I’d like to share Erika’s story with you all. Erika, a 19 year old from Texas, is currently studying psychology and just completed her first year of college (yay, Congrats!!). Erika runs the twitter account @DreamSmileLive with the intention of providing support to individuals who are feeling overwhelmed, down, bullied, etc. She has over 800 followers and has contributed almost 11,000 tweets of support. Erika was awesome enough to send me an email about her background and why it is so important to her to provide a helping hand to others.

 

I started to get bullied from a very young age. I used to be called horrible names and sometimes people would throw things at me. I also had to deal with people I knew doing drugs and being involved in gang activities. I always had to watch my back no matter where I went. I didn’t feel save at school or my home. There were a lot of people always with me but I always felt alone. I didn’t know who to trust anymore or if my life was even worth fighting for. The bullying from classmates and friends got so bad that I did try to commit suicide once but didn’t go through with it because my angel, my little brother, showed me that kindness and innocence still does exist and that I shouldn’t give up. About a year ago I created a Twitter account called @DreamSmileLive to help others who feel alone and don’t know how to keep going. When I was going through my tough times I always used to tell myself Dream, Smile, Live. Now I want to help others who are going through tough times. I want them to know that no matter what they are going through they can keep strong and it will get better. That is why I shared my story with them which I wrote in a Twitlonger. I am in the process of creating a website to provide information and stories for those who don’t know how to handle the problems they are faced with. I suffered a lot but in the end it made me stronger.

Click below to read more about Erika’s story and a bit from her Twitlonger page!

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It is an absolute honor to have author Karen Rochester as today’s guest blogger.  Ms. Rochester is the author of ‘Be Brave – Handle with Courage’, a book about having the courage to seek help and talk to someone when you need to.  She reached out to me in reference to her book with the idea that I might be interested in it due to my interest in studying bullying.  Aside from that obvious interest of mine, I am strongly inspired by people who use their past life experiences to help and do good for others;  It’s the very idea behind this website.  I firmly believe that by learning from and accepting what we’ve been through, we can have the ability to be more empathetic, compassionate, and understanding towards others, and Karen is a perfect example of this.  Karen’s email about the inspiration behind her book truly made my week.  I hope you can take as much from her story as well.

G’day.  My name is Karen and just wanted to share a part of my story and journey with you.  In my life I have had a number of traumas.  A significant trauma I suffered as a child had an incredibly dramatic impact on my life.  There was a time in my life when I suffered severe emotional distress and I started to wonder if I was ever going to survive the continuous depression and emotional distress I was feeling.  Fortunately for me, I started seeing some psychological specialists that helped me unlock and understand this past trauma and help me put in place techniques to manage my distress and improve the quality of my life.

Part of that therapy was learning to disclose what had happened to me, especially as a child.  This is a very powerful skill I learned; a skill that potentially saved my life. I started to think that if disclosure had such a positive impact on me, why can’t those in distress use it to help themselves?  Why do some people still suffer in silence and sometimes hurt themselves (or even worse) over what others do to them?  I know the answers to these questions because I have had these thoughts over and over again and I have been to some very dark places so I understand how it feels to to have complete despair and the overwhelming thoughts of hopelessness, guilt, sadness and pain.  I know how hard it is to open up and say the words about what someone else may be doing to you.  I understand completely.

But there is hope!  Disclosure is the key!  You must find the courage within yourself to help yourself, even when you think there is nothing more you can do.  Others can only continue hurting you if no-one knows what they are doing.  Take their power away!  TELL SOMEONE!  You are not weak for doing this, you are courageous because you have taken back control of your life.  I know this first-hand.

As part of my therapy I was encouraged to write.  As I did I discovered I wrote a lot about emotions and what these strong feelings were doing to me and how they were affecting and ruining my life.  It also led me to understanding that it was only after I told someone what happened to me that my life started to get better.

All of these experiences led me to write a book and ‘Be Brave’ was published in May 2011.  ‘Be Brave’ is a book of encouragement for those who have been hurt by another to give them the courage to disclose what is happening to them.  It empowers the reader, guides them, motivates them, provides understanding and empathy about how they are feeling and tries to instill in them the courage to disclose what is happening in whatever way works for them. It is not a story – it is a journey individual readers take as they read in their own experiences and emotions into the text. The book is for children from about 8 to 15 years old and is beautifully and sensitively illustrated.

Writing ‘Be Brave’ has changed my life for the better.  I am comfortable now telling people what happened to me in my past without shame or fear.  I am now involved with talking to kids about protecting themselves and protective behaviour programs.  It has been a powerful and positive experience and my hope is that ‘Be Brave’ can help more kids help themselves to stop any bad things that may be happening to them.

‘Be Brave’ – Handle with courage (TM). www.bebravebook.com

Karen Rochester

You can purchase the Kindle version here!

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Happy Thursday! I hope you’re having a good week so far. I recently received an email that I wanted to share with all of you. Megan, a 15 year old from Canada, is a super talented girl who writes and records all her own music. She contacted me last week asking me to share this song and video she recorded with a storyline about bullies and bullying. The best part about Megan and her efforts is that while she’s obviously taking a strong stance against bullying with her song lyrics, she is also impacting, inspiring, and encouraging TONS of young people (as per the comments on her YouTube video and Facebook page), which is what this website is all about. Please read her email below and take a few minutes to watch her video, like her Facebook page, or leave her a comment here. She’s one remarkable young lady and I’m honored to share her efforts against bullying on this website!

Hi, I’m 15 and wrote this because of a personal experience. I did the video myself too. I was not going to let them break me. If it shows that it bothers you, they’ll just do it more. I hope my song will help those that are starting to feel torn down — to rise up! Don’t let anyone make you a victim. They aren’t worth it.

I hope my song will give other kids the power “to look right over their heads”. Because in the end bullying is really about power. Why give anyone that satisfaction over you! I didn’t, and I won’t and I hope more and more kids don’t either.

Megan

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Speak Now

May 8th, 2012 | Posted by Jessica in Your Voices - (0 Comments)

Do you all use Twitter? I love Twitter! :)

I tweet from both my personal account (@jessasimmons) and the My Kindness Counts (@kindness_counts) one. I use it as a tool to read the news, connect with friends, see what other organizations from around the world are up to, etc. It’s also a great networking tool to talk to people about their thoughts on bullying and harrassment and to share the stories you guys send me. :) While many of us use it for good, I have noticed a ton of accounts that tweet really mean things about people they either know or don’t know or about various things going on in their lives. Interestingly, I received an email from a reader on this very issue and they asked that I share it with all of you.

Speak Now

Bullying is a huge problem in schools of all levels. Bullying, however, does not happen just in a school, but also through the internet. Having prior experiences with bullying in my past, I am very passionate as an adult to advocate as much as I can for anti-bullying. Recently, I came across two Twitter accounts that personally attacked students at a high school. The tweets on this page made fun of individual students from their appearance to clothing. I was appalled that student’s were running accounts anonymously like this online and nothing was being done to put an end to it. To take action and speak up for these individuals who were being cyber bullied, I sent an email to the principal of the school to make her aware of this account. Immediately I got a response back thanking me for the information and the accounts were deleted. I later found out that those individuals were found and disciplinary actions were taken. Bullying, whether it is online or in person, can have a huge impact on someone. If you see something, say something. If you are dealing with these issues yourself, tell someone. Your family and so many members of your school care about you. In the words of Taylor Swift, “If you know how you feel, and you so clearly know what you need to say, you’ll know it. I don’t think you should wait. I think you should speak now.”

How do you think this person handled the situation? I think they did the right thing because by speaking up, the individuals targeted may have been saved from seeing the tweets. Additionally, by intervening, it may have stopped these hurtful tweets from circulating around the internet. Most importantly, by reporting this incident to the principal and the principal finding the individuals who were behind the accounts and implementing disciplinary actions, it creates the impression that a. the school is trying to do their part to stop the harassment and b. that kind of behavior isn’t tolerated. While the principal being aware of the situation doesn’t erase what was said off the internet,  it does make  everyone aware that there are people who care about them and a positive school climate.

PS. Please, please remember that nothing is truly anonymous online. While you or a friend may think that if a name isn’t attached to an account, no one can find the culprit, that is NOT true. IP addresses and login information count and will trace back to you! Don’t get caught up with something that you aren’t ready to face the consequences for!

Sidenote: VERY interesting article related to this issue via USA Today: Library of Congress to Store Tweets Based on Twitter Deal

Picture source

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Creating A Culture of Kindness – Students Take Action
A Safe Schools Climate Conference

Purpose

The Connecticut Association of Schools and Lincoln Middle School is holding a conference on May 10, 2012 with the theme of student led clubs and initiatives focusing on safe school climate and bullying prevention. We have planned for a keynote speaker to address “Creating a Culture of Kindness”, student, school and community showcases and exhibits, break-out sessions with a focus on safe schools and bullying prevention, a student recognition ceremony and closing remarks.

Audience

• Students and their parents, Teachers and Administrators
• Students from across the state who have clubs or initiatives in place that focus on School Climate or Bullying Prevention.
• Parents and community members interested in learning about methods to improve community/school climate

Activities

• Student Exhibition in Times Square demonstrating what is currently happening in their schools
• Organization Expo in Times square – community/gov organizations provide info for parents/students/community members
• Keynote Speaker: Dr. Kari Sassu – Southern Connecticut State university
• Presenters: Logan West- Former Miss Connecticut, Michelle Pincince
• Student Recognition Ceremony
• Closing Remarks

Logistics

• Date: May 10, 2012
• Time: 6:00-8:30pm
• Location: Lincoln Middle School, 164 Centennial Ave, Meriden, CT 06451 (203) 238-2381

To Register Please go to the CAS Website: https://www.casciac.org/scripts/register.cgi

Sent in by Laura from Connecticut. Click here to find out how to register. Thanks, Laura! :)

Click below to see the flyer!

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A friend sent me this song and for any Country music lovers, I thought it would be a great addition to the videos page. Enjoy!

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This PTA Raises More Than Bake Sale Money: It Raises Consciousness for GLBT Students

Written by: Wesley Davidson

Photo credit: David Pokress | Laurie Scheinman, who has been nominated as co-chairwoman of the Long Island Gay Parent Teacher Student Association, with her daughter Rachael. (April 4, 2012)

The Parent Teacher’s Association has always prided itself for not only reaching out to families in their district, but also with mainstream parents in mind. Recently, with stronger anti-bullying measures needed in schools, as well as the contribution of gays incorporated into the curriculum, the nation’s first official gay PTA called Long Island Gay- Parent -Teacher Student- Association formed the week of April 23, 2012 in New York. source

They Saw A Need and Fulfilled It

The brainchild student, Rachel Scheinman, a senior at Portledge School in Locust Valley, New York and her mother, Laura Scheinman, 49, chartered a PTA that focuses on the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and their families. Rachel, who identifies herself as lesbian, says “ there have been many instances where negative comments are said, and ignored for lack of a better strategy.” Comments her mother of Sands Point, New York, “while many of our schools are tolerant, they don’t have a system set up for any issues if they are to arise. The PTSA will kind of remove those barriers between parents and schools.” Gay-Straight Alliances of students will work at school districts with parents, teachers and anyone interested in equality advocacy for LGBT students or those raised by same-sex couples.

The More The Merrier

“The more people who are involved in the education of children, the better” stated Maria Fletcher, president of the New York State PTA, based in Albany. You don’t have to live in Garden City or even Long Island to join. Nor do you have to parent a gay child to be included. All you have to do is believe in the movement.

Although a similar parent-teacher-student group formed in 1999 in Seattle and later disbanded in 2004, the time is rife for a more inclusive effort such as Scheinman’s to combat GLBT harassment in schools. I suspect that this model program will catch on this country and endure.

*Wesley Davidson is co-authoring, with a psychiatrist, an advice book for straight parents of gay teens. Her blog on this topic can be found at http://www.straightparentgaykid.blogspot.com

Click here to read a previous post Wesley Davidson wrote for MKC on the topic of raising a gay teen.

 

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Beauty Redefined

May 3rd, 2012 | Posted by Jessica in Thoughts - (1 Comments)

What makes us beautiful? What makes us different?

Could these characteristics be the exact same thing?

While it may a cheesy topic and something I know kids hear alllll the time, I think there’s something to be said for the idea that what makes us different can the exact same thing that makes us beautiful. Crazy concept, right? Because from what I can remember, middle school and early high school consisted of everyone, including myself, working really hard to fit in with everyone else. This might be in the form of dressing similar to a “popular” girl or playing a sport you’re confident others think is cool. It may also make you work harder to be in certain classes or maybe not work as hard to not be in certain classes. It’s funny though, because when you’re an adult, it’s often qualities that make you different or make you stand out that other people really like about you. It gets kind of boring to have all the same types of people around you all the time.

With that said, I do know and remember it being pivotal to fit in when I was younger, and it was also really important to behave in certain ways to fit in. An example of this might be excluding a friend because your other friends don’t think they’re cool, even when you know it’s not the right thing to do. Sometimes, trying to fit in comes at a cost of you not feeling happy with how you behaved/dressed/spoke/etc. You know? For me, I remember feeling that in order to fit in, I had to dress and act like everyone else. I would buy the same shoes that I saw “popular” girls wearing and similar style jeans because I knew, no one could pick on what I was wearing if I wore the same things as the popular kids. Similarly, while many kids were into sports and ballet, tap, and jazz, I was really into Irish step dancing. It was a type of dance that was totally different from what everyone else was doing and as a result, I grew to be a little self-conscious of it. Why was I self-conscious? Well, it was because I thought people would think I was weird. Why didn’t I just take regular dance classes like so many other girls? However, as I got older and more confident and much better and competitive with Irish dance, the fact that I excelled at something completely different than everyone else I went to school with was actually something people thought was cool.

Overall, I guess my point is, don’t be so hard on yourself if you feel like you’re different or you like to do things or wear things that others don’t think are cool. Be proud of who you are, even of those things that make you different, because I promise you that your quirks and things you do differently are qualities that someone really admires or will admire about you.

To go along with this message, I want to share a video with you. It’s called ‘Beauty Redefined’, and it was made by this AMAZING Girl Scout troop, Troop 445, from North Carolina. I saw their video and fell in love with their spirit and attitude. The girls and their troop leader gave me permission to share their video on MKC, and they’re even thinking of making another video geared towards anti-bullying this summer. Thanks so much, Troop 445!

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