Nikki Allinson is a great example of how some students who have been bullied can turn their experience into a passion for helping others. Nikki, currently 23 years old, experienced bullying in middle school and is now an advocate and leader for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a non-profit organization working to reduce biased-based bullying in schools.
Nikki’s story begins in middle school, where she said that her peers lacked an understanding about her Jewish heritage. When she asked for a day off from school for religious reasons, kids made fun of her for being Jewish both in person and through instant messenger. When the bullying got worse, she tried to avoid school but eventually told her parents about what was going on. Her parents gave her the support that she needed to get through the year, but the bullying continued. She notes that her parents’ support was critical for her to be strong enough to get through the school year. Her family moved to a new area following a change in her dad’s job. At her new school, the teachers, children and community were accepting of her Jewish heritage, but her experiences at her previous school continued to affect her.
At one point, her new school brought in the ADL for anti-bullying activities. After learning about how organizations were working toward ending the very bullying she faced, Nikki became committed to working toward making sure other students did not experience what she had.
Nikki now lives and works in the Columbia Heights area of Washington, DC. She teaches at Brainfood, a youth development after-school program for DC teens. Using food, cooking and urban gardening as a tool, Brainfood promotes healthy lifestyle choices while providing students with tangible skills and leadership development. She says that she enjoys working with DC youth of all ages, specifically in the non-traditional classroom setting.
When asked what advice she’d give to kids involved in bullying, Nikki suggests that kids, “use [their] resources.” When Nikki was growing up, she didn’t have as many resources as kids have today. She says, “Now that bullying has received so much attention, kids shouldn’t feel ashamed about being bullied, and should feel comfortable, or at least more comfortable than before about sharing their experiences with adults.” She encourages youth to reach out to different outlets for help. Nikki points out that it’s not only those who experience bullying who need support, but also those who bully.
Additionally, Nikki suggests more education across the board needs to happen in order to stop bullying. “Every school culture requires something different,” she said. Supportive teachers and staff is something all schools need. Nikki feels that the most important thing is for everyone in the school community to understand what bullying is, and how to react to it. She refers to the ED teacher training on how to stop bullying as a way to educate teachers about the topic, and to let them know of steps they can take to stop bullying.
Nikki is truly an example of how students can utilize their own experiences to change those of others. Hopefully her story will inspire others to help take a stand to stop bullying.