Published by The Key West Citizen
Feb. 15, 2014
Article by Terry Schmida, Citizen Staff
“Nobody has the power to ruin your day.”
That was the truth that 15- year-old singer Lizzie Sider brought to hundreds of area students during a tour of county schools on Friday.
The up-and-coming Nashville recording artist brought her musical mes- sage of hope and triumph over adversity to enthusiastic elementary and middle school students at Plantation Key, Horace O’Bryant and Sugarloaf schools. About 250 fourth- through eighth-grade students jammed the cafeteria at Sugarloaf to see Sider, who didn’t let a bout of laryngitis keep her from performing her hit song “Butterfly,” and speaking out on the issue of bullying.
Sider is a South Florida native currently on a 100 school tour of the Sunshine State in support of “Butterfly,” which has already garnered over a million views on YouTube. She recently completed a grueling tour of California schools, and is planning to hit Texas next. But it was the issue of bullying, wherever it takes place, that was on Sider’s mind Friday, as she danced around the cafeteria with the enthusiasm and professionalism one might expect from a performer twice her age.
During an extended introduction of her now famous song, Sider let down her guard a little and told her story.
“I was teased by the other kids in my grade,” she said solemnly. “They’d call me names, and exclude me from games at recess. They wouldn’t let me sit with them at lunch.” To cope, Sider said, she began singing to herself.
See BULLYGIRL, Page 8A CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1A THE KEY WEST CITIZEN ◆ SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2014
When the other kids noticed her doing so, they asked her to sing for them. What Sider perceived as an opening for her turned to dashed hopes when her peers mocked her singing voice.
“I used to leave school crying almost every day,” Sider said. “I begged my parents to take me out of school.”
The torture continued from the time she was in kindergar- ten until sometime in fourth grade when Sider had an epiphany.
“One day when I was leaving for school, my dad said to me, ‘Nobody has the power to ruin your day,’” Sider said. “I didn’t get it at first, but eventually it began to sink in. We decide whether somebody can affect us. Once I realized that, things began to change.” Yellow rubber wristbands emblazoned with the saying were distributed to the students. Sider then asked the crowd — school staff included — to close their eyes and put up their hands if they had ever been teased or bullied. She then requested they all open their eyes at the same time. A murmur swept through the audience as the near-universality of the issue began to sink in.
Taking another tack, Sider threw out the names of a number of prominent Americans, including singer Taylor Swift, President Obama, and the late Steve Jobs of Apple computers. When Sider asked the students what these famous and successful people all had in common, fourth grader Antonio Doblas called out, “They might have been bullied.” Sider then asked the group why they thought bullies acted the way they do.
“Because they were bullied themselves,” replied Christopher Rackley, another fourth grader.
Sixth-grade student Reagan Fountain posited that bullies try “to make themselves feel better about themselves” by hurting others.
Victims of this kind of mistreatment should always keep in mind that there’s somebody out there who will listen to their problems, Sider insisted, such as a teacher, a friend, or a family member.
A sea of nodding heads greeted Sider’s inquiry, “Who here really looks up to bullies?” On the contrary, the singer added, most everybody admires those who stand up to bullies.
“These are the kind of people we should try to emulate,” Sider said.
She then asked how the bullies who tormented Swift, Obama and Jobs probably feel today, now that they’re grown persons themselves.
“Shameful!” came the loud response from one student.
At this point, Sider drafted fourth-grade teacher Linda Diaz to become her “new band leader.” Teachers and school choir singers then launched into “Butterfly” with their voices and an array of musical instruments prompting a Beatlemania-like response from the screaming students. Sider led her min- strels, including Sugarloaf Principal Harry Russell, around the cafeteria, as a group of pupils wearing butterfly wings on their backs, jumped up and down with excitement.
“Look after each other like your own little brother or sister,” Sider said, encouraging the students to step in and help each other out when bully-type situations arise.
She reminded them, however, that the road of life is rocky, and that even as they grow older, they’re likely to encounter other forms of negativity throughout their lives.
“I want to be a professional singer,” Sider said. “Every day I hear people say I can’t do it, that I can’t make it. There will always be people out there who will try to knock you down.” Sider’s performance drew strong applause from Principal Rusell.
“She has a very powerful message, and the students listen to her because she’s still practically a kid herself,” Russell said. “She’s going to be a big star some day, so the students are lucky to be seeing her now. This is also another example of us doing everything we can to eradicate bullying from our school system.”
Sugarloaf School Counselor Rebecca Palomino, who helped arrange Sider’s visit to the Keys, agreed.
“Her message is positive, powerful and great,” she said. “It really hits home with the kids because she’s so close to them in age.”
Sider donated her time and talent to the 100 schools she will visit in Florida, free of charge.
A note from Lizzie: Thank you, The Key West Citizen, for the great article!