CHESTERTON | Devyn Rush, an American Idol contestest, stood at Westchester Intermediate School and spoke of being bullied as a teenager.
Her success as an Idol season 10 contest, her beauty as a 22-year-old singer and her confidence as an entertainer may leave many wondering how she could have ever been teased as a kid.
But Rush told fifth- and sixth-graders in Chesterton, as spokesperson for Hey U.G.L.Y. (Unique Gifted Lovable You), that she was tormented and taunted when she was the same age as those filling the bleachers.
“I was bullied a lot in middle school. I was scrawny and little and they’d say mean things to me,” Rush said Tuesday as she spoke for the nonprofit anti-bullying organization.
Rush grew up in a small Pennsylvania town and she said it was only after she recognized that she needed strength from within herself that she saw her life begin to change.
“I realized that one of the reasons why I was being bullied was because I didn’t love myself. Once I did that, it gave me confidence and the bullying stopped and I was able to go on to audition for American Idol,” she said.
On Idol, she became known as "the singing waitress."
The presentation, known as I AM ENOUGH, is part of Hey U.G.L.Y.’s initiative to educate students about bullying and give them tools to build self-esteem and help others.
Principal Shawn Longacre said the presentation was a continuation of their anti-bullying efforts.
“In spring of 2012, parent and student surveys indicated that bullying was a concern. We were only able to offer this program through a generous grant from the Duneland Education Foundation and I am confident that she connected with many of our students, faculty, and staff,” Longacre said.
One of those students, sixth-grader David Hamady, said Rush encouraged him to support fellow students he may see being teased or taunted and he also said that Rush’s words to build inner strength was also useful.
“When you wake up feeling good in the morning, nothing will stop you,” Hamady said.
Rush also spoke to students at Liberty Intermediate School to help them understand that feeling “good enough” is about accepting each other for all of their strengths and vulnerabilities.