Bullying Through the Eye of Mill Valley Sisters

An effort to help a Novato teen pays off with 3,000 letter of encouragement

By Lori Preuitt
|  Thursday, Mar 10, 2011  |  Updated 10:30 AM PDT
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Bullying Through the Eye of Mill Valley Sisters

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Two young women from the Bay Area spent Thursday morning in the Oval Office.

They were invited there by the President of the United States because of their efforts to stop  bullying.

Emily and Sarah Buder, from Mill Valley, heard about a student in nearby Novato who was being bullied. They asked fellow student to write the girl letters of encouragement.

Emily Buder told the President Barack Obama, “A few years ago we read an article in the newspaper about a girl who was a year younger than I was. She was in 8th grade.  She dropped out of her school and she was being home-schooled as a result of being really terribly bullied by her classmates.  So my sister and decided we wanted to reach out to her.”

The idea went viral and turned into 3,000 "Dear Olivia" emails.

This is a transcript of his comments about the Buder sisters:

A couple other young people that I just had a chance to meet -- Sarah and Emily Buder, who are here from California.  They’re right here next to the First Lady.  And Sarah and Emily, they read a story about a girl named Olivia in a nearby town -- this is a girl they didn’t know -- who had faced a lot of cruel taunting in school and online because she had had an epileptic seizure in class.  So they decided to write Olivia a letter, and asked their friends to do the same. 
 
They figured they’d send Olivia about 50 letters. But in the months that followed, thousands and thousands of letters poured in from every corner of the country -- it really tapped into something.  A lot of the letters were from young people, and they wanted to wish Olivia well, and let her know that somebody out there was talking -- was thinking about her, and let her know that she wasn’t alone.  And because those children treated Olivia with that small measure of kindness, it helped Olivia see that there was light at the end of the tunnel.
    
The fact is, sometimes kids are going to make mistakes, sometimes they’re going to make bad decisions.  That’s part of growing up.  But it’s our job to be there for them, to guide them, and to ensure that they can grow up in an environment that not only encourages their talents and intelligence, but also their sense of empathy and their regard for one another. 

The president and First Lady Michelle Obama held a conference on preventing bullying at the White House Thursday saying they wanted to shine a light on an issue that affects millions of young people each year.

"If there's one goal, it's to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage," Obama said.

The Buder sisters idea became a book. Letters to a Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope contains 200 of them and was published by HarperCollins.

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