“I would come home crying almost every single day,” Lizzie Sider, a budding country pop singer and anti-bullying advocate, said to a room of several dozen girls on Nov. 2 in the library of South Side Middle School. “It got to the point where I was asking and begging my parents to pull me out of school.”
Sider, 19, a Florida native, has visited more than 400 schools around the country as part of her bullying prevention campaign. She is a spokeswoman for organizations such as PACER Teens Against Bullying, Global Women’s Empowerment Network and Hatebrakers.org.
On Long Island before her show at Manhattan’s Triad Theater last Saturday, Sider agreed to visit SSMS after Victor Lee, library media specialist, contacted her last-minute.
She said the same group of girls bullied her repeatedly through elementary school. Through that tough experience, she added, came an important lesson. “I was walking out the door one day to go to school, and my dad pulled me aside, and he said ‘I want you to remember that nobody has the power to ruin your day,’” Sider recalled. “Of course it’s OK to have a bad day. It’s OK to feel lousy sometimes.
“But where it changes is this,” she continued. “We are the only ones who have that power to decide whether or not somebody else is going to change how we see ourselves, our self-confidence, our self-worth, our own beauty.”
Sider emphasized the importance of being kind to one another, celebrating one’s own imperfections and being oneself, and students sang along as she sang her debut single, “Butterfly,” which has more than a million views on YouTube.
Sixth-grade teacher Allison Creagh, who recently started the school’s Girl Talk club, during which girls from South Side High School mentor middle-schoolers, said many of the club’s members attended, adding that the assembly fit exactly what she is trying to teach her students.
“This is a beautiful segue into teaching them about self-imaging and anti-bullying,” Creagh said. “It was just a great message that she sent.”