Michelle, 12, has been a member of the Kimount Boys and Girls Club since she was six. The East Side club is one of seven Boys and Girls Clubs in Greater Vancouver providing after school hour programs for kids during the school year and day camps in the summer. (For safety reasons, the club prefers Michelle's last name not be revealed.) One of 200 Kimount members at the East Sixth Avenue clubhouse, Michelle is part of the VIP Leadership program, on the club floor hockey team and a champion of Pink Shirt Day, a student-led club initiative to end bullying and homophobia in schools.
After two Nova Scotia students organized a school protest in sympathy with a boy who'd been bullied for wearing a pink shirt in 2007, Pink Shirt Day has become an annual initiative across Canada. Michelle has been involved with the campaign since its inception. She is familiar with the issue of bullying having been teased herself by kids. "When I was seven, my two best friends decided to exclude me, started talking behind my back and leaving me out. I felt really alone," she said.
She reached out to Joel Thoms, a club coordinator at Kimount. "Joel was great! He helped me tell the other girls how I was feeling and helped us all to talk about it. It was a long talk," she said.
Michelle got involved with Pink Shirt Day because "it gives the whole world the perspective that people are being bullied and it needs to stop. Everybody should get to wake up in the morning feeling safe."
On Feb. 29, Michelle and her friends will again be part of the Pink Shirt Day campaign selling pink tees and buttons that read "Bullying Stops Here." In addition to street corner sales downtown, she and Boys and Girls club members will be talking to people about the importance of putting an end to bullying. Last year, nearly 50,000 shirts were sold.
What is your advice for someone being bullied?
Don't be afraid to go tell someone. How has Pink Shirt Day changed attitudes?
It's helping kids understand they shouldn't be mean to others because of dumb stereotypes like "pink is just for girls." I used to see kids being mean to each other-pushing and saying mean things-but I didn't think I could say anything because "I'm just a little kid, what do I know?" But now, there are hardly any bullies at my school.
Letting bullies know that they are doing something wrong.
For bullying to stop.
What does success look like? The world would be calm. Friends and people would be smiling in the morning when they wake up because they'd know no one was going to be mean to them.
One lesson you'd love to give others?
Stand up for what you believe in. If you don't like something that someone's doing, speak up and put a stop to it.
One thing you hate most about the world
Terrorism (it's like cyber bullying on a large scale)-World Wars-wait, pollution. I can't decide which one I hate the most.
Last book read?
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. Favourite movie?
Bridesmaids, but my mom fast forwards through all the bad parts!
Best thing about Vancouver?
Worst thing about Vancouver?
What is a perfect Vancouver day?
It's a sunny, summer morning. I'd go to the beach with my friends and play beach ball, and then get ice cream and hang out.
If you could be any celebrity?
Ellen "Generous" [DeGeneres].