AMHERST — Local students received a positive message on Tuesday from a Massachusetts songwriter who is trying to spread the word about the dangers of teen bullying.
Hayley Reardon, who recently released her debut album "Where the Artists Go," took the stage at Amherst Middle School to perform some of her original folk songs while also offering some words of wisdom to the young teens.
Reardon, 16, of Massachusetts, shared a true story about a good friend who was the victim of frequent bullying. Reardon watched as a happy and vibrant girl took a downward spiral because of cruel words, she said.
Not knowing exactly how to help her friend, Reardon put her thoughts onto paper, creating a song to express her emotions about the scary and sad situation.
"This issue is ours, and we can own it if we want to," she told a group of fifth and sixth-graders.
Her song, "She's Falling," is being heard around the nation in an effort to prevent bullying. And simultaneously, Reardon has become a peer spokesperson for PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center.
Words can hurt, said Reardon, who reminded the students about the impacts of bullying and the importance of not ignoring problems such as verbal threats and intimidation by other teens.
She also performed her song, "A Little Bit of Light," which emphasizes the need to make a difference in just one person's life rather than changing the whole world. By making one student feel a little less alone, Reardon says she is making a positive impact, encouraging others to do the same.
Principal Porter Dodge echoed those comments at the start of Reardon's performance on Tuesday, encouraging the students to follow this year's school motto: "Have the courage to care."The courage to care about yourself and others is vital, he said, asking the children to not be bystanders if they witness something inappropriate.
"We are challenging that real early," he said, motivating them to make a difference this year while also putting an end to bullying inside and outside of the classroom.Sue Wilson, a teacher at Amherst Middle School, said Reardon's message and voice gave her goosebumps."She is an amazing kid who has done incredible things," Wilson said of Reardon, who was named a 2012 Bostonian of the Year by The Boston Globe.