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Good friends do not bully

Gabriella Aguirre is a junior in high school, and is currently Miss Southeast Iowa's Outstanding Teen for 2017. She is exceptionally enthusiastic about dancing, singing, and playing the piano, along with possessing a passion for politics.

Gabriella first experienced bullying in middle school, where she was one of 16 students. Due to small class sizes, finding friends that she had things in common with was difficult. She felt isolated from both her peers and teachers because they did not agree with her beliefs. Therefore, Gabriella turned to one of her many passions, dance, to explore new friendships. Unfortunately, she was then bullied by the person she least expected.

“We were halfway through the dance season when my best friend told me she didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. Throughout the rest of the season, she was talking about me behind my back and spreading rumors. I was so scared to go to dance and face her. Who knew that one of my best friends would bully me?”

Through her personal experience with bullying, Gabriella understands the importance of standing up for others, and that true friends treat each other with kindness. She felt supported by her mom, her sister, and her dance coach. When Gabriella’s dance coach stood up for her, she realized what an impact that can make for someone who is going through a hard time, and that others should start standing up for what is right.

“For the longest time, I was wondering why my old best friend did not want to be my friend anymore. It was eating me up inside, but eventually I came to the conclusion that good friends do not bully. Kids today should be taught that you stand up for one another, not stand by someone that is “cool” or “popular” which could hurt others. It certainly made a difference when my dance coach stood up for me.”

Gabriella has been sharing her story and talking about bullying prevention at schools in her community. She also plans to organize a community-wide bullying prevention event!