Valerianne Hinkley

FARMINGTON — When Valerianne Hinkley was first bullied and betrayed by friends last May, she was devastated and missed several days of classes.

She wanted to do something positive and raise awareness about bullying, so with the help of a couple of friends, the 15-year-old from Wilton anonymously left post-it notes bearing positive messages — love yourself, you are kind, you are beautiful, you are important, you are appreciated — on 800 lockers at Mt. Blue High School.

The bullying — verbal, taunting and cyberbullying — has not stopped but neither has the high school sophomore. 

Her experience has prompted a campaign to raise awareness about bullying.

Working two part-time jobs this summer, one at her grandmother’s store in New Vineyard and an ice cream shop in Wilton, Hinkley has used her earnings to purchase and distribute bright blue bracelets and posters bearing the message, Be Bold-Stand Up to Bullying.

The honor student and cheerleader is a finalist in the Miss Maine Teen USA pageant this fall. It is her first pageant, one intended “to bring her passion for raising awareness of bullying to the pageant as her platform,” her mother, Jennie Bouchard-Young of Wilton, said.

Hinkley has been invited, along with a couple of other students, to share her experience with middle school students this fall.

“It is good and bad to talk about it,” she said. “It’s hard to talk about it, it’s embarrassing … self esteem goes down and it feels like I’m going through it again. It’s good to be able to talk about it because it is good to get it off my chest and not hold it in.”

Hinkley wants to start a group at the high school whose main goal is to help do more, more positive notes and posters and befriending those without friends, she said.

There is also a one-act play underway, she said.

Her message to others reflects what her cheering coach says: “When you see a teammate bullied, even if you don’t like the person, you should stand up for them.”

“A lot of people have stood up for me,” she said.

Hinkley has received encouragement from the Ridin’ Steel Bikers Against Bullying program. They also have a bracelet program.  

She recently participated in one of their ride-ins to Deering High School where she and the bikers handed out bracelets to students with special needs.

She would like to bring the bikers to Mt. Blue, but the idea has not found a positive reception. It may have to happen at a community event, Bouchard-Young said.

Hinkley likes to read and write, especially poetry, because it is a way to let out emotions, she said. She wrote a poem about being bullied and read it to her class where those who bullied sat. It was very empowering, she said.

“Bullying is a huge problem but people don’t like to address the issue,” Bouchard-Young said.

Online postings, cartoons about suicide and stalking continue. One of Hinkley’s friends committed suicide in eighth grade, many self-harm, she said. 

“Some people think it (Hinkley’s campaign) adds to the drama but it is about awareness,” Bouchard-Young said. “I would rather she did this than harm herself.”

A car wash is planned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Labor Day, Sept. 4, at Sears in Farmington, to help raise funds for the pageant and to purchase more bracelets and posters.

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