Be the Light: Stand Up to Stop Bullying

Hadleigh Painter is a 21-year-old Girls on the Run alumna and senior at East Carolina University, where she is double-majoring in Religious Studies and Hispanic Studies with a minor in Communications. Due to COVID-19, she is attending classes remotely and living with her mother and younger sister, Nicole, in Charlotte, N.C.

Just as the pandemic began, Hadleigh was blessed with extra good luck. In March, she won second prize in N.C. Lottery’s Lucky for Life contest, which was $25,000 per year for life or a lump sum cash payout, which she selected.

During this time, Hadleigh has been reaching out to her followers on social media and helping promote positivity and encouragement to others. When not taking care of her schoolwork or hanging out with her sister, Hadleigh is often live streaming on Twitch or interacting with her followers on social media. Connect with her here:

Hadleigh’s motto, “Be the light. Lead the way with kindness, compassion, understanding and generosity,” began in part from values she learned at Girls on the Run. We asked Hadleigh to be a guest author, sharing her perspective about bullying.

Did you know that — according to — about 20% of students ages 12-18 have experienced bullying, and that 15% of those students were bullied online or by text? During COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, cyberbullying has increased by about 70% over a matter of months.

And before you shake your head at me and say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah — we’ve heard that all before,” I ask you to think about the people each of you know personally who have threatened to run away, retaliate or even kill themselves because they just “can’t deal with it” anymore.

I personally know people who self-harm, drink or do drugs to numb the pain. I personally know people who have tried to commit suicide — some more than once — because of it. This is not okay. We all need to step up and actually do something.

Be the person who says something nice when everyone else says something mean. Be the person to change the subject, to say stop, to tell someone about the bullying. Be a part of the solution. You may end up saving more than one life. Because here’s another staggering statistic: victims of chronic bullying are more likely to bring a weapon to school.

But I can, you can, we all can do something about this. We can change things. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines ways to prevent bullying. We must be brave and step up. We must tell someone if we are being bullied or know of someone else who is. Don’t let it slide — even if someone says it doesn’t really matter or bother them. I speak from personal experience when I say it does hurt. It does matter. No one wants to be made fun of or treated like they’re nothing. No one deserves to be humiliated or hurt.

We all matter. We are all important. We all have value. Together, we can make a positive change. We can be the ones who are brave enough to speak up, to stand up and effect change.

Be the light. Be a light in our generation. Be a light in the world. Lead with acts of kindness, compassion, understanding and generosity. Stand together with me against bullying. Together, we can do this.

At Girls on the Run, we teach girls to stand up for themselves and others — it is one of our core values. To learn more about the meaningful impact of our programs, click here. To register your girl for an upcoming season, connect with your local council today.

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