Bullying is an unfortunate fact of life.
Singer Devyn Rush knows this from personal experience. The 23-year-old, who made a name for herself as the singing waitress in 2011 on "American Idol," was bullied from seventh grade through high school.
"I started kindergarten when I was 4," she says. "By the time I hit middle school, that one-year difference had made such a huge impact on my development. They looked at me as scrawny and weak. I was an easy target."
It was so bad, she has said, that she had to repeat sixth grade.
Rush is one of six musical guests who will perform at "Stand Up. Speak Out.," an anti-bullying event sponsored by Falcon School District 49 on Saturday at Security Service Field. Vertical Horizon, which is known for the popular 2000 single "Everything You Want," will headline. Other performers include Brian Jarvis, Brendan James, Taylor Watson and the local band The BottomLine. Between music acts, anti-?bullying and educational organizations will share information on how to recognize bullying and respond.
"Bullying is an issue in every school around the country," says Mindy S. Quinn, marketing and communications specialist for School District 49. "Over the course of the years, we've seen an increase in bullying and an increase in students who go directly from a school psychiatric setting for a (mental health) evaluation."
After Rush's "American Idol" experience revealed her struggle with bullying, Hey U.G.L.Y. (Unique Gifted Lovable You), a national bully prevention organization, asked her to be their spokesperson. For the past two years, she's traveled the country, going to schools and talking to kids. She also performs her songs, including "I am Enough."
In the conversation about bullying, she says, people usually talk about the kids who get bullied, but don't often talk about the bully. Whatever it is we're filled with - love or hate - is what's going to come out, she says.
"My motto is you can't give somebody something you don't have."
If somebody is bullied at home, chances are high the bullying will be paid forward.
"We always say bullying is the cause of bullying," Rush says.
The event is the last stop on the summer tour for Vertical Horizon. Matt Scannell, lead singer and guitarist, remembers how a neighborhood kid pushed him down and rubbed his face in the dirt because he wasn't good at football.
"I was able to wash my own face off," he says, "but a lot of kids aren't able to (distance themselves). We want to raise awareness about this. There's an important message to people who tend toward these tactics: It's a weak way of living and speaking. I encourage them to wise up and learn about the realities of the world. We're all different."
Adrienne DeBauche, a 16-year old junior at Falcon High School, is a peer mediator who's passionate about curtailing bullying. At a school assembly last year, she shared that she, too, was a victim in middle school when a rumor started about her got out of hand. She has advice for victims.
"Do not keep it to themselves, and don't let it bundle up inside them," DeBauche says. "Whether you tell a parent or a teacher, just somebody in authority. If you're a bystander, you should also tell. If you don't report it, that makes you guilty. Our big thing is report it."
"Stand Up. Speak Out."
Who: Vertical Horizon, Devyn Rush, Brian Jarvis, Brendan James, Taylor Watson, The BottomLine
When: 2-9:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17
Where: Security Service Field, 4385 Tutt Blvd.
Tickets: $15, $13 12 and younger, 55 and older and military; 591-7699, d49.org, email@example.com
Jennifer Mulson can be reached at 636-0270.