Emily Bland, reigning Miss Teen Newfoundland and Labrador, and children’s book author Jackie Squire pose for a picture during a recent speaking engagement at a school. — Submitted photo
One day back in September, reigning Miss Teen Newfoundland and Labrador, Emily Bland, had the opportunity to visit a school alongside Jackie Squire, author of the children’s book “The Life of Little Hoot.”
That meeting, and subsequent presentation to the kids, left a lasting impression on Bland.
“I left it in tears,” she said.
“(Squire) has overcome being autistic to the point where she can get up in front of 60 people and read a book. And that’s absolutely inspiring, because I can barely get up in front of 30 people in my own class,” she said.
“The Life of Little Hoot” is partly based on Squire’s own experiences of growing up being different and having been picked on and bullied.
She had been working on the book for a long time but was never able to rustle up the funds to publish it — until it came to the attention of MUN entrepreneurial student group Enactus Memorial (formerly known as Sife Memorial) about two years ago.
Squire has been travelling the province since her book was published. She visits schools, reads her book and talks to the students about being the victim of bullying.
Bland, who’s also a member of Enactus Memorial, met Squire during one of these visits, and they decided they should partner up on a more formal basis.
They’ve arranged to visit several schools in Newfoundland together, starting Dec. 17, and are open to more organizations or schools approaching them. Anyone who would like to have the women visit their group can contact Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As it turns out, both of them have stories to tell about bullying.
Bland, a first-year student at MUN, said she’s gone through her own share of bullying, both physical and online. There were a lot of sleepless nights and afternoons spent hiding in her room during her high school years, she said, and she’s looking forward to sharing her experiences with others.
“I think it will be emotional at first,” she said. “But by the end of it it’s going to heartwarming, because you’re going to see on those children’s faces how much of a difference you’re making for them.”
She got through it, and Squire got through it, so the kids they speak to can also get through it, she said.
They just need someone to help them along.
“At the end of the day ... it’s their own opinion that counts,” she said.