We are very happy to announce that Nicole Zwiercan, Mrs. Chicago international 2016, has joined forces with team Rainbow Rabbit. Nicole will be using the platform of bullying over the next year to visit schools and give advice and encouragement to the thousands of adults and children who are bullied daily. Nicole also has a blog titled “It’s Simple. Be Kind,” which focuses on her family and chronicles her journey to put an end to bullying,
We recently spoke with Nicole about becoming Mrs. Chicago international, why her stance on bullying has become more important than ever, and more!
Congratulations on becoming Mrs. Chicago international! For those who are less informed, tell us a little about this pageant:
First of all, I want to say thank you for creating such an amazing program and making a difference in the lives of 100’s of families. I am beyond excited to be a part of it all!
I will be participating in the Mrs. Illinois International pageant this coming March, representing my city of Chicago! The Mrs. International pageant is an amazing system that showcases the accomplishments of today’s married women. It highlights and supports the character of women and the spirit of giving back, which is so very important to me. I am thrilled and honored to be competing in such a prestigious competition filled with a history of articulate, caring, and strong women that have and still are, making a difference in this world.
Your chosen platform during your reign as Mrs. Chicago International is bullying. Tell us why you feel so strongly about this very important issue:
As a survivor of not only childhood bullying, but also workplace bullying, I was very nervous to choose this issue that was so near and dear to me. I wasn’t sure I was ready to be so public with something I had kept so private. After thinking it over for a few days, I knew I had no choice but to not only choose Bully Prevention and Awareness as my platform, but if I was going to be involved, I was going to give it my all- even after the pageant was said and done. I felt like I owed it to myself and all the people out there who are targets of bullying on a daily basis. The more we are aware of this issue- that has reached epidemic proportions- the more we can start to make a change! Bullying is not only an issue locally, but all over the world. It should no longer be considered a childhood rite of passage.
I am proudly in the process of founding my own nonprofit organization that will reach local communities as well as educational programs across the nation and worldwide. It is an organization dedicated to bully prevention and spreading awareness with an emphasis in the message of being kind to one another. One of my goals is to give people the tools to be proactive, to not just stand by and watch as bullying occurs. We, as bystanders, have the most important job in all of this. We all have the power to make a difference- and along the way, I hope to inspire people to make the right choices, to be kind, and be accepting of people that may be different than them. I think people underestimate what a simple act of kindness can actually do for someone.
You’re also a new mom! Has your stance on bullying taken on even more of an importance now?
Absolutely! Not only do I continue on this path for myself, but also for my son. I think it is so important that we, as parents, lead by example. I want to give him all the tools to be a caring, empathetic person. I have the power to do that, to teach him kindness and acceptance.
Why do you think it’s so important that children are taught lessons of kindness and caring at a young age?
I think this is a very important part of the puzzle. Young children, more often than not, will mimic what they see. They know only what they are exposed to. Yes, a child or adult can be taught things at an older age, but why not start young? Why not make this something they are around from day one? Have conversations at home, read them stories that address bullying and being kind, get involved with what is going on with your child, even at a very young age. Create an atmosphere that lends itself to an open line of communication. Oftentimes, children who are bullied are too embarrassed to tell even their own parents.
Are students open to discussing bullying when you visit their schools? And if so, what do they tell you about their own experiences with bullying?
Surprisingly, yes! Sometimes all you have to do is ask! Children are very open with me; they ask questions about what they can do when they are bullied. They ask questions about how they can help each other. I am seeing that kids want to help, they just don’t know how.
What was it about the Rainbow Rabbit Anti-Bullying Educational Program that made him so appealing to you?
The fact that Rainbow Rabbit appeals to the younger kids. For me, it is a little easier to talk to kids in middle school and high school. They have had more experiences with which they can relate to emotionally. When it comes to younger children, I was looking for a way to relate to them; to get their attention. A story like this is perfect to introduce the ideas of acceptance and kindness, and let them know that it is ok to be you!
Why do you think he will will appeal to the students you will meet?
It’s funny, when I first received my Rainbow Rabbit at home, my son just about tackled him! He still carries him around every day. Rainbow Rabbit is bright, colorful and has a beautiful story to go along with him. I already have a few people in mind that will be receiving Rainbow Rabbit for gifts this Christmas! The story is relatable and easy to follow. The illustrations are so elaborate and fun to look at. It has a sweet message that I know children will find memorable with a very happy ending.
Tell us about some of your other projects you are currently involved with.
I’m a very busy lady these days! I currently have my own blog, “It’s Simple. Be Kind,” which you mentioned earlier. I really enjoy writing and I have found it to be such a great way to reach people locally, as well as all over the world. Social media can be used to our advantage to reach people we never could have otherwise. I have recently launched my personal website, which is dedicated to bully prevention education and awareness. I use this site to share tips and stories and will be launching a video series very soon. As I mentioned earlier, I am in the process of founding my own nonprofit. I am SO excited to be doing this. My goals with this organization are to continue to hold group discussions at schools and youth groups- which I absolutely love to do! I have developed a program that is tailored to each group’s needs to make sure it’s effective and relatable. I plan to continue to hold fundraisers for organizations striving to make a difference and to lead community outreach events. All while spreading the message of kindness to our youth as well as other adults.
Being kind is such a powerful tool we all possess. I hope to inspire more people to do so! Being kind doesn’t cost a thing, yet can change a life drastically. I look forward to continued growth with my organization in order to reach as many people as I can! I want people who are bullied to know they are not alone, and there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel! Additionally, I’m still a practicing registered dental hygienist at a very busy downtown specialty office! My husband (who is also a dentist) and I are currently co-authoring a children’s dental book, which we hope to have published within the year! I have a couple other projects that are in the early planning stages which I hope will keep my momentum going strong! I have no plans of stopping soon; 2016 looks just as busy if not busier!
Where can people find you on social media if they would like to contact you?
My website is www.NicoleLaHaZwiercan.com I have a contact page for people who would like to reach me. On my site people can access links to my social media pages and blog!