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Singer to Cowell students: ‘I, too, was bullied’

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Singer to Cowell  students: ‘I, too, was bullied’

Joshua Cowell Principal Bonnie Bennett, right, and the group of fourth and fifth graders, applaud during one of the program stints at the school on anti-bullying given by award-winning singer-songw...

ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin


POSTED September 10, 2013 1:46 a.m.

Torrey Mercer made a confession. The 20-year-old said she was bullied for 13 years.

Her voice cracked as she recalled her own personal torment growing up.

“When I was little, I was chubby,” she said, citing the reason behind the bullying she endured for many years.

But it was an incident that happened while she was in fifth grade which remained vivid in her memory. While playing soccer with her team one day, they were instructed to partner with a fellow player.

“Everyone picked each other except me,” she said with a catch in her voice that she was not able to camouflage.

Then one girl reluctantly held out her pinky to Mercer. “She didn’t want to touch me,” Mercer said, her voice laced with the remembered pain.

Mercer, today, is an award-winning up-and-coming singer/songwriter who is using her talent and fame to bring her anti-bullying message to the public at large and to school children everywhere. On Monday, she brought her music and anti-bullying message to the students at Joshua Cowell Elementary School.

Some of the nuggets of wisdom she shared with the students, teachers and parents alike:

• No one deserves to be bullied.

• Sometimes, people are bullies because they are insecure. Not to minimize bullying, Mercer said, but for that reason alone, bullies deserve to be helped too.

• There are different ways you can bully somebody. You can bully somebody by saying something mean. You may think what you said about somebody was funny but it really hurt their feelings. So it’s really important to be kind to somebody.

• Sometimes you don’t know that what you’re doing is considered bullying, so always think before you act. Once you realize what you’ve done, though, admit your error and apologize. Simply say, “Oh, my gosh! I shouldn’t have done that. I’m so sorry,” Mercer said.

In between dancing and singing using her own original songs that she wrote, Mercer interacted with the students by talking about the subject of bullying. Asked what they could do to stop bullying, the students came up with the following answers:

• Tell your teaching about any bullying incident. “That’s very important,” agreed Mercer.

• Stand up for yourself or for someone you care about. “That’s a big one, to stop (bullying) from happening,” commented Mercer.

• Just walk away. “That’s another great one,” said Mercer.

Now a student at the University of California – Irvine where she is majoring in drama and English, Mercer said that while in middle school and up to when she was in high school – she was already singing and writing her own songs at the time – she was constantly bullied.

“Some people would play my music and make fun of it. They’d laugh and sing along to (my song) and make fun of it. That really hurt my feelings,” she said in between performances at Joshua Cowell on Monday.

She said her appearance in Manteca is part of her effort to focus attention to what is coming up in October which is Anti-Bullying Month.

“I try to do it whenever I can,” she said about visiting schools such as Joshua Cowell to share her anti-bullying message.

Her stint before the Cougars at Joshua Cowell was gratis. The Parent Teacher Community Club paid for her travel expenses from San Diego.

Her visit was facilitated by Renee and Jimmy Coronado whose son, Blake, is an eighth grader at Joshua Cowell. Blake was actually the one who told his parents about Mercer and what she is doing to fight bullying in schools. It was Blake who introduced Mercer during the performer’s appearance before the junior high students in the afternoon.

“Blake has his own struggles with bullying, so he was the perfect one to introduce Torrey today,” Principal Bonnie Bennett said in her introduction to the junior high session.

He said that after “reading about her and listening to her music, my dad encouraged me to reach out to her,” which resulted in the invitation to visit Joshua Cowell.

Bennett said that one the things that surprised her when she became principal at Joshua Cowell four years ago was the prevalence of bullying and that it was happening even in the third grade. But bullying is bullying. It doesn’t matter in what grade it happens, she said. And her goal, she added, is to create “a super-duper positive culture” on campus.

“It’s my dream, and it’s not an impossible thing,” she stated confidently.

One of the songs that Mercer shared with the students was “The Looking Glass” which she wrote based on her personal experiences with bullying.

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