Jessie Chris has enjoyed quite the 2018 thus far. She has been on the road celebrating the success of her new album In It For You and made a big splash on Today. Recently, while on a promotional tour for the album, she began mixing in stops at various schools in each community she was visiting to talk about a cause that is very near to her heart – bullying in schools.
All told, the rising singer-songwriter has announced plans to make visits to over one hundred schools while promoting her music. “Having been able to overcome the bullying I faced to pursue my dreams is living proof that of one believes in themselves, and turns down the volume of those who bully, then anything is possible,” she says. “I am a big sister at home, and I love visiting the schools and being a big sister to the kids when I speak with them. If I can help just one student that has been facing adversity, then I have achieved success.”
Chris is partnering with the Association for Middle Level Education, a non-profit membership organization with 53,000 middle-school educators as members, to identify schools to visit. “We appreciate Jessie’s commitment to helping our middle-school students with her anti-bullying message and songs of hope and kindness,” said AMLE Executive Director Dr. William Waidelich.
Chris says that so far, she has received great response from her visits. “The feedback from kids has been amazing. Basically, what I do is I go into these schools and I tell the kids my story. Being from Massachusetts growing up, and wanting to be a country artist since I was a little girl, it made me different. My classmates tried to bring me down, they bullied me, and I struggled with self-confidence. I talked to the kids about what I went through growing up, and then we do a Q&A so that they can ask any questions they want, and then I sing some songs for them.”
Sharing her experiences of being bullied isn’t the easiest task emotionally, Chris allows, but in doing so, it offers her a chance to heal – in addition to hopefully help others. “It does bring back memories of bad times. To be able to do this has been healing for me. I may be pretty much over it, but there's always that little piece inside from way back when that was still scarred by it. For me, it's definitely been helpful to be able to help other people with the same issue.”
Hearing from students along her route who have their own stories to tell has been very rewarding – letting her know that her message is reaching people. “It's really special to be able to hear stories from other people who have endured things in their life. A lot of kids will explain how maybe they got bullied on their softball team, and some will come up to me and say that they sing and perform, and that they are given a really hard time about it. A lot of kids say thank you for coming because they can relate to my story. It is incredible to hear what other kids have gone through – and how they have become stronger for it.”
It's also helped her move past another fear. “Public speaking was a fear of mine when I was younger,” she confesses to Billboard. “I tell the kids that. I talk to them about how I used to be afraid to speak up in class. It took some work but now, I speak in front of people every day.”
Of course, singing is nothing new for Chris – as she’s been doing that since she can remember. “I was playing my guitar by myself in my room for nobody. Now, to have people excited to hear the music with me and to be able to release my second album has been so incredible,” she says.
Chris states that being named on a Billboard list at the beginning of the year helped put her name in front of a lot of people. “Every single day I'm reminded of it because every single day I walk in, that's one of the things that the radio stations say – 'Hey, you're a Billboard Artist to Watch. That's really impressive.’ When I read the rest of the list, I just couldn't believe who else was one it because of course I knew everyone on that list.”
The singer continues to travel for radio visits and stops in schools throughout the spring. She says that it’s been amazing to see different parts of the United States outside of her native Northeast region.
“There's so many places that I've got to go to recently that I've never been to before and it's really cool to kind of check them off the list. Ever since I was little, I've always to see at least a bit of every state. I'm on my way,” she beams, saying that Utah and Montana are two she has yet to visit. “I'm working my way up with the number of places I've been to and it's very cool to experience other places. I think you learn a lot by traveling. I’m just excited for everything I’m experiencing right now. Each day is an education.”