A country singer named 'Billboard Artist to Watch' is visiting some schools in Lockport and Tonawanda this week delivering an anti-bullying message. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says national country music singer Jessie Chris made Western New York one of her tour-stops.
Jessie Chris, 21, signed copies of her book for students at the Emmet Belknap Middle School in Lockport Tuesday.
"I just don't want any kid to feel the way I felt and I know that so many kids are experiencing bullying to some extend," Chris said.
Chris's book carries her own story of being bullied. Chris, who's from Massachusetts, tells WBFO News she was bullied at school and in the cyber-world because she wanted to be a country music signer. She told students how it crushed her confidence.
"It was not good – like I had anxiety, depression. I had no self confidence," Chris recalled.
Chris accepted the invitation to visit area schools from Joe Smajdor. He's the founder of Devin's Message Foundation. Last year his 15-year-old grandson Devin Kurzdorfer, a Kenmore West High School, with high-functioning autism, took his own life after facing bullying. Smajdor tells WBFO News they were persistent in reaching out to Chris's publicist and after reading. Devin's story, they said she would include the region in her tour.
“We are trying to bring these speakers out so that in some way it will reach these bullies," said Smajdor.
Chris asks students to tell those who are different they are awesome, to be kind to one another and and never give up on their dreams.
“And also the fact that I have songs they can put on when they are having a bad day. A lot of kids will say when listening to my music, reminds them that I went through what they are going through and you know helps them get through it,” Chris explained.
We spoke with three students, Aubrey Gong, Devin Darrell and Jasime Eisenberger, who say they see a lot of bullying.
"How do you stop it?" Buckley asked. "Just stand up and help the person feel better about themselves,' responded Gong.
"It was like inspiring," replied Darrell. "Do you ever get bullied?" Buckley questioned. "Last year I did," remarked Darrell.
"Have you every been bullied?" asked Buckley. "Yes," said Eisenberger. "What does that feel like?" "It feels like no body wants you around them and it's just hurtful," Eisenberger answered.
The highlight of the assembly was songs Chris performed. She announced starting Wednesday, one of the songs she wrote called "Rome" will be on the Nickelodeon channel.
The Lockport school was the 86 school Chris has visited nation-wide this year.
Chris will appear at the North Park Junior High School also in Lockport Wednesday and will speaks at Ben Franklin Middle School in Tonawanda Thursday.