Published by Clay Today
Feb. 27, 2014
Article by Eric Cravey
ORANGE PARK – Clad in a black t-shirt and dark jeans, Lizzie Sider stands tall and proud amidst a crowd of seventh and eighth grade students at Lakeside Junior High, but that wasn’t always the case.
The 15-year-old champion of positive thinking and never giving up was once bullied so badly in elementary school that she asked her parents to remove her from school and pleaded with them to talk to the bullies or their parents to make the madness stop.
“I’d come home crying almost every single day,” Sider said during a Feb. 21 assembly at the school.
On the front of her t-shirt is a multicolored butterfly that represents not only her anti-bullying song “Butterfly,” but the artwork serves as a metaphor for how a student can become transformed by making a decision to stop bullying in the same manner a caterpillar transforms into a beautiful butterfly.
The South Florida resident said her life became transformed when she went home after being bullied one day when her father said something to her that calmed her pain.
“He said, ‘Lizzie, nobody has the power to ruin your day’,” she said. “What that means is we get to decide how we feel. Nobody else gets to make that decision.”
Sider has since adopted her dad’s statement as the key message she shares with teens across the country. She said that statement changed her life.
Walking in and among the students, Sider asked the teens to close their eyes for a second.
“I want everyone to hold up your hand if you’ve ever been bullied,” Sider said. “Keep your eyes closed.”
Hands rose around the cafetorium and then, she gave them a new request.
“Okay, everybody open your eyes,” Sider said. “Look around the room and see how many hands are up. You are not alone.”
Snickers and muted giggles soon faded throughout the room as Sider asked the students to look around and see which of their classmates had their hands up. And then, she made a new connection with the audience.
“We know how much that hurts us,” she said. “We know what it’s like to be on the other side. We know what it feels like to hurt. Let’s not cause that same pain to others.” Sider, who is currently on a 100-school tour throughout Florida that will end in March, was welcomed with a sea of butterfl ies in her transformed performance space. Art students came together to make paper mache butterflies, while colorful butterflies adorned the café’s glass windows. Culinary students at the school made a butterfly-shaped cake to help drive home the message of transformation.
To further engage students, Sider asked the crowd of about 400 students if they knew what makes a person become a bully. Hands went up around the cafeteria.
“They may be having problems at home and may not have anyone at home to push them in the right direction,” said seventh grader Robert McGlynn.
Another student said people become bullies because they have low self-esteem or they may feel broken down inside. A third student told the group that some bullies act out because they think it’s funny.
Last fall, Sider performed at more than 80 schools in California and at every presentation, she has been welcomed with a great response.
“I get letters and cards from parents and teachers thanking me for sharing my story,” Sider said. “I’ve even had situations where some kids would leave the cafeteria saying they were never going to bully anyone again. They really get my message that nobody has the power to ruin your day.”
To further drive home her message, students were given imprinted armbands bearing her reminder that “nobody has the power to ruin your day.” From Lakeside Junior High, Sider took her message to schools in Jacksonville followed by St. Johns County.
South Florida-based singer Lizzie Sider, standing, brought her message of never giving up in the face of adversity to Lakeside Junior High students on Feb. 21 as part of a 100-school tour.