A teen who skipped her high school graduation to hit the beach is being both celebrated and condemned for her decision.
On May 28, Niki Hughes, an 18-year-old aspiring biomedical engineer in Loganville, Ga., tweeted, “I was supposed to go to my high school graduation today, but life took me here instead … no more negativity in my life,” along with two photos of herself lying in the sun.
I was suppose to go to my high school graduation today but, life took me here instead… no more negativity in my life. pic.twitter.com/wPieikXi9b
— Niki Hughes (@nicoIettegea) May 28, 2017
The tweet generated more than 31,000 likes and an avalanche of debate.
so you bailed on a monumental moment in life to take pics on the beach? your parents must be proud lol https://t.co/J58Eqm4qSb
— $ (@fullmetalkevvv) May 29, 2017
Same when they told me I graduated I never went back the school
— Jeremiah (@JerryJA_) May 29, 2017
she obv still got education since she could go to graduation???? she still gets the diploma in the mail anyways lmao let her relax at the beach
— ????blue sky (@chekthatout) May 29, 2017
tf misses a life changing moment u worked 12 years of school for a beach day
— SSRJOHN (@SSRJohn) May 30, 2017
Hughes also followed up with a 12-minute YouTube vlog that same week, sharing her experiences with bullying in high school, along with some sage advice for other teens, such as: “Do not think high school is about popularity, friends, or relationships. It’s about getting your diploma and education so you can go to college, get a job, and move on with your life” and “You don’t need to come to school looking like a million bucks each day. Trust me. You can come to school in sweat pants — it’s OK.”
“The decision to skip my graduation was mainly about having no mental connection to my high school experience,” Hughes tells Yahoo Beauty. “I went to four different schools and never attended games or dances, including prom. I had my diploma and that’s all that matters.”
In her vlog, Hughes explains that she struggled socially, bouncing between different social circles and enduring long stretches without any friends. At one point, she became fixated on social media in an attempt to validate herself with likes and retweets, a decision she now regrets because it distracted her from forming real-life relationships. Hughes also says that she was the victim of a sexual assault, which caused her to fall into a depression. She also says she was bullied by her peers because of her weight.
Now Hughes is on a mission to empower other teens, many of whom have written to thank her for sharing and inspiring them. As a result of the attention that ensued from her tweet, Hughes has become a social media influencer, fielding offers from brands to promote various products. “I’ve made $300 so far,” she tells Yahoo Beauty.
However, the teen’s overall goal is far-reaching. “I used to care too much about what other people thought, but how you feel about yourself is what really matters,” she says. “The people who bully you are just trying to bring you down.”
Read more from Yahoo Style + Beauty: