A Banks student confided in a sheriff's deputy after being bullied, and a friendship began.

COURTESY PHOTO - Washington County Sheriff's Deputy Shannon Wilde (left) came to Sam Munda's graduation and posed with them for this photo provided to KOIN 6 News.When Sam Munda met Washington County Deputy Shannon Wilde last September, it was memorable.

"She seemed really scary," Munda said, laughing. "I hadn't had much police interaction before, but after that I had needed some help and I had emailed her."

Wilde met Munda when she responded to a call for service.

"Sam wasn't in any type of trouble or anything, but I did have to interview them," Wilde told KOIN 6 News. "I got to talking. It kind of just led from the interview to how things are going, and they told me some of the things they were struggling with, with bullying and whatnot in high school. Hearing that, it broke my heart. You know, I think we can all probably relate to having a bad experience in high school."

Munda, 16, came out last year as gender-fluid.

"It was really difficult. I was bullied a lot," they said. Coming out "was really hard because people don't understand. They thought I was different. So then I became a target."

COURTESY PHOTO - A photo provided to KOIN 6 News shows Sam Munda (left) with Washington County Sheriff's Deputy Shannon Wilde, a friend and source of support during their last year at Banks High School.When the deputy came to talk with Munda, there was one thing that made them feel comfortable.

"She used my pronouns," Munda said. "By using my pronouns (they, them) that really gave me a connection."

Wilde wanted Munda to know she was "there for me and that if I needed anything I could email her."

A little while passed, and Munda kept being bullied.

"I was actually receiving very awful threats, and then my grandfather passed away and I just really needed someone to talk to," Munda said.

They even left school for a few weeks, but talking with Deputy Wilde made a big difference.

"Sam reached out to me when they were having just kind of a rough time," Wilde said. They met up in a park and, Wilde said, "Thankfully that day, I had a mental health worker riding with me, just another person with a bunch of resources and is a really good listener."

Wilde said she left that meeting feeling that Munda "was going to be safe and maybe felt a little bit better about their situation."

Munda was able to go back to school and focus on schoolwork. They emailed the deputy in February to say things were good.

A few weeks ago, Munda saw Wilde on the street.

"I had sent her a letter because I just wanted her to know that it was something amazing that she did for me, and I invited her to graduation," Munda said.

They didn't think the deputy would come — but she did.

"I was really happy that she came," Munda said.

Wilde said she cried and felt honored to be invited to their graduation. (Munda, by the way, graduated from Banks High School in three years instead of the usual four.)

"It made me feel really good that I made a difference in someone else's life and that in a big moment of their life, they thought of me," Wilde said. "To be honest, I got a little teary and it was the start of my shift. So I was, like, great, I'm going to be a puddle of tears just standing here."

Munda plans to take a gap year and save up some money, maybe visit New York. They do have advice for others who are struggling.

"If you just need someone to talk to, people are there to talk to, and they're there to listen and they care," Munda said. "Don't be afraid to reach out, because it can be (scary) at first, but once you do, it's a great experience to talk to someone."

And Deputy Wilde has nothing but good wishes for Sam.

"I just hope they continue on a path that's best for them," she said. "I hope that Sam gets whatever they want, because I think that's what people deserve."

Editor's note: This story originally appeared on the website of KOIN 6 News, a Pamplin Media Group news partner.

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