COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A concert in Colorado Springs on Saturday may have been the first of its kind anywhere, organized to focus on bullying.
The concert,"Stand Up, Speak Out" was organized by Falcon School District 49. Spokeswoman Stephanie Wurtz said the event took a year to plan, with the purpose of taking a stand against bullying beyond the school environment and include the entire community.
"We've been working with organizations across the country on this event and we really haven't uncovered anything that's been done like this." she said. "It brings music, anti-bullying groups and empowerment groups together."
The concert featured several performers from across the county, including Denver-based Vertical Horizon. Taylor Watson, a country singer and Denver native, sang "Waiting on Time," a song she wrote about being a victim of bullying herself.
"Kids can be horrible to each other," said Watson. "I think it's partly the age, and partly sticking them all in one building, and now there's texting and cyber. Kids who are bullied usually manage to hold it together in front of bullies. But they go home, and it's horrible. Emotionally, it really impacts you."
Watson said she believes her experiences as a victim helped her mature into a stronger person, and she hopes to provide encouragement to other victims.
But for kids who live with bullying every day, it's hard to see better days ahead. Chris Sanchez said he is in a group of friends regularly targeted by bullies.
"They push you and throw you across the lockers, or call you names in the hallway," said Sanchez, a senior at Vista Ridge High School. "I guess people feel alone and feel the need to strike out."
Sanchez said that he, like Watson, has grown stronger emotionally.
"I guess I learned to grow a thicker skin and just learn that (bullies) don't bother me any more," he said. "I try to stand strong and be the person I can be."
Perhaps surprisingly, many students attending the concert said they have no desire for revenge on bullies, or have them suspended or dismissed from school.
"Everyone has their own issues that they're dealing with," said Anastasie Moise, a junior at Sand Creek High School. "A bully might be going through something at home. What we can do is find a way to reach that person. You can't ridicule someone for being a bully. That would make you a bully, too. "
However, Moise said kids remain reluctant to report a bully because they fear reprisal from the bully. That has to change before bullying can end, she said.
"We also wanted parents to be here," said Wurtz. "We want them to understand what they need to look for when maybe a student is being bullied -- or being a bully."
Watson offered advice to bullying victims.
"Find the people who see you for who you are, and care about you , and love you," she said. "If you can't find anyone, turn to your parents or a counselor."