A laugh that could "light up a room" was silenced
when middle school bullies targeted Gwen in 6th Grade.
Let's help bring it back!!
Gwen is currently an 8th Grader from the South Shore of Massachusetts and, according to her mom, she's "an excellent soccer player who loves the beach, skiing, making TikToks, and adores Harry Styles." Gwen came to our attention through a blog published by her mom titled "NO ONE TELLS YOU," a heart-wrenching narrative putting words to the common experience of so many parents of bullied children that we interview here at the Be A Friend Project.
The mom's blog post begins...
"There are things that no one tells you when give birth to a daughter. When they’re new and milk drunk with good smelling fuzzy heads, there is nothing else. In that stage of bliss, no one tells you what might happen when adolescence starts. No one tells you that your daughter, the athlete, the people pleaser who, up to the age of 12, was filled with self-confident smiles and unrelenting laughter (boy, her laugh could light up a room) will be destroyed..."
(For the full blog post and more details on the bullying Gwen has endured, click here. )
An empathetic girl by nature, Gwen was very outgoing and enjoyed an active social life through elementary school. She always made a point of inviting the "new kids" in school to her birthday parties so they "wouldn't feel lonely." But upon entering middle school, she found herself suddenly the target of bullying by those very same kids she'd invited to her parties years ago, and by classmates she considered "best friends."
The bullying started in 6th Grade by one girl, then quickly more boys and girls joined in with "jokes," gossip and rumors to exclude and hurt 12-year-old Gwen. She received ongoing vulgar texts and screen shots. Even when she replied, “Can you please stop this, it's hurting me,” the bullies did not stop - and the school took no action. The girls shamed Gwen for the way she dressed, and no longer invited her to their parties.
In 7th grade, Gwen was assaulted in the hallway between classes, and in the cafeteria of the middle school. The bullies repeatedly ordered her to “go kill” herself. At 13, she had been called vulgar names and curse words by both girls and boys in school, on social media, and via text so often that she no longer reported it to her guidance counselor - thinking, what was the point? Reporting it never helped anything; her bullies were not stopped, and in fact, they remained the teachers' pets despite their cruelty.
THIS YOUTUBE INTRODUCTION OF GWEN by our On-Air Super Teen Ambassador, Brielle Withers, is a good choice for young students to learn her story:
Gwen's confidence and sense of safety plummeted along with her mental health. Intense panic attacks sent her to the counselor's office. Absences piled up as her mom kept her home to keep an eye on her. Anxiety, depression and social phobia developed in response to the ongoing attacks on her character and body; Gwen's infectious laughter disappeared.
Now 14, Gwen entered 8th Grade this year on a hybrid schedule, but when her anxiety became too big, she switched to being all-remote at home. However, being on-camera all day on Zoom is not a comfortable solution for any middle school child who's been the focus of peer gossip and cruelty. Now, she's returned in-person, but it's very difficult for her to stay the whole day, often leaving for home or the Counselor's office, due to the anxiety caused by her traumatic experiences on school grounds and not feeling protected. A former high-average student, Gwen is barely passing her 8th Grade classes.
Determined to help their daughter heal and leave the bullies behind, Gwen's parents have sold their home and the family is moving out of the district when the school year ends in June. Gwen is enrolled in a new, private high school for 9th Grade - and she really hopes to get back on a soccer team.
When it is the victims of bullying whose lives are uprooted and are forced to leave schools and homes - instead of it being the perpetrators who must be separated out with consequences - we know local districts and communities have failed.
Wary of retaliation for SPEAKING OUT against the failures of the school district and the bullies' parents who wouldn't stop their kids from using cruelty as entertainment (even defending them with statements like "they were just joking"), the family is giving us just the one picture of Gwen, and we're sharing only a very general location.
AMBASSADORS, together we have the opportunity to be a part of Gwen's journey of healing from such devastating peer cruelty and to show her she is awesome and FRIEND STRONG! YOU can help bring back her laughter and confidence, and usher in a fresh, positive start in a new town as she enters a new school for 9th Grade. Gwen's voice and courage to heal from 3 years of ongoing social, verbal, physical, and cyber bullying is an inspiration. YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO; SEND YOUR SUPPORT!
FYI: For Kindergarten through Elementary Students: There's nothing better than an army of "little brothers and sisters" bringing strength, pride and friendship to an older student by letting her know she's a role model and an inspiration. Gwen's confidence will soar when she hears what you think and/or enjoys your drawings about all the cool and kind things about her!! You will give her smiles!!
THE DUE DATE FOR GWEN'S LETTERS IS APRIL 30TH!
Friend Mail must arrive in our NY office for review by the Due Date to be included in the surprise delivery!
Mail "PHYSICAL" letters to:
Be A Friend Project
449 Lane Gate Road
Cold Spring, NY 10516
Email letters, videos, scans & Google Drive links, send to: