Miss North Carolina USA visits Vance schools with anti-bullying message

Mar. 04, 2013 @ 06:59 PM

Ashley Mills has the life story for her platform.

She’s about more than the megawatt smile, the figure of a model and actress that is envied, and far more than the tiara that signifies her reign as Miss North Carolina USA.

Mills is a survivor of bullying, from her high school days in Raleigh after moving from Orlando, Fla. At age 17, her heart confirmed an unbridled advocacy against the mistreatment of students, from elementary age to high school.

Monday morning, she shared her story and provided doses of wisdom for students at Eaton-Johnson Middle, Henderson Middle and Northern Vance High. Students were attentive, she acknowledged she might have stepped on a few toes and adults in the rooms were glad to hear the message.

“She had a real-life experience and can tell about it,” said Sarah Hull, a Northern freshman. “Most people didn’t think she would be bullied because she’s a Miss North Carolina.”

Mills described a high school life like many: straight-A student, popular and extending love to many. What she got in return was gossip about unspeakable indiscretions, intimidation at her locker and even harassing phone calls.

“I was bullied all four years,” Mills told the students. “I questioned everything about myself. I didn’t think I was beautiful.

“Even today, I question why I was bullied.”

Mills, a 24-year-old N.C. State graduate, engaged students with questions. Northern students told her bullying increases stress, makes them question themselves and simply doesn’t feel very good.

Mills reminded them why they are in school, and how the peripheral parts of school need to go by the wayside.

“You’re here to learn, to get an education,” Mills said. “There are no check boxes on a college application for popularity, clothes, shoes or who had their hair done the most times.

“Stand up for who you are.”

She shared national statistics, including:

• Every seven minutes, a child is bullied.

• 160,000 students stay home everyday, fearing bullying.

• 282,000 students are physically attacked each month.

• 30 percent of students bring a weapon to school, in case they need to defend themselves.

• 43 percent of students fear harassment in the bathroom.

• 87 percent of students are motivated to get back at someone who bullied them.

And one of the most troubling, 80 percent who see bullying remain bystanders.

“Most people should take that into consideration when they talk about others or say anything to anyone else,” said Wagd Hauter, a Northern senior.

Mills, whose visit was set up in part by the behavioral support unit of the Vance County Schools Exceptional Children Department, shared a true story from California of a bullied student who returned to school with a list of names and a weapon. She asked the students to consider if someone did that with their name on a list, or if bullying led someone they know to commit suicide.

“Bullying is just not acceptable,” Mills said afterward. “The kids really seem to be receptive to what I’m saying, and that’s what is most important.”

She defined bullying as she began her presentation, and before students left, she asked them to stand and take a pledge against bullying.

“As long as they are listening, if it can resonate with one person, I’m satisfied,” Mills said.

Attentive eyes indicated she connected with more than one.

“They’re thinking about what they can do differently, or what can I change,” Mills said. “That’s what it’s about — making a change.”

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For more information on Ashley Mills and her campaign against bullying, follow her through social media:

• Facebook: missnorthcarolinausa

• Twitter: @realmissncusa

• Instagram: real_ashleylove

 

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.