FARMINGTON – When students at Mt. Blue High School arrived at school two weeks ago, they were greeted with hundreds of neon notes plastering the lockers and walls. Words of encouragement such as “you are talented,” and “love yourself,” were hand-scrawled on each of the 500 sticky notes, alongside more than 40 printed signs with uplifting phrases.
The project was organized by freshman Valerianne Hinkley, who was the subject of peer bullying several weeks beforehand.
“I just wanted to turn it into something positive. I know I’m not the only one who is bullied here. I thought other kids might like getting a nice message on their locker,” Hinkley said.
Hinkley said she overheard a group of people, mostly girls, talking about her in an unkind way. Girls who she thought were friends. When she tried talking to the group about what she had heard, they denied it. Hinkley also said she heard people laughing at her as she walked by, and was receiving nasty looks that she hadn’t been getting before.
“People told me to just block them on Facebook and it would all go away. But it really doesn’t. They still say things. They still find other ways to bully,” Hinkley said. “I had never been bullied before. Now I know how bad it feels.”
The young advocate is not stopping at post-it notes. She is currently in the process of organizing a visit from the Ridin’ Steel Bikers Against Bullying program. The motorcyclists travel the state presenting to schools about the ugly face of bullying, and ways to avoid getting caught up in it.
Finding adult role models was an important piece to Hinkley accomplishing her project. She not only sought support from the bikers, she was also backed up by one of her teachers at MBHS. When she noticed that some of her signs had been ripped down, the teacher requested they be replaced because another student had been asking where they were.
Hinkley said she plans on doing the post-it note project every year now.