Joshua Cowell Elementary School is still near and dear to the heart of Torrey Mercer.
The singer and motivational speaker was back by popular demand at the Manteca Unified school site, delivering her anti-bullying message to sixth-, seventh- and eighth- grade students.
On this go-around, she also met with youngsters at Lincoln Elementary School and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Manteca.
But it was Mercer’s appearance a year ago at Joshua Cowell that made a huge impact on students, according to Renee Coronado.
Her son, Blake, was an eighth grader at the school a year ago and had issues with being bullied when he discovered Mercer via Twitter.
“Everything is a lot better now,” said Blake Coronado, who is now a freshman at Manteca High.
Meanwhile, Mercer, who is a student at the University of California, Irvine, understands what it’s like to be a target of bullies.
Part of it is being different.
“I used to feel as if I were different when I was young,” said Mercer, who described herself back then as being pudgy with baby fat.
Her parents were athlete while she was anything but. “I was a singer but didn’t know it,” Mercer said.
She performed “Looking Glass” – Mercer also did her new song “I Believe in Me” – which earned a 2013 Indie Music Channel Award for Best Pop song. The song is about dealing with insecurities, said Mercer, who discovered her singing chops while doing musical theater.
She went on to take a leading role in over 30 musical theater productions and, at 13, took first place in competitions such as the National Glee Club Talent Competition, Del Mar TV Idol, and Search for Talent. Her vocal and musical coaches include Dorian Holly, who worked with both Michael Jackson and David Coury of American Idol fame, Leigh Scarritt (musical theater / pop training), Roy Mote and Bob Marks.
It’s also through music that Mercer is able to reach out to others and make a statement about the truths of bullying.
“Let me tell you what bullying is not – drama,” she said.
Bullies are repeat offenders and will target the same person, Mercer noted.
“That’s serious, serious bullying in its truest form,” she said. “We are talking about people who will not leave you alone.”
Mercer urged students to “stride to be your personal best and briefly touched on cyber bullying via cell phone and social media.
“There are steps to report it,” said Mercer, who delivered flyers on that very issue to the school.
She even offered advice on dealing with a bully.
“The best thing you can do is walk away,’ Mercer said.
She believes it’s important to accept others as they are.
“If you can look at people equally and with kindness and respect, you can go far in life,” Mercer said.
In addition, she had students take part in an interactive game called ‘cross the line.’ Youngsters were lined up behind the line and move forward when asked, for example, if they were said something hurtful either face-to-face or Internet to a fellow classmate.
They also ‘crossed the line’ if they made someone feel left out and unwelcomed or ganged up on a person either at the school or through the internet.
Meanwhile, Principal Bonnie Bennett shared some praise for youngsters, especially after their initial meeting with Mercer a year ago.
“At Joshua Cowell, we have a few bullying problems and then again we don’t – we’re lucky to have students who care for one another,” she said.