be a nice goal to eventually achieve, but I eventually realized that if I’m doing this just to get on Ellen, then I’m in it for the wrong reasons. The Up High Movement is about making people happier, not about getting famous. So, would Ellen be a nice accomplishment? Yes. Is she still on the radar? No.
The movement has been getting quite a bit of media attention, did that come as a surprise to you?
I never thought, when I started, that a high school student giving out hundreds of high fives a day would be something that the media would gravitate towards. Now, I’ve often thought that if they are attracted to the story and pick it up, then great. If not, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and spreading happiness to others however I can, media or no media. I’m not in it for the media, but I’m happy that people have taken a liking to the story and are interested in it.
Do you think the movement has decreased bullying in your high school and/or community?
In Central, I’ve never found bullying to be a big problem, it’s more mental health that’s the issue. Students get so stressed out about projects, tests, etc., that the hope is that my high fives relieve a bit of that pressure. Although I don’t notice bullying as being a huge factor at Central, the students definitely seem happier upon receiving a high five. The atmosphere is generally one of kindness and fun–and that is the goal, to get people to recognize that even the smallest action can make someone’s day a little brighter. The community has also been great, it always makes me feel good seeing others smile when they hit my hand. That is the best reward I could ask for–putting smiles on people’s faces.
What has the support of your friends and community over the last year meant to you?
It has meant so much! I don’t even know where to begin! I would not be where I am today without the students at Central or the London community. The students have been so instrumental in The Up High Movement’s success; planning and organizing events with me, speaking at schools with me, creating banners and posters for me, as well as reaching out to media, among other things. And of course, the students are the ones who high five me every day. Without them, honestly, The Up High Movement would not exist. The community has also been incredible, asking me to high five and participate at all sorts of events, having me on the media, and having me kick off the inaugural City Council meeting by high fiving each council member, just to name a few of the incredible things they‘ve done for me. I was also the 2015 male recipient of the Beyond Disability Award at the Rogers Sports Celebrity Dinner and named a community hero at the 2015 Night of Heroes event. Without the Central and London communities, The Up High Movement would not have even have gotten off the ground. So for all their help and continued support, I say a great big thank you to them!
I keep in mind how if I can make somebody happier or forget their worries for even a millisecond, than my goal is complete.
You were recently in Toronto for the Kindness Campaign; what was that experience like?
The Kindness Campaign in Toronto was unbelievable! I had the absolute privilege of teaming up with two incredible and inspiring World Changers–Caitlin Haacke, from Positive Post-It-Note Day, and Justin Preston, from Rise Against Bullying. We handed out packages of candy, positive post-its, and high fives to random people on the street, as well as plastered the Eaton Centre and the nearby Toronto streets with positive post-its. Overall it was a fantastic experience knowing that we brightened people’s whole day by giving them a lollipop, a high five, or a post-it-note, was an amazing feeling! It was just an awesome afternoon full of fun, happiness, kindness, and love. And I got to spend it with two of my best friends, what more could I ask for?
Students get so stressed out about projects, tests, etc., that the hope is that my high fives relieve a bit of that pressure.
How has social media played a part in your campaign?
Without social media, The Up High Movement would not be connected with many of the people and organizations that we are so fortunate to work with today–Justin and Caitlin being two examples. It has also helped the story get to people from all around the world and allowed me to meet some truly inspiring individuals. People from the U.S., India, Scotland, etc., have all heard my story, and that would not have been possible without the help of social media. It really has allowed The Up High Movement’s message of positivity and kindness get further than what would have been possible otherwise.
Do you ever have days where you don’t feel like giving out high-fives? How do you get around that?
I do have those days, but I just remember how seeing other people smile makes me feel better, so I continue high fiving. I keep in mind how if I can make somebody happier or forget their worries for even a millisecond, than my goal is complete and that makes my day so much better.
Be kind always and spread some happiness every chance you get; you never know what kind of impact the smallest action can have on someone.
Are you still hoping to break the Guinness Book of World Records for most high-fives?
Like the Ellen goal, if the world record happens, than great! If not, that’s ok too. I realize that it’s not about that, it’s about making others feel happy. The world record is not what is most important.
To the Canadian students you can’t physically high-five, do you have anything you’d like to say, or advice you’d like to give that would help keep their positivity as you have?
I just want to tell Canadian students to stay positive, keep their heads up, and to smile. Times can get tough, but you’ll get through them and you’ll be a stronger person. Remember to be kind always and spread some happiness every chance you get, because you never know what kind of impact the smallest action can have on someone.
It really is an honour to be able to be that person who others feel they can go to and trust when they are experiencing a difficult time.
What legacy do you hope to leave behind at Central High School?
I hope to leave behind a legacy of kindness. I hope that the Central community will look back and know that I made the hallways just a little bit brighter. If I had an impact on even one student, then my goal is complete.
Any final words/comments/advice for Canadian students who are looking to make a different in their community?
Stay strong and stay positive. You can do whatever you set your mind to and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. I know it sounds cheesy, but it is true, don’t be afraid to dream. Even what seems like the most impossible of dreams can come true if you put your mind to it. Also, get out and get involved in the community, because you never know what cool things you will experience or what lifelong friendships you might make.
Find out more about the Up High Movement HERE.
SPC Would like to thank Jeremy for spending time with SPC!