A long-running play turned into a film to reach students across the country

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In less than a week, students will return to school – and what parent doesn’t worry about their child making friends and enjoying their lessons?

The heartbreaking reality is that 1 in 5 children are bullied at school, according to the National Center for Bullying Prevention.

However, the National Center for Bullying Prevention also reports that bullying prevention programs in schools can result in a 25% decrease in bullying.

This is where Dan and Rebecca Burd are doing their part to make a difference.

For two decades, they traveled the country with a cast that performed their stage musical, Speak Life End Bullying the Musical, for hundreds of schools.

But to reach even more students, the musical was recently made into a movie that can be shown in schools nationwide.

For 20 years, Dan Burd said the musical played to 375,000 students in 31 states.

“Our new goal with the film is to reach 1 million students in 1,000 schools this year. That’s the difference,” Burd said.

Last month, the new film premiered at the Lyric Theater.

The story follows students you would find in any school setting: the new girl, the athletes, the theater goers, the prom queen, but also a student who is relentlessly bullied.

Behind each character is a story that shows they all experience struggles in their lives that might not appear on the surface. The Burds wanted students to be able to see someone they can relate to, encourage them to be kind to their peers, and also ask for help if they are being bullied, feeling down, or even having issues. suicidal thoughts.

Rebecca Burd said the film also comes with coursework that can be reviewed in a classroom setting.

“I just hope this happens in all schools and people understand that they are not alone and that there are people like them,” said Rachael Deboer, an actress in the film and the musical. on the scene.

“My character really shines a light on the effects that bullying really has, not just face-to-face interactions, but social media,” actress Emma Elizabeth Smith said.

The Burds say they were inspired to turn the musical into a movie when COVID prevented them from being able to perform in person at schools.

“It has always been in our hearts that any school, anywhere in the world can have access to this film and access this program at any time,” said Rebecca. When schools screen the film, students also have access to it on their phones for 30 days.

At the premiere, a teenage girl from Martin County was introduced who saw the production about nine months ago while battling depression.

It inspired her to get the help she needed through counseling and to open up to her parents, putting her in a better place today.

It was this potential impact that made Martin County native and Denver Bronco player Justin Simmons and his wife want to get involved. The Justin Simmons Foundation helped defray the film’s heavy production costs.

“We started our foundation with the goal of helping at-risk youth, and what better cause than bullying to partner with,” said Taryn Simmons.

“There seems to be something happening in our schools every two weeks and it’s really sad to see, and what a great opportunity we all have to do something about it,” Justin Simmons said.

Martin County middle and high schools will use the film this upcoming school year, according to Rebecca Burd.

She says they are also in talks with other local school districts. Rebecca says their main goal is for the state of Florida to adopt the curriculum for all middle and high schools. Representatives Toby Overdorf and John Snyder are supporters of the film and are seeking to push the idea to the Florida Board of Education.

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