Wednesday, September 19, 2012

By Callie, age 12, Pasadena

Have you ever been bullied? I have, and it was terrifying. I was so stressed out I actually started pulling out my own eyebrows. A few times a week, I got headaches that hurt so much I’d get sick to my stomach. My doctor thought I might have a brain tumor. He did a bunch of tests, but when the results came back, he had a different diagnosis: extreme stress.

How can a girl have so much stress, you ask? For two years, a group of kids in my school picked on me constantly. They pushed me around and laughed at me. They called me names, tripped me, and put nasty notes in my locker. One time, a girl even threw my jacket into the toilet.

“You’re So Popular!” It started after I’d been chosen to be in a children’s chorus in Cleveland. I got to perform with other kids in “Rock the Orchestra.” There was a huge concert, the performance was broadcast on TV, and a CD and DVD were made, too. My picture was in the newspaper, so even though I never talked about it at school, kids knew. After that weekend, one girl said to me, “You think you’re so popular!”

That hurt, but it confused me, too. I had friends, but I wasn’t “so popular.” When I got home, I asked my mom what she meant. My mom said she was probably just jealous.

My parents had always told me I shouldn’t talk about performing when I was at school. Not because I shouldn’t be proud of my accomplishments, but because kids might think I was bragging. I was just beginning to understand what they meant.

From then on, it got worse. I went to a small Catholic school, and there were only about 45 kids in my whole grade. Most of the girls did sports and Girl Scouts, but because I liked to sing and perform, I did different activities. That made me an outsider. I did have friends, but they were being picked on, too.

Good Catholic Girls? I tried to tell my teachers and the principal what was going on, but they didn’t believe me. Of course none of the mean kids ever did anything when the teacher was looking. My parents did believe me, though. They talked to my teacher, the school counselor, and principal, too. But my teacher was also the softball coach, and most of the bullies were on her team. She just couldn’t believe that her girls, who were from “good Catholic families,” would ever mistreat anyone.

I think I’m a pretty strong person. If you want to perform you have to face rejection. You audition a lot and you get turned down a lot, for all sorts of reasons. You get rejected because your hair is the wrong the color or you’re too tall or too short or because of something you can’t control, like you remind the director of his cousin that he doesn’t like. But whatever it is, it’s always about the work. It isn’t really about you as a person.

It’s different when you’re being cut down by your classmates just for being yourself. It hurts so much! I even started to wonder if maybe they were right, that there was something wrong with me. Why else would these kids keep being so mean when I just wanted to be friends? And it made it that much worse that even the adults didn’t believe me. I felt so alone.

The summer after sixth grade, I went to camps with other kids. I traveled a lot, performed in dance competitions, and got to hang out with my friends. I stopped being so stressed. My headaches went away and I stopped pulling out my eyebrows. My parents thought a small private school was the best place for me, but I really wanted to switch to the public school. So I interviewed public school kids in my neighborhood and made a list of all the reasons it would be better for me. I put the no tolerance policy toward bullying at the top. It took a while to convince my parents, but they finally decided to let me change schools.

Bullies on the Bus Even though my new school was big and scary at first, it was still10 times better than going back to my old school. By October I’d made a bunch of new friends. But would you believe that the bullying still didn’t end? The kids from my old school rode a bus that stopped at the public school every day. They’d yell at me as I walked by, saying things like “So-and-so hates you,” and “You can’t sing.”

One day a guidance counselor from my new school saw this happening. He talked to the bus driver, the principal from my old school and the principal from my new school. It was nice to have an adult besides my parents finally see what was going on. Since then, friends at my new school walk with me past the buses, and no one says anything.

But even if I were walking alone, the teasing wouldn’t get to me like it used to. Believe it or not, I feel sorry for the bullies now. They used to make me feel like I wasn’t as good as they were, but really, what kind of people act like that?

Remember what I said about being rejected at an audition…how it doesn’t hurt so much it’s about the work, not you? Well, I finally realized something else. All that bullying was never about me, either. Those kids didn’t pick on me because there was something wrong with me. They picked on me because there was something wrong with them. They’re unhappy, and they don’t know anything about true friendship. Who wants to hang out with a group where no one new gets in and no one old dares to speak up or do anything different? That’s just sad.

Last year, I auditioned for a role in an off-Broadway production of “A Christmas Carol”—and I got it, which was a dream come true. You know what the best part was, though? I’ve got great new friends, and they were totally supportive and truly happy for me. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2012-2013 YWCA Programs:

The YWCA is the oldest and largest multicultural women's organization in the world. Established in 1905, the YWCA Pasadena-Foothill Valley, an independent 501(c)(3), has long been a pioneering voice in the fight for racial, economic, and gender equality. From our pre-1920 racial integration plan to the early 1970s founding of the nation's first Big Sister program and the area's first rape hotline, we have long been on the cutting edge of responding to the needs of women. Our mission is simply stated: "The YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all."

We are excited to share our 2012-2013 programs:

EncorePlus (Jan-Dec): Free mobile mammograms through a collaboration with Planned Parenthood

YWCA Fun & Fit(Sept – June): A series of exercise and nutrition classes, classes include: Zumba, Yoga, Line Dancing, Belly Dancing, Self-defense and Pilates

Just For Girls(Sept – June): An after-school program where girls dream big, explore new ideas, learn new skills and just talk

TechGyrls (Sept –June) : A 12-week course that teaches girls computer programs and internet safety

Adult Computer Class(Sept – June): A free 12-week course for adults looking to learn how to better navigate their computer and internet

Girls Empowerment Camp (July-August): A 4-week summer camp that empowers girls between the ages of 9-16; camp includes field trips, guest speakers, lunch and college tours

Parent Trap(Quarterly): A workshop that teaches parents how to navigate behind their children on the internet and protect them from the dangers associated with the World Wide Web

YWCA Honors(Quarterly): A social event that honors outstanding women in Pasadena

Week Without Violence(October): An annual week long series of events that showcase or demonstrate alternatives to violence linked to racism and prejudice

Women for Racial Justice Breakfast (October): A breakfast that exemplifies the YWCA’s mission by honoring those in our community

Women’s Networking and Leadership Day (May): A social event that helps local women increase their professional network while gaining advice and suggestions from peers


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How to Be a People Magnet - Be there girl everyone wants to know

You know her—she’s the girl everyone wants to be near. She has the ability to make anyone feel like the most fascinating person in the world, and that’s true whether you’re her best friend or just a casual acquaintance. Even adults seem to light up when she’s around. So what’s her secret, anyway? It’s simple: She’s genuinely interested in people, which makes them feel important and special. Of course, they can’t help liking her in return. Want to be more like her? Keep reading—we’ll show you how.

Ask Questions & Listen to the Answers Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and thought, Wow, that person is really interested in what I have to say? Chances are she was asking questions about what you thought or felt and paying careful attention to your answers. How can you do the same? If you know what someone is interested in, start there. (“Didn’t I see you in the school play last weekend?”) If not, ask about something they’re bound to have an opinion on. (“How do you like the costumes for dance recital?”) Everyone has things they’re passionate about. If you land on a topic that someone’s excited about, bingo! Ask more questions. You might even find out about something new you can be excited about, too!

Remember What’s Important to People During a recent school lunch, 13-year-old Katie told the girls at her table how disappointed she’d been that her swim team hadn’t placed in the meet they’d competed in over the weekend. Katie explained that she thought her coach had done a bad job, and that this wasn’t the first time she’d felt this way. Her friends listened patiently as Katie blew off steam. “Sometimes,” she added, “I feel like quitting the team.” The next day, one of the girls asked if she felt any better about the meet, and if she was still thinking about quitting. Katie immediately felt happier. “It actually cheered me up,” Katie says, “because she remembered how important the meet was to me.”

Use People’s Names Everyone likes to hear her own name. Get in the habit of remembering people’s names and using them often. If you have trouble remembering names, you’re not alone—lots of people do. There are little tricks that can help, though. When you’re first introduced to someone, make a point of repeating the her name aloud. Really focus on it as you smile and look her in the eye. You might even picture it written in marker across her forehead, or make up a silly rhyme in your head to help you remember it. Using her name once or twice more in the conversation will also help to fix it in your mind.

Say Nice Things Is it hard to picture yourself walking down the hall handing out compliments to your friends, classmates, and teachers? (“Nice jacket, Principal D!” “Love the earrings, Popular Girl!”) Of course it is—you’d feel more fake than a three-dollar bill! But no doubt there are little things you notice—and, yes, admire—about the people around you. And what better way to make people feel special than to tell them so? “Your poem was really good. I especially liked that line about…” “That’s such a cool bracelet. Did you make it?” “I think it’s so great that you always stick up for kids who get picked on…” Just be specific about what you like: “That shirt makes your eyes look so green.” Or “Wow—I wish I could sink a jump shot like you!” As long as you’re sincere, you can’t go wrong.

Make an Effort to Include People You know how good it feels when your friends include you in things, like planning to dress alike on School Spirit Day. You can do the same for others, and even spread the good feelings outside your circle of friends. If someone is quietly hanging around the edges of a conversation, bring her into it by asking her opinion. If you’re walking to the library after lunch, invite someone you don’t know well to join you. Not only will you make others feel special, but you’ll open the door to making new friends, too.

Watch Your Body Language Your body sends messages just as surely as your mouth does. When you’re interested in what someone had to say, you most likely smile encouragingly, meet her eyes, and lean in to hear more. On the other hand, if you’re bored, you probably stare into space, tap your foot, and fidget as she talks. So make sure your body is always sending the message you want it to send! Keep in mind, too, that human touch is powerful. Briefly placing a hand on someone’s arm while you’re talking to her is a great way to convey warmth and friendship.

Remember, raising your likability is about being genuine about who you are and how you show your interest in others. Everyone wants to feel special. By letting them know the ways in which they’re special to you, you’ll become extra-special to them. They’ll want to be around you—it’s as simple as that.