NEW BUFFALO — The first school-wide assembly since 2019 for New Buffalo High School and Middle School students was used to deliver a powerful and positive message that included “You are not alone” and “I am enough.”
Victor Vargas, a rapper, songwriter and author of “Almost Bullied to Death” in which he shares his story of eight years of physical, mental and emotional bullying in school, spoke to high-schoolers in the morning and middle school pupils on the afternoon of Friday, March 4.
Vargas said he honestly didn’t think he was going to make it past the age of 16, let alone be able to perform his songs, write a book that can help a lot of people, or get world-wide attention for a human being artwork project.
“All of that to me was just a dream, but dreams do come true. They can come true for each one of you,” he said.
Beginning in elementary school Vargas said he was bullied by both Mexican- and American-born students.
“The Mexicans didn’t like me because I was born in the United States. The Americans didn’t like me because I was born to two Mexican parents here in the United States.”
Vargas said his parents didn’t know the bullying was going on because he didn’t tell them.
“I felt humiliated and I felt alone because of these bullies bullying me.”
During a question-and-answer session with high school students, Vargas said he revealed the truth to his parents as an adult, but he really wishes he could go back to his elementary years and tell then what was going.
Vargas said ultimately his biggest bully was himself as he began repeating the verbal things and negative thoughts from those tormenting him over and over in his head until he started to believe them.
“All of those negative thoughts that they have said to you are just lies … brought to you by people who are also having problems that they don’t know how to deal with, so they let it out on you,” Vargas said.
He suggested “deleting” every negative thought they have about themselves as if they were on a cell phone and replacing them with positive ones such as “I’m good at doing music,” and “I’m a good big brother.”
He asked for examples from students and was told by one “I went from no friends to having basically the entire school in a year.”
Vargas also had the crowd delete negative thoughts they have bout others and replace them with positivity.
He used the example of a “bully ball” to illustrate how people spread the negativity of bullying around to others they come in contact with. He said the best option is “delete” the bully ball by making a vow to never be mean to anybody, including yourself.
Vargas was in so much pain during his school days that he began cutting himself to relieve the pain, and he didn’t just contemplate ending his life, he attempted suicide three times.
“If it wasn’t for my parents coming and knocking on my door, I would not be standing here in front of you guys today,” he said.
Also Vargas said he sought solace by joining a gang which had been trying to recruit him. He said the idea that being in a gang would provide him with a sense of security and family was proved false.
He said a police officer told him at the time if he stayed on the path he as on he’d end up in prison, adding “I’m going to make sure you end up there.”
The gang began to fall apart, and Vargas said he began to focus more on high school with the goal of going to college (he currently plans to get a bachelor’s degree in Music Production).
Vargas also became increasingly involved in Hey U.G.L.Y. – Unique Gifted Lovable You – a national nonprofit organization that empowers youth to be part of the solution to bullying, racism, substance abuse and suicide attempts. This new direction began opening doors such as writing his own music, appearing on the Choose the Change radio show, and leading an anti-bullying assembly at his high school.
“All that pain does go away … talk to somebody. Talk to teachers, counselors, somebody. This isn’t just going to help you, it’s going to help others,” later saying “Be smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.”
He said a Hey U.G.L.Y. task force came up with this response on how to deal with a bully – “Who is treating you so mean that you have to be mean to me?”
He also said an app called I See Bullying allows people to come to the aid of others.
Victor’s rap name is Lil Sylnc (pronounced Lil Silence), to illustrate the importance of not being silent about your pain, but rather about listening to others share theirs. During the morning assembly he performed two of his original songs.
“I am living my dream. I am doing what I was meant to do.You guys are the reason why I do presentations,” he said.
The Hey U.G.L.Y. website (www.HeyUGLY.org) offers help lines, “and they’re wanting to help.”