A teenager who turned her story of being bullied into a song of hope took to the stage Tuesday to inspire local students.
Rachel Crow performed a collection of songs including her single “Mean Girls” at Stanfield Secondary School Tuesday morning, the first of an eight-school, three-day miniature tour, followed by an afternoon stop at Weston-McEwen High School. She is performing for free, hoping to bring a positive message against bullying.
“I feel like it’s a really important message to get across to people that you can change it,” she said. “It’s just as simple as me getting on the stage and singing a few songs and talking to the kids. They really, I think, respect people who tell them it’s not OK (to bully). It’s not funny. It’s not cool. It doesn’t make you bigger. It just, in fact, makes you smaller.”
Crow is no stranger to the spotlight. At 13 she showed talent, making it to the top five on The X Factor television competition in 2011. She has been on Nickelodeon shows, starred in the Disney Channel movie “Invisible Sister,” and voiced Carla in the animated movie “Rio 2.” Now, at 17, she is turning a week of downtime between projects into an opportunity to help others feeling what she once felt.
Crow said she was frequently bullied in school before she moved to California. As the “bright, cheery, out-of-this-world, weird kid,” she said other students enjoyed trying to bring her down.
“For a long time, I thought maybe I really am a really bad person, maybe I suck,” she said. “I realized when I got to California that that’s where I belonged and that I’m OK. That’s when I realized I need to write a song about this so I could tell kids around the world that I felt the same way that they do.”
In 2012, she released a five-song EP, including “Mean Girls,” the single she co-wrote about overcoming bullying.
Crow enjoys encouraging people to stand up for themselves and to be who they are, she said, because “nobody can do you better than you.”
By giving back and helping others boost their self-esteem, she discovered a boost of her own.
“When I get in here, and I get to talk to these kids and one by one they come up and they tell me things, it’s really inspirational,” she said. “It makes me feel good that I finally did something to change the world, and that’s the real reason I do this: to change kids’ lives every day.”
Stanfield senior Cynthia Curiel, who was a fan of Crow’s back when she was on The X Factor, was in the audience dancing and singing along with “Mean Girls.” She said the song has an important and uplifting message.
“I think that it gets out a message for girls to stand up for themselves and not get discouraged at how other girls look at them,” she said. “Because all girls are beautiful, and they shouldn’t get down because some girls are telling them stuff.”
Junior Hunter Barnes said bullying was a problem in Stanfield his freshman year, but events similar to Crow’s concert have had a positive impact. The junior class, he said, now takes an active role to stop bullying.
“If we see someone getting bullied, we try to stick our nose in it and make it stop,” he said. “We’ve got seniors that are kind of on the edge, and we’ve really stepped in and kind of put them in their place even as the underclassmen.”
Students from Echo and Pilot Rock also traveled to Stanfield for the event. Pilot Rock seventh-grader JoJo Jeffers said she knows many students who say they don’t like going to school because of bullying.
“I think (programs like this) really lifts them up and gives them a little bit of courage,” she said.
Echo School Principal Keith Holman said raising awareness about bullying is important, so administrators and teachers talk to students about it. He said having the message spread by someone like Crow, who the students look up to, can be even more beneficial.
“If it’s cool, then it digs in a little bit more,” he said.
Stanfield Secondary School Principal Bryan Johnson said bullying can be difficult to control and is a significant problem across the nation. In addition to assemblies, he said the school teaches about bullying in health classes, trainings and daily advisory periods. He said he takes bullying seriously and does not tolerate it.
“Kids want a safe environment so they can learn,” he said. “The studies show that (bullying) leads to depression, kids not wanting to come to school,” he said. “It could lead to suicide. In the past across the country, there have been school shootings where the kids might have been bullied, and that might have been part of the reason why.”
About 28 percent of students in grades 6-12 experience bullying, and about 70 percent say they have seen bullying in their schools, according to statistics compiled at stopbullying.gov, which also has resources for preventing it.
Stanfield counselor Kirsten Wright said, with the proliferation of social media, cyberbullying has become more common. She said students may say things online they would not say in person. She said it is difficult to determine whether bullying is on the rise, but the effects are easily quantifiable.
“It can cause a lot of emotional turmoil for them,” she said, “so events that can bring awareness to bullying and show students that they are not alone are really positive and shows it’s something other people have worked through and can persevere through.”