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Miss North Carolina talks to students about bullying

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@gmail.com

ENOCHVILLE — Students at Enochville Elementary School had a special guest Monday in McKenzie Faggart, Miss North Carolina 2016.

Since winning her title in June, Faggart, 21, has toured schools to speak to students about how to deal with bullying.

Faggart shared her own story Monday. When she was a senior in high school, she said, some friends of hers began to talk about her and say mean things to her. She went to a small high school and described how other students would whisper about her when she entered a room or mock her on social media. Throughout the year, she struggled with anxiety and depression.

But she made her way through it, and it’s a journey that she now shares with others.

Faggart said students are always told not to bully others.

“But they’re never told what to do when they are bullied,” she said.

Maybe, she said, they’re told to ignore it or to tell a teacher. But it can be hard for children in that situation to talk about what’s going on, she said.

“Some kids, that doesn’t work for them,” she said.

Her strategy, called the S.A.F.E. Project, is one way that kids might learn to overcome bullying because “bullying isn’t something that’s going to go away.” It’s a dark facet of society that’s been around for decades, she said, but with the S.A.F.E. Project, maybe the world can be a little kinder.

S.A.F.E. stands for support, accept, forgive and evolve. Not only is it a way for bullied children to cope, but it’s a way for others to help friends who are dealing with being bullied or a way to spread warmth and compassion.

Faggart asked the students to think of something that would help them overcome hardship.

“What is it that’s going to build you up and keep you grounded?” she asked.

One of the first steps Faggart said she took was to be supportive of others and to build a support network around herself.

“It’s important not only to have a best friend, but to be a best friend,” she said.

She encouraged students to say nice things to each other and to compliment friends.

She said it is important for people to accept that others might be different from them, and that is OK, but it doesn’t mean that the two can’t be friends.

When someone hurts you, often it is up to you to learn to move past it and continue to be happy, she said.

“I think that forgiving someone is the hardest step, because we never really forget,” she said.

Often, people won’t apologize if they hurt you — but she stressed that it is important for the students to be the bigger person and apologize should they ever hurt someone themselves.

Life goes on, and people will learn and grow, she said. The last step, she said, is evolving — or growing — despite the difficulty.

Afterward her presentation, students raised their hands and asked questions. Older students had an opportunity to be in a photo with the pageant winner.

“It’s always nice to have a young adult role model talk to students about the responsibility of their behavior,” Assistant Principal Erik Stubblefield said. “… This is an issue that everyone takes seriously.”

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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