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She was once a bully herself, now this Scarborough high school student is an anti-bullying advocate

The first few years in Canada were difficult for Allison Stone. The 17-year-old arrived in Toronto from Jamaica when she was 11, but almost as soon as she started Grade 5 she didn’t fit in.

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Allison Stone is a grade 11 student at West Hill Collegiate and leads an anti-bullying club called RISE Program. (Jon Castell/CBC)

The first few years in Canada were difficult for Allison Stone. The 17-year-old arrived in Toronto from Jamaica when she was 11. But almost as soon as she started in Grade 5, she didn't fit in.

"It was hard to find friends," said Stone.

Allison Stone pictured as an elementary student in Jamaica. (Allison Stone)

"A lot of the staff at the school [were] just looking down on me saying that, 'Oh she's from a third world country, she's not as smart as others,'" recalled Stone.

She says feelings of insecurity and isolation caused her to act out at school.

"Basically in Grade 5 and 6 I became a bully."

"I didn't really care much for school. Because of how tall I was it was an instant, 'Oh she's a bully, she's taller than everyone else, she's bigger than everyone else, she's a bully'", she explained.

"My whole life just turned around" 

Allison Stone, right, pictured with her Grade 8 teacher Dale Sawyers, left. (Allison Stone)

Once she got to middle school, Stone's life changed and she credits one grade eight teacher, Dale Sawyers.

"I had this teacher who was like, 'Why do you act this way? I know you're smarter than this. I know you have potential.'" Stone explained.

The Grade 11 student says knowing someone believed in her made all the difference.

Grade 11 Scarborough student Allison Stone runs an anti-bully group at her high school. 5:02

"He was just there to guide me and let me know that...I don't have to follow the stereotypes everyone else puts on me. I can just be who I am and that I am smart. So in Grade 8, my whole life just turned around."

She capped off Grade 8 by being named her school's valedictorian.

Allison Stone with members of the RISE Program at her school. The program is a student-led initiative that runs anti-bullying campaigns and workshops. (Jon Castell/CBC)

Now a Grade 11 student at West Hill Collegiate in Scarborough, Stone has made it her mission to fight bullying.

She leads her school's RISE program - a student-led initiative that runs anti-bullying campaigns and workshops for students in younger grades.

"I feel like Grade 9s they come into this school and they're scared," Stone described.  

"Whatever grade you're in, you have a voice and you need to use that voice for any situation that's happening."

In addition to the RISE Program, Stone also sits on her school principal's council and athletic council and is often called on to help mediate conflicts between students.

A role she has a great appreciation for.

"It's just this feeling of knowing that I'm wanted somewhere. The feeling that just me saying something can make a change in someone else's life."

About the Author

Marivel Taruc

Host of Our Toronto

Marivel Taruc is an award-winning journalist and weekend anchor of CBC Saturday, and CBC Toronto News at 11 on Sundays. She is also the host of Our Toronto. Marivel graduated from Ryerson University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. She is happiest when she's gathered around the dinner table with her husband and two daughters - and a plateful of Filipino food.