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by Matt McDaniel May 30, 2014
- Rising Country music star Lizzie Sider has been touring California, Florida and Texas since last October, giving students a leg up on beating bullies by taking control of self-image
Lizzie Sider is doing something about bullying; the 15-year-old, rising Country music star, has been on the road in three states with her parents, appearing at 250 schools since last October on her Bully Prevention Tour.
In that time, she has brought a message of personal empowerment to 100,000 students, telling them ‘nobody has the power to ruin your day.’
Lizzy told the second and fifth graders seated on the cafetorium floor that the message comes from her father, and she described her early experiences with bullying, and poor treatment by peers.
“When I was your age, I was teased by the other kids in the group. They would exclude me from games at recess and they wouldn’t let me sit with them at lunch, and they called me names…”
The students were still and quiet as they listened to Lizzie’s story. She told them she would often wander around the playground, singing softly to herself as the other children played, and this too became a source of ridicule.
Lizzie said the other students enticed her to sing for them, and wanting to be liked, she would oblige–only to be teased some more.
“It was a very hurtful time for me,” she told them. “I would come home almost every day in tears.
“One day, before I went to school, my dad told me ‘Nobody has the power to ruin your day’…when my Dad first told me this I didn’t really understand what it meant, but after thinking about it awhile–and after my parents repeated it–I realized it means it’s up to us to decide if we let somebody else’s words make us feel like less of a person.”
She then led the entire assembly in an exercise about the pervasiveness of bullying.
“I want everybody to close their eyes,” Lizzie instructed the crowd. “Even the adults… I would like everyone who has been teased, or bullied, to raise your hand.”
When the children were told to open their eyes, they looked around to see just about everyone in the room, adults included, raising their hands–and they were clearly surprised, as evidenced by the audible gasp.
“Almost all of us, at some point in our lives, have been treated this way…we know how much that hurts, and we know what it’s like to be on the outside.“
She urged the students to think about what that means before saying something mean or belittling to another person.
She also spent a few minutes asking students if they could think of reasons why someone might bully others.
The students offered insightful answers, and Lizzie talked about each one, praising the students who spoke up.
She talked about famous athletes, musicians and computer gurus who chased their dreams and set goals for themselves and how goals and dreams help to keep us focused on what’s most important to us.
Lizzie’s talk was very open and honest, leveling with the students on how long the effects of ill treatment can last, if we give others the power to determine how we feel about ourselves.
In spite of the heavy subject matter, Lizzie’s assembly was clearly fun for everyone, and the show included full participation in two musical numbers.
First Lizzie lead them in singing Taylor Swift’s popular song “Mean” with Mrs. Elizabeth O’Briant, second grade instructor, leading the teacher’s section with tamborines and maracas as the students sang and paraded through the cafetorium.
She then paused to speak about how we are all connected, and she explained that bullying affects us all.
“It’s about all of the students and teachers, it’s about our family and everybody in the world, really, because each and every one of us is different…and we’re all special.”
She said that we always have the strength to love, and believe in ourselves.
“All you have to do is spread your wings and fly,” she said, launching into her signature number for the assembly, “Butterfly”.
The children clapped, as they sang along with Lizzie for the Grand Finale of her tour.
The applause afterward was deafening, and the students lined up in an orderly fashion, waiting their turn as Lizzie graciously signed autographs for each one, with the handwritten message “Keep Chasing your Dreams.”
McGill Elementary was the last stop on her tour, and Principal Rikke Black said the school felt Sider’s message was too important not to squeeze into the busy end-of-year schedule.
“The difficult thing for [educators] is that bullies are sneaky,” Black explained. “And the kids that are bullied, they don’t tell.”
“To us, the not knowing is the hardest thing to deal with, and it definitely affects their education–tremendously.
“The entire staff is focused on being present, we try to always be active and watch; if we see they are falling down on grades we check it out, just to see if [peer issues] are part of the problem, or to try and prevent it from happening…but it happens. And again, the hardest thing is that the victims don’t tell.”
Black said another principal in town told her about Sider’s tour and the McGill staff wanted their students to see the bright, young entertainer, and hear the positive message she carries.
The principal said she felt that the program was well received by the students, noting that the message is more likely to hit home when delivered by a young star.
Lizzie also did shows for the Bradford, Crockett, Fort Concho, Glenmore, Goliad, Holiman, San Jacinto and Santa Rita elementary students.
Lizzie is very natural performer, and moved easily through the crowd, interacting with the children as she ably conducted the assembly.
She said being at center stage has become second nature to her, and explained that she gave her first public performance at age five, during a family vacation to Wyoming.
She said the extended tour has been an eye-opening experience, which she is grateful for.
“This was so amazing,” Lizzie said after the show. “This was THE last stop on my tour…we’ve been to every corner of California, Florida and Texas–and it was very hard and energy consuming–but it was SO worth it !”
“I think it’s an experience that not a lot of people get to have, and all of the schools that I’ve visited have been different and wonderful.
Lizzie said it’s very rewarding for her to look around and see smiling faces in crowd as she helps kids learn to take control of their self-image, and set long-range goals that will help them succeed.
Lizzie is blessed with parents who are very active in helping her achieve her dream of musical success.
Her Dad is a professional who has adapted his career to work remotely, and her Mom handles Lizzie’s schedule, and makes sure she gets her homework done.
This summer, the family will be going to Nashville, where Lizzie will perform during the Country Music Association Festival (CMA Fest) at multiple venues and spend some more time in the recording studio.
The young singer has 30 videos on her Youtube channel, and has played dozens of prestigious venues, starting with a singing engagement at a rodeo at age nine.
Talking about the song “Butterfly”, she said it was written in 2011 as collaboration with well-known Country singer/songwriter Jamie O’Neal.
The Sider family live in South Florida.
About the Author
- Matt McDaniel is a veteran of two storied west Texas daily newspapers. After years of reporting and copy editing, he took a short, 10-year hiatus from the newspaper business. Today, he is re-entering the industry as a cub reporter for the plucky outfit called San Angelo LIVE!