Thank you, Kimberly Hooker, for the great article. It was so wonderful talking with you! Glad you enjoyed the assembly.
”Nobody has the power to ruin your day”
Those were the powerful words Don Sider spoke to his young daughter when she returned from school with accounts of kids picking on her in an attempt to make themselves feel more important. Lizzie Sidertook those words to heart. She rose above….so high that the singer/songwriter found herself in the living room of her idol, Grammy award winner Jamie O’Neal, writing an empowering song to help her and inspire others along the way.
Lizzie approached her parents in September with an idea. She wanted to take this message to a couple of local schools during October for Bullying Awareness Month. Her passion and innate ability to connect with the students on their level was so widely received that what started as a simple idea turned quickly into a 250 school tour. I had the privilege to attend an assembly at Forest City Elementary last month as part of their TBK (To Be Kind) movement and left there with new perspective. The kids at Forest City Elementary and neighboring Lake Brantley High School are leaders. Their generation seems more evolved than many adults, more forgiving, more selfless and more focused on being kind. I didn’t expect that. I also didn’t expect my life to be changed by a 15 year old girl.
“Bullying” can be so overused that at times it loses its impact. Instead the focus is placed on kindness and the tremendous change that spreads when people are empowered to simply be kind. Its about realizing that no one has the power to change or control you. Your thoughts determine who you become. Lizzie stepped up to the microphone and in a soft voice asked the room full of attentive students to close their eyes and raise their hand if they have ever been teased. When eyes opened again there was not one person without a hand raised and sounds of shock echoed the room. Selena Gomez, Michael Jordan, Michael Phelpsand Steve Jobs were all highly successful people that were bullied but never stopped believing in themselves or following their dreams. They just set newer and higher goals. Sider drove home the message using humor, dance, reflection, and Taylor Swift‘s anthem “Mean“.
After Lizzie gave an autographed picture to each and every one of her new fans we sat down and talked about her life, music and her goals.
GC: What has surprised you most about the school tour?
LS: Honestly, how much work it is to pull it off each week. We are in a school 4-5 times per week. My parents have really supported me in a big way. Also, I didn’t realize how much I would learn about myself, how much I would grow.
GC: I have seen some of the letters you have received from students and they are incredible. What has been the most moving experience that has come back to you from all of this?
LS: When I was in CA a girl came up to me and handed me a rhinestone bracelet. After checking with the principal I sat down with her. She told me I had inspired her to be herself again. She was abandoned as a child and was jumping from foster home to foster home. This bracelet was given to her by her foster mother and she wanted me to have it. Words can’t express how much that means to me.
GC: How did you take your story and transform it into a song?
LS: “Butterfly” was tricky to write. It means so much to me personally but I wanted it to be about all of us. I was always happy and bubbly but I was hurting on the inside. I finally realized I needed to believe in myself. We are all unique and beautiful in our own way. No matter who tries to change us we have the strength to love ourselves and fly. (co-writers Jamie O’Neal,Jimmy Murphy, Lisa Drew)
GC: What is something people don’t know about you?
LS I collect vinyl records. My first purchase was on Santa Monica Beach Pier and I think it was either The Monkees or Foreigner Greatest Hits. I still listen to them all the time. I also got my start in musical theater.
GC: Where is this journey going to take you?
LS: I want to go as high and as far as I can go. I want to sing on the biggest stages possible and hear people singing my songs back to me. I want to inspire and make a difference whether its through my music or a message I may spread or stand for. Most of all, I want people to look back in 30 years and say because of me their world is a better place.
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