Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Local student’s anti-bullying campaign goes from strength to strength

A former St Paul’s High School pupil who has established herself as a leading anti-bullying crusader has seen her campaign take off in recent months, catching the attention of national media and winning more and more support every day.

Nineteen year old Anita Dennison, now a first year student at Queen’s University Belfast has been setting her campaign trail alight spreading her inspirational anti-bullying message which is borne from her own personal experiences at the hands of malicious cyber bullies.  At just 16 the Bessbrook girl endured a year long hate campaign as anonymous bullies bombarded her with vicious online abuse.

The teenager refused to buckle under the pressure of her ordeal and instead shared her experience in a positive way to help other young people in the same situation.

She spearheaded a zero tolerance approach to any form of bullying in St Paul’s, becoming the school’s Anti Bullying Mentor, and started her own anti-bullying Twitter campaign (@bully_dont) and website attracting over 5000 followers.

Her outstanding efforts earned her a Diana Award in February this year followed in June by a Spirit of Northern Ireland nomination for overcoming adversity.

The success and development of Anita’s campaign and her profile as a voice for victims of bullying continues to gather pace and the university student now finds herself in constant demand – with local police units, where she helps out with cyberbullying summits, with local and national radio and TV stations keen to hear her story, and as a keynote speaker at various events and bullying forums.  The inspirational student was the keynote speaker at the launch of “No Hate Speech NI” in Belfast alongside playwright Martin Lynch in September and spoke alongside Irish entrepreneur and Cycle Against Suicide founder Jim Breen and local hero Ryan Cinnamond at the Cycle Against Suicide SpinOff in Crossmaglen last month.

The Queen’s student  has a busy few months ahead kickstarting with an appearance on BBC 2’s “I Lár an Aonaigh” which airs at 10 pm tonight (Monday 16th November) where she chats to reporter Conall Ó Máirtín about her growing campaign.

Speaking to The Examiner about the amazing opportunities which lie ahead for her, Anita told us she is “extremely proud” to also be taking part in a TEDx event in Omagh at the end of this month. She joins Maria Walsh, last year’s International Rose of Tralee, Jim Breen and Police Academy star MIchael Winslow to speak at the event, which is part of nonprofit organisation TEDx movement to share ideas in communities around the world in the form of short, powerful talks.

“The theme is ‘Transforming Our Future’ and I will be speaking about bullying and what we can all do to make a difference,” says Anita.

“I am very proud to say that I will be the youngest speaker there and I’m really chuffed that I’ve written a speech about something so personal to me.

“On December 10th, I will have the privilege of MC’ing a Diana Award Prizegiving and Inspire Day in the Great Hall in Stormont. As a previous winner of a Diana Award this is particularly special to me.”

“It’s a very exciting time for me,” added the Bessbrook student.

“I started Queen’s in September studying International Studies and Irish and I’ve been accepted on to their “Inspiring Leaders” programme.  I also hope to have my Queen’s Anti-Bullying project “Quit University Bullying” accepted soon.

“I now have my own campaign wristbands and parent guides which have grabbed the attention of many individuals across the UK and Ireland so the campaign is really taking off!” “I love what I do, and if it means that someone can find hope in a dark time, that means the absolute world to me.”

Viewers can catch up with Anita’s journey in “I Lár An Aonaigh” on BBC2 tonight (Monday) at 10pm.