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A Full Court Press Against Bullying

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MaeOla Bolton (Photos here and on home page courtesy Julianne Ganton)

MaeOla Bolton’s voice is much quieter than you’d expect of someone who played and coached in a sport as boisterous as basketball. But that quiet voice delivers a message that deserves to be heard loudly in a world where bullying so often grabs the headlines now: How you feel about yourself is what matters.

That’s the message the Bolton, now the girls basketball coach at Montclair Kimberley Academy, brought to a group of sixth grade Verona Girl Scouts recently. “You don’t have to allow people to disrespect you,” she said. “If you do, you are disrespecting yourself.”

Kim Nochimson, the troop’s co-leader, brought Bolton to her home to speak to her girls after enrolling her daughters in Bolton’s basketball camp at the Verona Community Center this past summer. “I was beyond impressed by her,” said Nochimson, “and in talking to her this summer, I discovered there was so much more to her than met the eye.  She taught my girls and the rest of the girls at the camp so much more than basketball. ”

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Bolton joined MKA last year after playing college ball at Auburn and with the Detroit Shock in the WNBA, as well as serving as assistant coach at the University of Florida and Tulane University. Through these various stages she developed a message of empowerment for young women to help them deal wisely and well with the jab steps that life will too often put in their way. And that begins, Bolton believes, by teaching the girls to believe in themselves.

“If you don’t believe you can do something,” says Bolton, “you’re not going to convince anyone else.”

In words, skits and even songs, Bolton drew the girls to her central belief in the Golden Rule. First, she had the girls come up with a positive adjective to describe themselves based on the first letter of their first names. Then they drew cards from a well-worn stack that Bolton keeps in her purse, cards with words like “determination”, “perseverance”, “leadership” and “accountability”. Bolton made sure they understood each one, and its importance in their lives. They talked about the Golden Rule, and how that had and had not been followed in bullying situations that they and their friends had faced.

“If someone is mistreating you, don’t allow it to happen,” Bolton repeated. “Don’t keep bullying to yourself.”

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, but Bolton believes her message has more staying power than the calendar will allow. “All through my life, I have been a motivator and provider of encouragement to others.  It’s important to me for all people to feel a since of self-worth and be treated with love and kindness.”

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

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