hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

November 8, 2012

She's fighting back against bullies

8th grader's award-winning poster shows risks of taunting

By Alex Lippa alippa@hgazette.com
The Haverhill Gazette

---- — Michaela Vick knows all too well how mean some of her classmates can be.

The eighth grader at Whittier Middle School has heard many taunts and insults come her way. But instead of cowering from the barbs, she has decided to take a different approach.

She’s trying to make the bullying stop.

Michaela, 13, entered and won an art contest sponsored by Blueskies Wellness, a bullying prevention agency. She had to submit a poster which answered the question “What does bullying mean to you.’’ The question focused on the impact of bullying on children’s lives.

Michaela had heard about the contest from her art teacher, Bonnie Porter, but it was her own experiences which got her interested in entering the contest.

“I was sick of all the bullying at all the schools and people who have hurt themselves just from bullying,” she said. “I made this drawing to say how bullying can hurt people, but we can all change it.”

The poster shows a girl crying because she has been bullied. On her hand are the words “stop bullying.” Also on the poster is an image of the girl’s friends supporting her. In the middle of the poster are the words “Stand up to bullying, stop bullying today.”

Michaela drew on many of her own experiences with bullies as an inspiration for the poster.

“Somebody always thinks you’re not good enough,” she said. “They talk behind your back and say, ‘Oh she’s not pretty’ or ‘Oh she’s not beautiful.’’’

Despite the hurtful words, Michaela said she hasn’t let bullies damage her morale.

“I wouldn’t let that hurt me because words don’t hurt me,” she said. “You can think what you want to think and I won’t care what you think because I know who I am.”

Michaela has seen how bullying affects other children. Recently, her younger brother came home upset because he had been bullied. Michaela decided to use her poster to educate one of the bullies who hurt her brother.

“I showed them the poster and told them how much it can hurt people,” she said of bullying. “I said, ‘This is what happens every day to people’ and they started to understand how I felt.”

For winning the contest, Michaela received a $100 gift certificate to the Essex Art Center in Lawrence which can be used for art lessons or purchasing art supplies. She is an aspiring artist who hopes to attend the Rhode Island School of Design and eventually become a fashion designer.

“She’s a wonderful girl,” said Porter, her art teacher. “I’m proud of her for winning this award.”

Porter said the contest was open to middle school students across the Merrimack Valley. Michaela was chosen as one of 20 finalists for the award and then attended a function at Greater Lawrence Technical High School, where she was named the winner. She also got to meet Miss Massachusetts Taylor Kinzler.

Michaela is proud of the award, but the bigger achievement is helping to prevent bullying, she said.

“I hope some bullies can see my poster and see how people actually react to bullying,” she said.

“Then they may just stop bullying.”