Meet Samantha Sewell from Canada
In Canada, it is estimated that roughly 1 in 3 children are bullied each day. #bullyingawareness #speakup Click To Tweet While a wide range of factors, such as race, sexuality, gender, and class, can determine the likelihood of experiencing bullying, the prevalence of bullying remains an issue for many teenagers today. In particular, the effects that bullying has on a teenage girl’s self-esteem is particularly alarming. According to Dove’s research into the topic of appearance and bullying, it is estimated that girls spend 12 minutes preparing for a photo before they take one they want to post. Even after posting, roughly 44% of girls have deleted a post b/c it didn't receive enough 'likes'. #bodyconfidence Click To Tweet With so much social capital caught up in appearance and beauty, bullying has led to lower self-esteem among girls.
The emotional strain and negative experiences brought about by bullying can easily creep into our lives and lower our self-esteem. Rather than letting these negative experiences define who she is – or better yet, who she is capable of being – Canadian ChangeLeaderTM Samantha Sewell is taking a stand against bullying. Samantha is no stranger to being bullied. At a young age, Samantha was diagnosed with a severe speech impediment. As a result, speech language pathologists told Samantha that she may never speak like everyone else, and that people may struggle to understand her, for the rest of her life. To learn the alphabet, Samantha relied on sight rather sound; instead of sounding words out, she had to spell them out.
Due to Samantha’s speech impediment, people thought that she could not hear or understand them when they spoke. Her peers used to make a game out of ignoring her, and she would often arrive at school to see mean-spirited notes about her written in the bathroom. She would often eat lunch alone, waiting for the bell to ring, and would be constantly called names.
Having to work doubly hard to succeed in school, Samantha’s transition to high school was anything less than comfortable. She would often find obscene words graffitied on her locker, and would overhear her peers hurling ableist insults at her as she walked down the halls. Like any teenager struggling to find their identity, Samantha eventually succumbed to the insults and began to think these things of herself. Thanks to a few people, including her mother, a French teacher, and a group of grade 11 students, Samantha found the strength to stick through it and finish high school.
In fact, Samantha overcame both her speech impediment and this childhood adversity to become a public speaker, national role model for young girls across the country, and Miss Teen Canada! By being true to who she is and sharing her voice, Samantha is standing up to bullying and teaching the next generation of young girls to embrace their own identity.
As a result of her experiences growing up, Samantha has become a passionate advocate for the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign. Additionally, Samantha has used her experiences to create an anti-bullying and inclusion for all platform. Through her workshop, “Be Someone’s Hero, Not A Bystander”, Samantha teaches students and educators about the realities of bullying and what to do if they encounter these situations.
Samantha will always have a speech impediment, but she isn’t letting that slow her down. Through her youth empowerment work, she is proving just how resilient the human spirit is, and is teaching everyone from children to parents to teachers just how important anti-bullying practices and values are.