Cyberbullying: Kristina Calco
About Kristina Calco
Kristina Calco was a beautiful and talented young girl, born in 1989. She was an advanced student academically and an artist. Her birthplace was Lavonia, Michigan and a blessed gift the day after Christmas to both of her parents. Later they moved to Portage, Michigan.
She was described as growing up and being the "little princess" and every mother's "dream". She conducted herself like a little lady and was very feminine and "girly". One of her favorite things to do as a child was to play dress up in her mother's dresses.
Kristina adored her parents who instilled in her the wonder of learning and so she grew to love the world of reading. She would always plead with her parents when they read aloud to her "just one more time".
Her favorite holiday was Christmas and instead of celebrating her birthday on the real day that was only one day later, they did so on her half-birthday.
She was a straight A student, took ballet, and was a perfectionist. She set high standards for herself instead of her parents having to push her and set them for her. In middle school she also started extra-curricular activities at school such as volleyball, track, swimming, participated in Forensics, ski club, school paper, yearbook, and helped with the video announcements. She was already quite the overachiever and not only every mother's dream but also every college's dream.
In high school she attended Portage Northern High School where she became a cheerleader, continued in high school track, also further continued in Forensics, and played tennis.
She also had a natural God given talent as an artist. She excelled in sketching, illustrating, collage work, water colors, and loved to make beaded jewelry in her spare time. She was given the chance to apply for a scholarship at Cranbrook Academy of Art which is a premier prep school in the Midwest.
Her character stood up tall, right there with all of her achievements and talents as a person who loved all her family and her friends. Kristina was also very considerate of others, she would try to push the spotlight onto someone else that needed that attention and off of herself, fully of empathy and very sympathetic to others needs. She was always so giving and full of smiles for everyone around her.
Never would Kristina make fun of anyone else, and never would have intentionally harmed a soul.
So why would such a wonderfully talented, ambitious, intelligent, kind, giving, and honest soul kill herself?
Kristina started being bullied in the seventh grade that continued until she took her own life in December of 2005, when she was in the tenth grade. A boy would approach her daily stating things like, "you are ugly and nasty" and enlisted other kids to torment the girl by stating these things to her as well. He would also spread rumor's around the school about Kristina.
Kristina was said to have left two suicide notes. They were from her personal journal when she was in the seventh grade. She was said to have made these statements in these journals, referring to the above mentioned boy.
'Everyone that I have ever liked or loved, has rejected me ...They always said that I was ugly, and could never fit in......Or god your so ugly, I would never go out with you.'
Despite all that this young girl had going for her, she had very low self-esteem. This often happens when someone is the victim of any form of abuse, and bullying is a form of abuse.
Kristina didn't see what other people saw, she didn't see how beautiful, talented, and intelligent she was. She didn't see what a good person she was. She internalized everything that these boys taunted to her for all these years that she started to believe everything they said about her. She couldn't look at herself in a mirror, according to the Youtube memorial video of her, because all she saw was "ugliness and fat". She didn't believe that she looked good, but would act as if she did. She is quoted to say that it was hard to do and was "like lying-thinking I am pretty when I am not."
This young girl does what a lot of abuse victims do, and that is "put on a happy face".
Such an amazing young woman, couldn't understand why people would hurt someone else because "it caused her pain to see it".
Five months before her suicide, Kristina had a MySpace page and an AIM account where she posted a note entitled "ME". She wrote about her hometown,
I love Portage way too much to ever move. actually more like the people in Portage.
I am pretty much a nice girl...I think.
She talks about all she liked and didn't like and her views, as well as girl things like her style she liked. She ends the note,
I don't give up. After reading all of this I bet you have figured something out. There is no one like me and I know it. And that's okay.
On September 12, 2011 it was reported that CBS was airing a special episode of 48 hours mystery called "Bullying-Words CAN Kill". It was to be based on "Bullycide in America" and that was a book about Calco and six other teenagers that were victims. Kristina and other similar teenage stories had been the inspiration behind that book that was published in 2007. CBS was to air a small segment about the episode earlier in that week.
Seeing a Change in Kristina
The week before the dance, Kristina told her friends that she had something "big planned for Saturday night". December 3rd was the night of her winter formal. After breaking up with her boyfriend only three weeks prior, she wasn't planning on going. It was only after helping a friend get ready that she decided at the last minute to go ahead and go.
There had been a dance the day before Kristina had taken her own life. It was obvious to many that she wasn't acting like herself. That usual smiling and bright lighted girl, didn't look happy at all. What was most disturbing was that she was actually acting very strangely or differently than she normally did. Many people have said they asked her what was wrong and all she would say back is 'nothing'. Friends were reported to have asked many questions of her that night, as concerned friends would and should. At one point they even asked if she was going somewhere and she replied "kinda".
She did go somewhere, the next day she was standing at the gates of heaven as a writer of her story stated in their account of the tragedy. Kristina went home and at about midnight, the night of the dance and technically the next day, December 4th, she took a shower, put on her sleeping attire, said all of her good-nights to her family, then went down to the basement. She had been on MySpace and AIM for a couple of hours, like she did a lot of nights. She had taken the two notes with her. She turned off the lights than hung herself.
The next morning her younger sister found her hanging in the basement.
Her mother admits had she only known all she knows now, she might have been able to save her daughter. Very painful thoughts as a parent to feel that you could have and should have known and you could have and should have saved your child. Sometimes though, it isn't as obvious as people might think. Some behaviors seem like normal teenage emotions or actions. How do you know when its serious?
Early in the fall prior to her suicide, this straight A student started having trouble concentrating on academics. There were signs of stress, but with the kind of schedule this child maintained and to the level of excellence she put upon herself, I would think that would be expected. Her mother, Michelle Calco, did go and speak to the school about the difference in her daughter's behavior but they assured her there wasn't anything wrong thus nothing to worry about.
When the suicide happened a couple of months later it seemed to them such a shock, something that came out of nowhere.
Michelle now states she believes that the suicide was undiagnosed depression that was a result of the long-term bullying her daughter was enduring.
Kristina's mother did see she was acting differently but her daughter never told her about the boys bullying her to tears at school. It seems that she would answer her mother with "I don't know..." when asked what was wrong and wouldn't tell her afraid she would get others in trouble. After her daughter's death, Michelle read her daughter's journal and was horrified to see that her daughter was setting impossible goals for herself. An example that was shared with the media was before her 16th birthday (that she never saw);
"I would be gorgeous & have perfect hair & teeth & clothes & I'd have a boyfriend & I would have had my 1st kiss & I would be popular & have awesome shoes & be really thin & tall and all of the boys would wanna get with me & I'd be on Varsity Cheerleading & do Volleyball and have sweet abs & skinny thighs & fit into Abercrombie pants and be rich and ya know I'd be sooo happy & have a 4.0 still, and ya know if that doesn't happen I told myself I'd have to kill myself. I know how I'm gonna do it too ... but nevermind for now ..."
Kristina did maintain that 4.0 GPA but she didn't make Varsity cheerleading and didn't make the volleyball team. She killed herself 22 days prior to her 16th birthday.
In the end her parents, after seeing the changes in their daughter, attributed it to the phase of being a teenager. (As many of parents across the globe would do ).
Michelle ended up leading a movement against "bullycide".
Michelle Calco Holds a Forum For Parents
In September of this year, 2012, Michelle Calco held a parent forum on cyberbullying and suicide prevention. It was in Portage, Michigan in the high school's auditorium. The first hour was spent on cyberbulling and managing social media wisely. In the second hour, William Pell, executive director of Gryphon Place in Kalamazoo,gave a presentation on suicide prevention and the warning signs.
Parents were able to attend one or both sessions as desired.
“If I could go back in time, I wish I would have gone to a meeting like this in the fall of 2005,” Calco said about the Sept. 25 forum.
Quotes from Kristina Calco
"I knew I was always the ugly one. Don't say that's a lie because you don't know what some kids have said and done. It hurts to think how mean people can be. Even when I started to look a little better, they couldn't see."
In her journal Kristina wrote:
about meeting a girl she admired that was 'really pretty' and 'really nice too' and how every time she saw her, the girl would smile at her. She wrote, "Isn't that nice? Everyone likes her. I wish I was that."
Kristina didn't realize that too everyone else she WAS that girl.
The only reason I tell my sad sob story is because someday the public might know what a teenage girl goes through. So as you know nice guys finish last....well it might as well be nice girls finish last too.
Losing Such a Pure and Good Soul
The affect losing anyone is something to be thought about, and how we can prevent it. However, losing someone that could have given so much and more to humanity and to our future society is something that should never be forgotten and if this tragedy can do something for mankind is see that bullying affects all kinds of people and in all kinds of ways. That someone that seems so "perfect" and really in many aspects is what we all dream and wish for our own children, is a huge loss on mankind. If a death of this magnitude doesn't affect a human being in a soulful and painful way, than what does that say about humanity?
Every one of the stories shows that the world has lost something that they could have contributed. This young girl had a dream of finding a cure for AIDS. What if she WAS the person that could have found that cure? Her pure empathy for other human beings is in itself a rarity. Every college would have fought over this girl. She won't make a man a wonderful wife. She won't procreate and have children to carry on these traits that are so rare all in one person. She won't have a chance to find that cure for AIDS. She won't impact in a positive way the thousands if not millions of people she would have encountered over her lifetime.
This child didn't have any underlying mental conditions. She wasn't living in poverty. She wasn't in the inner city or involved in illegal activities. That isn't saying that deaths under those conditions are any different at all...but those are factors no one can blame for this girls suicide. You can't blame abusive parents, you can't blame a depressive or bipolar teenager, you can't blame a break-up. She didn't just get bullied even for months...this went on for YEARS. She wasn't weak for what she did either. For a child with all of this going for her to believe that the world was better off with out her is a tragedy and every child involved in this girl's life that didn't stand up for her, didn't report it, didn't put a stop to the bullying, for those that were encouraged to join in, those that watched, those that laughed or talked behind her back...those are the people that are just as much at fault and especially the boys that taunted this girl to death. One of these days high school would be over as it already is for these boys. These boys will one day look back and hopefully really feel grief for their own actions and ask for forgiveness for what they had a hand in.
Its one thing to get into childhood scuffles or arguments but it is totally another to taunt a girl for years who didn't deserve anything but kindness, who bestowed kindness on everyone around her, until she felt she had nothing to live for and end her life. Nothing they said about this girl was true. She was far from ugly. She wasn't stupid. She wasn't fat. (Not that you should say these things to those that you think are either). These were fabricated and mean things to say just to HURT SOMEONE ON PURPOSE. I hope that these boys will grow up and accept the magnitude of what transpired. I hope they ask for forgiveness and do whatever they can in the anti-bullying movement to show what bullies will deal with later in life. How it is to live with that guilt. Assuming they have any and I pray that they do. Then to forgive themselves and raise children that wouldn't do that to another human being. To be advocates for what they were once a part of. If any good can come of this, that is something that should be easy to achieve.