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