Anyone can be the target of a bully, but no one has to accept the bully’s negative judgment. That’s the message pageant winner Presley Price conveyed to middle-school students during a Sept. 19 presentation at TMI – The Episcopal School of Texas. As Miss Alamo City’s Outstanding Teen, Price, age 15, has made “Teens Against Bullying” her platform, and she speaks from personal experience.
“It doesn’t matter how pretty or smart you are,” she said. “Most bullying starts from jealousy.”
When Price was in eighth grade, she told the TMI students, “I thought I had it all – good grades, so many friends and a cute boyfriend. I played all the sports and was vice president of the Student Council.” Suddenly the girl Price thought was her best friend turned on her: “She’d stand in back of me in the cafeteria line, and I’d hear her taunting me, telling other people I didn’t deserve what I had.” The ex-friend continued her whispering campaign, spreading lies and rumors about Price to mutual friends and even her boyfriend, until other students didn’t know whom to believe.
“She wanted to make me feel like I was nothing,” said Price. Eventually, she reached out to her parents and a school counselor, whose intervention helped curb the bullying. Price also helped herself: “When I felt bad, I’d remind myself, ‘You’re not nothing. You have friends and family who love you and things you’re good at.’”
Now a sophomore at Brandeis High School, Price plays softball and serves on Student Council. When she won her pageant title earlier this year, she decided to use the opportunity to share what she had learned about surviving a bully’s attacks. Price has since presented her program at schools, Boys and Girls Clubs of San Antonio and church youth ministries. “Most antibullying programs try to get the bullies to stop,” she said at TMI. “Mine is about a positive response to bullying: Stand up, speak out and don’t let others get you down.”
Whether the bullying is physical (shoving, hitting, damaging personal property), emotional (spreading rumors or excluding someone from a group), verbal (name-calling or racial slurs) or cyber (via social media, texting or e-mail), Price advocates telling a trusted adult – most often a parent or school counselor – and asking for help to resolve the problem. At the same time, she urges students who have been targeted by bullies to respond by concentrating on their own positive qualities and ambitions. “Be yourself,” she said “Always dream big. Take charge of your life. Don’t give anyone else permission to make you feel worthless.”
To those who witness bullying, Price recommended action. “Don’t be a bystander,” she told her young audience. ”Be a voice, not a follower.” If speaking up to the bully doesn’t help, tell a parent, teacher or coach. She even had advice for the bullies themselves: “Why be so negative? Redirect some of that energy you use to tear other people down to find something you’re good at yourself.”