As a former victim of bullying Windsor High sophomore Stella Rivera knows its negative effects and knows something must be done about it. That's why the gifted program student, with help from a few of her colleagues, worked to schedule and gain funding to bring John Halligan to town.
Halligan, a Vermont father, has traveled the country telling his story, hoping audiences of young students take to hear the impact bullying can have on an individual, on a family.
Halligan lost his on in 2003 when the 13-year-old committed suicide after having been the victim of bullying.
With anecdotes about his son, family photos flashing on a large projection screen and words of encouragement for victims and witnesses of bullying, Halligan spoke to an auditorium full of Windsor High sophomores, thanks to the efforts of Rivera and her colleagues, Michael Harper, Danny Kaster, Juliet Orszulak and Akash Kunver.
"The fact that stella, a student, pulled me in (to speak) is the ideal situation," said Halligan. "I'm happy to (speak at) any school... but it's much better to be pulled in from the inside, because then I know there's buy-in. I know there's an investment, and that's what I felt today. I felt supported by the students. I felt supported by the staff."
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According to Rivera, she saw Halligan speak to students at Granby Memorial High School, where her mother teaches. After hearing his story, she knew her colleagues would benefit from hearing him in person.
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As a result, she worked diligently over the past year to bring Halligan to town, and with help from her colleagues, including writing grants, her efforts were a success.
"One main goal is to prevent any bad things from happening, any fellow students from finding themselves in a situation that they feel they can't get out of," said Juliet Orszulak, who worked with Rivera to bring Halligan to town.
"It's also to show that our school has resources and there are many programs reaching out to those students to speak up, especially if you're a bystander — don't just sit back, speak up," she added.