What do you do when you see another child being targeted by a bully? If you’re Sydney Jo Washington, you immediately jump in and help, because you know it’s the right thing to do.
Sydney Jo was in the fifth grade when she noticed a classmate was being bullied. There was no way she was going to let the girl handle it by herself. If the situation were allowed to continue, unchecked, it would only get worse. So, with another classmate, Sydney Jo brought the matter to the school’s guidance counselor’s attention.
Her success in intervening with that one girl’s situation sparked her passion for helping kids who were being bullied. Sydney Jo started a non-profit Anti-Bullying Club, or ABC, which focuses which focuses on providing bullying prevention education, advocacy, and other community service projects supporting local and statewide anti-bullying nonprofit organizations.
Now 12 years old, Sydney Jo has become an author! With Malaysia’s BIG Move, she has launched her Anti-Bullying Club Book Series, which helps to spread awareness about bullying, teaching them how to resolve conflict, and deal with bullying in the right way. You can learn more about the book here.
Sydney Jo teaches other people how to stand up to local bullies, because she wants everyone to be treated fairly. She’s a bit like Malaysia, the main character of her book. “I’m the type of person who sees things that are happening around me. I know I can stand up for myself, and I’m lucky enough to have a lot of friends and self-confidence. It just makes sense for me to help out at school when I see people who are being bullied,” she says. Her self-confidence comes from the example her parents set for her and the faith they have in her abilities.
What would she say to children who are being bullied? “I tell my friends to keep your head up. People will talk about you. For example, I’m short and skinny. So what? It’s okay to be who you are. Don’t listen to the bad guys. Don’t feed into their energy. It will just create a chain effect, or a domino effect.”
Sydney Jo believes too many kids don’t talk with their teachers or other adults when they’re being bullied, because they’re scared. Instead, they try to handle it themselves. That can make things worse. Instead, she recommends: “Talk to a nice teacher if you’re being bullied. Try more than one teacher, if you have to. Some people will take it seriously, and some people won’t. Don’t give up until you find a teacher who understands and can help.”
She believes that, while bullying will never go away, we can make a difference — in one place at a time. “One step at a time,” Sydney Jo recommends. “That’s all we can do. We can take one step in one place, and then we can move onto the next. We can make each place aware of bullying and the best ways to handle it through education and advocacy. My goal is to give kids the confidence that I have and to teach them to be nice to people. Above all, don’t be scared to stand up to other people.”
One person can’t take on a whole army, Sydney Jo admits. But we can work together to make bullying unacceptable. We can make a positive change in our own communities with the help of our friends and caring adults.