Young people today face an unprecedented bullying landscape with voices and judgment constantly bombarding them, both on and offline. In a sea of cynicism, it can be hard to stand against the waves by yourself. With encouragement and support, however, it is much easier to weather the storm. Susan Skog, an author, journalist, and speaker at middle schools high schools, and campuses highlights this strength in her newest release: YOUR VOICE MATTERS: STAND UP, SPEAK OUT.
In her 8th book, Susan writes about advice and stories of overcoming adversity from several role models, including Wé McDonald, a finalist on Season 11 of NBC’s The Voice and our partner in No Bully’s “I Have a Voice” National Singing Competition. These stories perfectly combine with Susan’s own words of understanding. She is able to outline obstacles of the society young people must grow up in today, from bullying in the classroom to global concerns such as climate change.
It is because of this combination of stories, strength, encouragement, and understanding that No Bully is excited to feature YOUR VOICE MATTERS: STAND UP, SPEAK OUT in the October release of the No Bully Book Club. It is exciting for us to see a book feature the empathy and success we utilize as a foundation in our school programs.
Below is an excerpt from YOUR VOICE MATTERS: STAND UP, SPEAK OUT, featuring Wé McDonald’s story and her connection to No Bully as one of our No Bully Youth Ambassadors. To purchase the full book and read the full story of support and encouragement, click here.
A FINALIST FROM THE VOICE REFLECTS ON WHY THE VOICES OF YOUNG PEOPLE STRIKE SUCH A CHORD NOW
McDonald: “I didn’t know I was going to be a role model. But I know that is my role now. But I have to let people know that I am going to mess up. I am going to F–up a million times, but as long as I am honest and try to stay true to myself people will know it’s OK.”
After having a phenomenal experience with a lot of friends in elementary school, Wé’s middle school experience almost crushed her. “I never experienced a bigger school so I didn’t know I’d been in a bubble before. I was bullied from 6th to 8th grade…It was not just physical, it was emotional and spiritual bullying. It got so bad that by 8th grade, I was just ostracized completely. I had nothing. I didn’t have anybody. I went to a Christian school, and I always say my closest friend was Jesus.”
The first week of school, Wé said someone called her “a gorilla.”
“I had never been called any names or ugly things. I was very confused…I had long hair, really big hair, curly hair and I kept it in braids, and people kept pulling my hair and asking me if it was horse hair. I had glasses and acne and was chubby. I was an easy target. I was a textbook target. I was so taken aback at how they treated me….it was tough.”
But McDonald found a friend and they developed a good bond. But then bullies sabotaged that, too. “There were rumors going around we were gay. They also started a rumor that I was a boy and had a penis. That was the running joke.”
So she went back to having no friends, being isolated, so isolated, she sometimes ate lunch by herself in the bathroom stalls. Her school tried to hide or downplay the bullying. She reported it, regularly, to her parents. Her mom wanted McDonald to switch schools, but she refused to let the mean kids run her out of school. “I stayed and promised I would graduate. They would not take that away from me.”
And she did. And when McDonald was getting ready to graduate from 8th grade, she went to an arts school. “I loved it and saw what an accepting audience was. Acting, singing, and loving each other, we were like a big family. And I thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is it.’ I have to start writing and making music because the whole world cannot feel the way I felt for three years….I didn’t know how big this would get in any way, shape or form….I just knew in my head that I wanted to help myself…I felt there was nothing I could do to fix any of the stuff going on, and the only thing I did know how to do was to write, and sing and dance and act…I said I love the arts that and is my thing…I can rely on that…I can rely on my parents and my beautiful support system, thank God. “
Through the nonprofit No Bully, McDonald has toured the country to help kids stand up to bullying and find their authentic voices. She’s also written a book, Little Girl with the Big Voice, about a young girl who courageously embraces her uniqueness and discovers her true voice, no matter what others do or say.
MCDONALD’S RECOMMENDATIONS IF YOU’RE BEING BULLIED
“Sometimes you have to put your foot down and tell someone to genuinely back off. In that kind of tone. As you stand up and are confident you have to say, ‘Leave me alone and if you come up to me again I will have teachers and staff with me, so do not bother me again.’ If stupid things happen, yeah, just ignore that. But if you do need to take action in other ways or go to another school, do that. I took a different route, so find out what works for you.
“Always go to someone you trust, regardless of what you are going through, there has to be an adult, family or close family friend you trust. Tell them what is happening. And remember that middle school is not your entire world. I promise you that 80 to 99 percent of the people around you now will not matter in two to three years, in any way, shape, or form. There are so many beautiful qualities within you, so don’t let anyone take your light away or make fun of you. That is their problem and has absolutely nothing to do w/you. If someone is making fun of you, they either fear or envy you or do not like themselves. Turn to someone you trust and ask for help.”
Learn more about Susan on her website: susanskog.com
Instagram: @susan.e.skog Twitter: @susan_skog Facebook: @SusanSkogAuthorPage