October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and we’re commemorating it with an exclusive interview with two women who are making a difference in the lives of students with their Don’t Wait to Stop Bullying campaign, which is part of the Don’t Wait Project. Author and radio show host Lisa Bradshaw is a courageous woman who beat cancer at the age of 24, only to lose her husband a few years later to a lung illness. As a single mom with a five-year old boy, Bradshaw was determined to not only make a difference in the life of her and her son, but in the lives of others as well. She decided to start the Don’t Wait Project to encourage others to not wait to attempt what they’ve set out to achieve their entire lives or just something they may have put off.
Successful entrepreneur Nancy Tedeschi who was bullied horribly as a child, was a guest on Lisa’s show and mentioned that she’d like to work together with the radio show host on a campaign to end bullying, and the rest is history. The two inspiring women are working together to make waves and bring change to top bullying, and joined me recently to discuss their campaign, and how we can get involved.
Successful author and radio show host Lisa Bradshaw.
Successful entrepreneur Nancy Tedeschi.
Candace Rose: For those that don’t know about the Don’t Wait Project, can you tell them more about it?
Lisa Bradshaw: “When I was writing my book “Big Shoes”, I was writing about the loss of my husband and the seven years after, and being a single mom to our five-year old son, and just trying to move on with life and making a lot of mistakes along the way and feeling like I fell down a lot. It focuses on his year long illness and the seven years after, and felt when I was writing the book that many people, even close to us were going to be learning of our story for the first time because when you’re dealing with someone who has an end stage illness, in addition to it being a lung illness – he was deprived of oxygen constantly. It was very different, I had cancer when I was 24, so when I had a good day I could go for a walk. He didn’t have good days. He couldn’t go for a walk. He couldn’t read to our five year old son anymore, and so I felt a lot of the story was going to be pretty sad, and I wanted people to push through and read on, and see what good had come from it. I struggled with that for about the last month that I was writing the book, about what could I give to readers who are investing 382 pages into our story, and the time and emotional tact that would take.
One morning, after thinking about that for some time, I woke up at 5:30 in the morning and had the idea to launch a project. I’d worked with non-profits for about four years, and understood how to fundraise, and knew how to get people behind something if they believed in it and we launched a project that would get people to do what they otherwise would put off, what they were waiting to do. And doing simple things like using your grandmother’s china or calling an old friend, and doing the big things to like getting a mammogram and making sure you’re taking good care of yourself and family.
So that’s how it started, and my hope has always been to be able to tell other people’s stories because I’m a writer and I like to do videography. I’d hoped that we could get stories off to us, and we could share those stories. And then when I interviewed Nancy on my show for her entrepreneurship, and her being an inventor and receiving awards in her community, we started talking about her passion for anti-bullying, and she asked if I would help because I had marketing experience and knew how to get the word out. I said we can do it, but we need to do it under the umbrella of The Don’t Wait Project because I’m still focusing in the same direction for myself too, and that’s what we’ve done. We’ve spent a lot of time deciding how we want this to look and simple fun things like ordering t-shirts and changing the website, and those things. So that’s how the Don’t Wait Project got started and the Don’t Wait Stop Bullying campaign came from.
Nancy was working with a gentleman in New York who has won all kinds of awards with his program and a documentary that he did “How to UnMake A Bully”, and now he goes into schools and he spends time with the students, they write, produce, direct, film. They act in these public service announcements, and the theme of these messages are really having the influence of their peers, and if a bully is confronted he or she will retreat in 10 seconds half of the time. So there’s a lot of power in numbers just having one or two kids standing up. We’re not talking about fighting back and having fights at school. When there’s no audience there’s no show. If the kids aren’t participating, it becomes less satisfying to someone who is bullying. For instance on Facebook, if there’s a negative post, instead of liking it, commenting it or even keeping it – delete the post, possibly delete the friend; but definitely don’t contribute to the message. Again, if there’s no audience there’s no show.”
Candace Rose: Nancy, can you talk about your experience as a child being bullied? And has being bullied as a child affected you as an adult?
Nancy Tedeschi: “When I was a child I had really bad buck teeth, and I got picked on mercilessly. I actually withdrew into myself and was very alienated, and I was a horrible student because of it. They had told my parents that they thought something was wrong with me developmentally, and that they wanted to give me an IQ test. They did and my IQ was 92, which was very low. I barely got out of high school. My father was a professor, and was it always drilled into us that education was the only way to make a living for yourself, and so after about six years of being out of high school I actually applied to a community college and I got declined because my grades were so bad. They made me take some remedial classes which I did, and I graduated from the community college with a 4.0 average. I then went onto Albany State University, at the end they gave me an IQ test and my IQ was 146, which is way above average. Being bullied just stifled my whole life actually. I didn’t like myself, I didn’t really know myself because I had been afraid to know anything, because I had been hurt so bad.
I’m a very successful inventor now. I’m in a lot of major retailers, I’ve got patents all over the world and I’ve won numerous national and international awards in the last three years. I don’t know much about screws, but I did invent one that’s been very successful. And I always tell Lisa that it wasn’t me, God gave me one moment of brilliance and I actually capitalized on it. I feel like God gave me a path a long time ago and he’s actually given me this screw to get the revenue so I can actually do what my passion is, and that’s this program that Michael and I, and Lisa are doing, which is an unbelievable program. It’s had quite an impact on these children and we’ve gotten testimonials from both the kids and the teachers. One of the kids testimonials said ‘I think I used to bully once in a while and after Mr. Mike came into our classroom, I won’t do that again.’ He (Michael Feurstein) did a 27 minute film that won quite a lot of awards, it’s called ‘How To UnMake A Bully’ because our belief is that the bully isn’t a bad person; the bully has a bad behavior. So if you can umake the bully in part of that person, then you have a kid that’s likeable. We try not to alienate the bully as well because it’s education and who knows where this kid came from and why he is what he is. It’s a really great program and we’re getting a lot of positive feedback from it.”
Candace Rose: What can parents do if they suspect their child is a bully and bullying other children?
Nancy Tedeschi: “That’s the big question because it’s hard to tell a parent that your child is a bully because parents don’t want to hear the negative about their children. I’m a mother, Lisa’s a mother. Although I look at it a little differently, but I think that it’s hard to do that, and that’s why it’s almost better to educate the kids and let the kids educate their parents.”
Lisa Bradshaw: What we’re trying to do is change the thought process of the kids around it, not contributing to it and standing up to it and that’s really the goal of this program. If you just focus on the positive element of it, not the consequence and not the discipline, not the policy; but just the positives, that’s the kids standing up for each other and not in physical harmful, violent ways and just giving a kid their seat on the bus.”
Nancy Tedeschi: “When these kids actually shoot these films, they actually do the shooting and the sound. They’re so involved and they love it, because they think of Hollywood. They’re making a movie, and it really gets the message into their hearts, and not just in their heads.”
Mike Feurstein, a local filmmaker, works on filming a promo for his recent anti-bullying film with school children at Glendaal Elementary School in Scotia, NY Friday Aug. 19,2011. ( Michael P. Farrell/Times Union)
Fourth graders star work with filmmaker Michael Feurstein to stop bullying in its tracks.
Candace Rose: Will they also be featuring the videos in high school or just in elementary schools for now?
Nancy Tedeschi: “Michael started a few years ago with a fourth grade class, and he’s been following this class and when they get into the eighth grade we’re going to do another video. If the program grows and grows and grows we’ll get to that point.”
Lisa Bradshaw: “I think that the high schoolers have different issues that they deal with in terms of bullying. For example my son is 13, he’s been asking for a Facebook for a couple of years, and I’ve just started to let him have one, and only family can only be his friends on his Facebook. And that doesn’t assume all of the family. He has to ask permission before he friends somebody. I figured starting with family would be a good example for our son to have that interaction, and see what other interaction people are having that he is comfortable with and what he’s not comfortable with.
There’s one boy that I’ve talked to who is afraid to go into the bathroom of the school. You don’t walk into the bathroom of schools all by yourself, which I never thought about that as a kid. I definitely think that we’ve always had bullying. I think Nancy is a testament to that. I had a girl who bullied me much of grade school. I never knew what Monday was going to be like, I didn’t know what rumors she had started over the weekend. We have some statistics that one out of four teens are bullied, nine out of 10 experience harassment in school and online, and then the really startling one is that as many as 160,000 students stay at home on any given day because they’re afraid of being bullied.”
Behind the scenes video from the PSA fourth graders from Lake Avenue Elementary school created:
The completed PSA the fourth graders from Lake View Elementary school created to stop bullying:
Candace Rose: You see it (bullying) on the news all the time. Do you think it’s getting worse or are more people speaking up about bullying?
Nancy Tedeschi: “It’s been around. I don’t think it’s getting worse. I think that social media and internet is bringing it more to a forefront so the media can see what’s going on out there. I know it was bad when I was a kid.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any advice you can share with parents on educating their children on how they can stop bullying?
Lisa Bradshaw: I think it’s just about teaching your kids how to be a friend. I think if you have the common sense and common kindness to others, you are going to be the child that offers their seat to the person on the bus and there’s strength in numbers. It takes one or more times. It can’t be interesting or fun. I know that bullies get some sort of satisfaction from doing it.
Parents really need to pay attention and talk to their kids, engage with their friends when they’re there. Ask what they think of the bullying that’s happening at school, and what can they do to be a part of change. It’s communication, like anything else.”
Nancy Tedeschi: “Don’t make light of it. Even if your child comes home and doesn’t tell you that he’s being bullied, but he’s withdrawn and apprehensive about going to school. You’ve got to dig, you just can’t ignore that.”
Candace Rose: Do either of you have any additional information you’d like to share?
Nancy Tedeschi: “The proceeds from Snap-It Screw is paying for this project. Anyone who buys the Snap-It repair kit, the revenue is definitely going to fund this project at this point.”
Lisa Bradshaw: “We have t-shirts now. We posted our Don’t Wait To Stop Bullying t-shirts on the internet when we got them in, and right away we started having people messaging us saying that they wanted to buy some. All of the proceeds from my book “Big Shoes” benefit The Don’t Wait Project, and t-shirts that we’re doing and media kits that we’re sending out. The goal is to get into these schools and try to make an impact one by one.”
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