A Carlisle teen is using his experiences to build an online community to help others deal with bullying.
Now a 10th grader, Dominic Michelone, who uses the stage name Dominic Garcia, had his first experiences with bullying in elementary school when other children made comments that affected his self-esteem, mental health and, eventually, his academics.
In seventh grade, the bullying got to the point that Garcia enrolled at Reach Cyber Charter School, a tuition-free, online public charter school for students in grades K-12. Since then, he has turned his experiences into lessons he shares with an online community that he’s grown primarily though the livestreaming platform, YouNow.
According to stopbullying.gov, about 20% of students between the ages of 12-18 have experienced bullying.
In today’s five questions, Dominic Garcia talks about his journey and work.
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When did the bullying start for you?
The bullying began in third grade when I moved away from my hometown and transferred schools. The first few days of the school year went very smoothly without any complications. After a month or two the bullying started and got worse from there on. I was told I was a waste of oxygen, I didn’t belong in that school and I was made to feel like I was an odd one out.
At some point, you made a decision to grow beyond the bullying. What was that turning point?
It took a few years to realize not only what bullying really was but why bullies do what they do. In sixth grade, I finally looked into what was happening and developed ways to handle it. My first point of growth was the day I talked to my mom about transferring schools. We decided to switch schools after the school year ended and that’s what turned my life around. After transferring to Reach Cyber Charter School, having the freedom I did, is what sparked the idea to start raising awareness and developing a platform to talk about mental health.
My seventh grade school year I began creating social media accounts and later started streaming on a broadcasting platform, YouNow. My broadcasts are mainly dedicated to talking with people around the world, helping them with any struggles they’re going through and raising awareness for various mental health related issues.
Being a singer/songwriter, singing and writing my own music through rough times has saved my life. Being able to escape with music and silence everything else going on around me was the best medicine for me. I’ve previously worked with multiple foundations to raise money including the Born This Way Foundation by Lady Gaga.
How have you grown since then?
I’ve grown so much since I’ve made the decision to do what I do now. Talking about my past and using it to help inspire and motivate people who relate to what I’ve been through has been so wonderful. Seeing people smile day by day because of what my community and I do for them is everything I could’ve ever dreamed of. I lived in a world where I never experienced any form of happiness or smiles, and now seeing where I am feels so surreal.
What do those doing the bullying need to know about their actions?
Bullies need to realize, what you say shows a lot about you. Bullying someone shows jealousy, low self-esteem, and a lack of confidence. What bullies don’t understand is the people they bully may seem weak at the time, but in the long run they’ll always come out stronger. If you bully someone because it makes you feel stronger, smarter or better, dig deep into what you’re actually doing. It may make you feel better but at the same time you’re making other people feel 10 times worse about themselves. Bullies ultimately need to realize what their words can do. I was on the verge of death multiple times. You don’t know how seriously you can affect people until something tragic happens.
What can those who are being bullied do to help their situation?
If you’re being bullied, the number one thing I will always preach is walking away. Ultimately, if bullies don’t have anyone to bully they can’t succeed. The longer you associate with bullies the worse your situation will get. Talking to one you love and trust is also another great way to heal. Family, friends, or even professionals can really help with making you feel less alone. Also, find something you’re passionate about and immerse yourself in it. Use anything you enjoy to be the escape route for what you’re going through.
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