HESPERIA • The mood was electric inside the cafeteria of Topaz Preparatory Academy as country singer Lizzie Sider brought her Bully Prevention Assembly Tour to the High Desert.
The 15-year-old Sider moved through a sea of more than 1,600 raised hands, giving high-fives along the way, never missing a note as she sang.
Sider’s Wednesday morning stop at the K-8 school in Hesperia was part of an 80-school, statewide tour, where the young Florida native shared her painful experience of how she was teased by her peers and overcame bullying.
“Raise your hands if you’ve ever been teased, or been called a name,” asked Sider, as the majority of children and adults lifted their hands. “My dad once told me that nobody has the right to ruin your day, and that’s what I want you to know.”
Sider, who’s been named by Country Music Association’s Close-Up Magazine as one of the new artists to watch in 2013, interacted with the crowd as she balanced each song with a heart-felt lesson.
The young artist was nominated for a Hollywood Music in Media Award for her work to fight bullying with the Global Women’s Empowerment Network.
Sider, who has opened shows for Jamie O’Neal, Aaron Tippin and Gloriana, said her song “Butterfly” talks about how she overcame bullying by her peers in elementary school.
During the assembly, a group of students and staff members played tambourines and maracas on stage as Sider led the entire room in a rousing rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Why You Gotta Be So Mean?”
Before the assembly closed, Sider sat in the front row with a wide smile as the school’s glee club performed the sign-language version of “Butterfly.”
“I think her anti-bully message goes over well with the kids because she is so young,” said Diana Racobs, the school secretary. “She is so mature and professional.”
Racobs said the entire assembly event, along with free photos and wrist bands, was paid for by Sider.
After the assembly, Sider said she started the tour because she’s always wanted to help and inspire people, and the opportunity to travel was made possible after she began homeschooling this year.
“Being a positive figure in the lives of others is important to me, and the message of bullying prevention is important,” Sider said. “The kids at Topaz have been amazing. The signs and posters they made for me are wonderful, and the glee club did a great job.”
As a long line of students snaked its way to Sider to take photos or ask for an autograph, school principal Karen Prestwood shared how Sider’s message fit perfectly with the school’s vision.
“She was so genuine and full of energy, and she really connected with the kids,” Prestwood said. “Her message also aligned perfectly with our motto of ‘today decides tomorrow,’ and our goal of teaching respect, leadership and service.”
Eighth-grader Ashlynn Crisp said she felt depressed when Sider shared her bullying experience but was inspired when she heard how the singer “overcame and became a bigger person than them.”
“I took away the courage and strength to be brave to other people so that I can stand for them,” said eighth-grader Moises Aldana. “Don’t let them shove you into a little space because no matter what, you will rise to a butterfly and will fly higher than anyone else.”
After getting an autographed photo, fourth-grader Samirah Obaudo said she will hang it on her fridge to remind her that nobody has the power to ruin her day.
“I don’t know where I’ll be in 10 years,” said Slider after her performance. “I’ll keep spreading the message to never stop believing in yourself.”
Sider can be found online at www.youtube.com/lizziesider or www.facebook.com/lizziesidermusic.
Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227 or at RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com.
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