Stand Up & Speak Out

It's that time of year again when students are heading back to school, in order to support students and parents/guardians, we are running an #Advice4School campaign across social media. As part of our campaign we will be sharing some inspirational blogs and stories that will hopefully encourage students to seek the support that they truly deserve. 

This blog post comes from Emily of the Student Unity Project

What type of student were you, e.g; your hobbies, interests?

I was an honours student who was very adamant on getting good grades, but I was also increasingly social throughout my high school years. As I got older, I found myself making more friends and enjoying social outings more than I had in the past. For as long as I can remember, I've also been passionate about writing, completing my first novel at the age of 13. Of course, this was just a test run for my longer writing pieces, and I have continued to develop my writing over the years, and continue to write even now in my final year of my university undergrad. 

If you could change one thing about it now, what would it be?

I wouldn't have let my less than kind peers' words hurt me so much. Especially when I was in elementary school, I really took everything to heart. The fact that I didn't always have the "new, coolest" running shoes, yoga pants, accessories, etc. were often a reason for ridicule in my school located in a very money-obsessed neighborhood. That being said, I learned a very valuable lesson through these experiences, and that was that you can never please everyone and that not having every single thing that your peers have does not make you any less important than anyone else. As cliché as it may sound, it's truly your attitude toward other people that make you a good or bad person. 

What was the best piece of advice you were given at school?

My mom always told me to "know where it comes from". Meaning, if someone is a bully, or not relevant to your life in a positive way, do not take the hurtful words they say to you to heart. If someone is a known bully, does it really surprise you that they are bullying? 

What advice would you give to a parent/guardian reading this, if they are concerned about their young person?

I would say that sitting down with the young person who is experiencing bullying is so vital. I remember there were countless evenings when I would come home from school never wanting to return. However, talking about the problems that were occurring and having my parents simply listen and give me their heartfelt advice, based on their own experiences (and sharing stories of their own experiences with me) made a world of a difference. Though you may not be able to know exactly what is going on in your child's life, you can always empathize with them when they share their pain and struggles with you. Of course, if there is violence involved, you should always report that to the school and even the local police. 

"School days are the best days of your life" 

Do you agree? What advice would you give to these young people to ensure that they are just that?

I disagree, to some extent. In many ways, your school days are what shape you into the person you become as an adult; many of your opinions, worries, rationalizations, etc. are formed as the direct result of your experiences as a young person. However, there is SO much more to life than your elementary and high school days. We have so much more potential than that, so much more to live for, and a seemingly endless number of new and wonderful people to become acquainted with. Two of my three closest friends I met after I graduated high school. Your school days are far from your be-all-and-end-all. Your life is worth so much more than just that narrow definition and the best days of your life have only just begun. 

What advice would you give someone who is concerned about bullying in general?

Do something to change it. Personally, I joined the Canadian non-profit Student Unity Project (http://www.studentunityproject.com ) who are dedicated to forming peer relationships amongst high school students by hiring and training students to mentor their bullied peers. This is just one thing someone can do to begin slowly eradicating bullying, or at the very least, taking steps to begin decreasing instances of it in our schools.  

Final comments, anything else you would like to mention that could help these young students?

If you are being bullied, please speak to someone you trust. If you know someone who is being bullied, never discredit their story or tell them that it's just a part of growing up... It's not. Listen attentively and help them in whatever way possible. Preventing bullying begins with us. We can make a difference starting today.

...Not having every single thing that your peers have does not make you any less important than anyone else.

Emily, The Student Unity Project