The kids went wild; the atmosphere was electric! Pop star singer, songwriter Meredith O’Connor appeared on stage in auditoriums filled with screaming kids at Twin Valley Middle School in Elverson and Honey Brook Elementary Center in Honey Brook on Dec. 15.
The 21-year-old star, whose music and videos have been featured on Disney and Nickelodeon came as a United Nation’s Youth Ambassador fresh from New York after recent tours of New Zealand and the West Coast. Her message was to address bullying and share her own experiences.
“This is the third year we are presenting a special educational program for our 1,000 students. We are excited to host an A-list teen star today with this powerful message on bullying,” said TVMS 7th and 8th Grade Principal Dr. Gerald Catagnus. “Social media is a 24/7 reality to today’s students. It has replaced ‘slam books’ from the past, a potential vehicle of bullying. This is just one of our ways to reach and educate our students about this harmful social conduct.”
Her videos flashed behind her on-stage performance as O’Connor sang and soon had them clapping and dancing in their seats. Then she invited them to sing along with her powerful anti-bullying songs. She herself wrote the lyrics, bearing her soul, having suffered from both bullying and anxiety.
O’Connor said, “Raise your hands if you have ever been bullied?” and more than half the hands went up. “Raise your hand if you have ever seen bullying?” Again the hands were up.
“You may feel alone, but you are not alone! You have amazing teachers and principals. Cyberbullies and friends that won’t include you, or put you down, it is about them, not you. I was ashamed to tell my mom. I even had my nose broken. It broke my heart. They said models were ugly. I sang too high or too low. I believed it all.”
She continues, “Everyone wants to join in the game. We all want to fit in. It broke my heart. Don’t let them in your heart. There are up-standers out there who will stand up for themselves or others. I had a friend like that. If you become a stand upper, people will copy you and you can change a person’s life… people will know you are a friend.”
This beautiful, high-energy singer confessed to the crowd that she never told her Mom about the bullying. It wasn’t until her song ‘Celebrity’ went viral, that she realized it wasn’t her.
“The bullies make you feel inferior. The truth is the things that make you different are the things that can make you famous or even a billionaire. Look at Einstein and Bill Gates. I don’t fit in a box, I like out. I couldn’t fit in with the crowd. I was a little weird. I went from not telling my Mom to sharing it with everyone. I now have a platform,” she said,
The kids’ hands were up again when the question and answer time came.
“Why do people bully?” came a small voice from the back.
“Sometimes it comes out of fear, that they need to put you down, so you won’t put them down,” she answered.
Another asked, “Is there a type? Can you be bullied by questions?”
O’Conner replied, “Oh yes, there is sarcasm, when someone is trying to make you feel bad, you don’t deserve that.”
Her message to all, “We are stronger together. Together we can be the bridge over the troubled water. We can be those up-standers.”
“In your video, there was a person pushed out of a tree house, did that really happen?” asked a child.
“That was me,” she answered.
Later at the meet and greet, 5th and 6th Grade Principal Brenda Boyer said, “Meredith’s important message to the students is about caring for each other collectively. We are stronger than everything that happens to us, when we are all that up-stander. We have a Peace Room, where kids go to talk and work out differences. It is peer to peer; 8th grade mediators help them deal with conflicts. We think it works!”
The students fist bumped, high fived and asked O’Conner to sign their hands, their foreheads, and take selfies with them. Some of the questions they asked included can you do the split, how do you like your steak, will you answer me on Instagram?
Leaving to beat the early snow dismissal she smiled, “It is so fantastic and wonderful for me to use my status as a pop star to spread this message. It is the favorite part of my job. I get messages from all over the world. So many kids are in this kind of pain. I want to be that friend that they need. I can’t do this at a concert or on TV. I read and reply to all my Instagram messages.”
“You are not alone,” reads the message on her autograph card instagram@meredithoconnor. Her song “The Game” has had students and fans claim it saved their lives, today’s presentation was certainly a “game” changer for these students.
Twin Valley Middle School Tweeted, “TVMS welcomed Meredith O’Connor today. Students heard her important message on anti-bullying, and dealing with challenges. Her message of inspiration touched our hearts. Thank you, Meredith!”
Visit YouTube @meridithter and on Facebook at Meredith O’Conner.