This is Olivia Vella, a 13-year-old student from Queen Creek Middle School in Arizona, who was brave enough to speak openly about peer pressure and bullying. As a year-end writing assignment, Olivia composed a slam poem on the topic, which she then presented to her class. Her school posted the presentation on Facebook to share her “extremely powerful words.”
Olivia delivers her poem in a powerful monologue. It offers a glimpse into what it means to be an adolescent girl today. Also, it reveals the types of struggles that middle schoolers face as they transition into adulthood. Here’s an excerpt from her presentation:
Pick out an outfit that will fit in with the latest trends and won’t make you the laughing stock of the school. More than you already are.
Put on some makeup so you can actually show your face in public so you can be a little bit pretty.”
Molly Vella, Olivia’s mother, revealed in an interview with a CBS Phoenix affiliate KPHO that some classmates had made fun of Olivia in the past because she got good grades. Mrs. Vella shared:
She came to me one day and said, ‘Mom, next year I just want to be dumb. Because I want to be like those other girls, I want them to like me.’ And it broke my heart.
Why are intelligent and beautiful girls such as Olivia becoming so concerned with appearances? No, it has never been easy during those awkward middle school years. But, I believe that today’s world of pop culture and social media is partially to blame.
Pop culture has had a visible impact on how quickly children stop being children. The youth are constantly exposed to media that objectifies women and places excessive importance on looks, style and body size. Furthermore, media companies specifically target the youth through a multitude of media channels. What’s sad is that pop culture places little importance on intelligence, character and individualism.
It is up to us as mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors to let everyone in our lives know that they matter. That they are good enough. Similar to Olivia’s final point in her speech:
You are loved. You are precious. You are beautiful. You are talented. You are capable. You are deserving of respect.
And most of all, you are good enough.
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