Top News

‘No Time for That’: Former Port Williams resident’s anti-bullying message resonating with Canadian students


Punch in face was tipping point leading to national tour

KENTVILLE, NS - “Be yourself, follow your dreams and never give up.”

This is the advice that singer, songwriter and motivational speaker Elsie Morden gives to other young people who have been the victims of bullying. Don’t let other people bring you down and if you need help and support, keep reaching out until you get it.

Morden – an honourary Rotarian with the Mud Creek Rotary Club in Wolfville - moved to Nova Scotia from Manitoba about two and a half years ago. She lived in Port Williams until recently moving to Halifax and said the support of Nova Scotians for her music and message has been “absolutely incredible.”

Morden, who is now 23, said she moved around a lot when she was younger and was always the new girl.

“I always felt like an outsider, I always struggled with trying to fit in and I also went through a lot of bullying,” Morden said.

She was regularly left out of activities, was called names and was even forced to eat sand. Other kids made fun of her naturally curly hair and called her “the mop.” She grew so insecure about it that she would straighten her hair every day.

One day, she was invited to a sleep-over. Morden was excited to finally feel like she belonged. However, when she woke up the next morning, she discovered that the other girls had cut all her hair off.

“Still to this day, I don’t know who did it, so I just kind of assumed that they were all in on it,” Morden said.

She “kind of became invisible” after that. Morden didn’t want to talk to anyone or for anyone to talk to her. After again changing schools, at the beginning of her Grade 9 year, Morden adopted a mindset that things were going to change and she was going to have lots of friends.

“I just became this version of me that wasn’t me because I was just trying so hard to impress everyone and I wanted everyone to like me and I just wanted to fit in and be popular,” she said.

Morden said things began to snowball at this point. She was struggling with depression and an anxiety disorder but didn’t understand what was going on.

Fellow students didn’t appreciate her high grades, so Morden started purposely performing poorly on tests and assignments. The other girls would get upset if the boys talked to her. Going into Grade 11, she was punched in the face by a girl she didn’t even know because of rumors being circulated about Morden. She had one of her front teeth knocked loose.

This served as a tipping point and Morden realized she had to turn her life around. Although it was very hard for her, she finally told her family what was happening.

Turning a negative into a positive

Morden figured there must be many more young people out there having similar experiences with bullying: feeling alone, hurt and misunderstood. She wanted to help them and let them know they are not alone.

She found music to be a positive outlet and an escape for her. Although she never intended to be a songwriter, she began creating music about her experiences. In 2012, she contacted schools in Manitoba and began delivering musical presentations with an anti-bullying message.

Morden immediately realized this was making a positive impact and that it was something she must continue. She heard from students who told her she had inspired them. Others said her presentation made them change their thinking because they didn’t realize how hurtful bullying is.

Morden home schooled herself for the remainder of her Grade 12 year, making a strong effort and graduating with the Governor General’s Award. She continued taking her message to schools across Manitoba and, after graduating, branched out nationally with the tour. She has now been to 600 schools across Canada.

Morden continues to work to increase the reach and impact of the No Time for That Anti-Bullying Society, a registered Canadian charity she founded. Her goal is to make as big a difference as possible. Her latest tour this past fall was the largest, visiting 100 schools across all 10 provinces over 14 weeks. It all kicked off at the CCMA’s in Hamilton, Ontario.

Morden wasn’t able to fit Pine Ridge Middle School in Kingston and Middleton Regional High School into the fall tour but she didn’t want to miss them. She delivered her message to these schools on Jan. 23, Pine Ridge’s Diversity Day. The Middleton RBC branch sponsored the two shows and gave out prizes to the students.

Being a role model

She said the aspect of the anti-bullying tours that resonates the strongest with her is hearing how other people have taken her message and ran with it. Morden wants to do the best job possible as an anti-bullying role model and leader.

Knowing that she has inspired and motivated other young people to follow their dreams is “incredible.” Perhaps the most rewarding thing is knowing that she has played a part in helping others turn a negative into a positive and become leaders in their own right. The ripple effect is “awesome.”

“Anytime that somebody tries to bring me down, tells me that I can’t do something or is rude or mean to me in any way, I don’t listen to them anymore, I don’t let them bother me because I have no time for that,” Morden said.

Wanting people to get to know her as an artist and as a person, Morden has recorded a full-length, self-titled album. She wrote all 10 songs and co-produced the album, which she describes as being “100 per cent Canadian made.” She is currently planning her next school tour.

Fell in love with Nova Scotia

In 2016, Morden made a trip to visit several Atlantic Canadian schools as part of the “No Time for That” initiative and to attend the CCMA’s in Halifax. Her father and two younger sisters came along to help out and Morden said they all fell in love with Nova Scotia.

“I had such a positive response to my music and the charity here,” she said.

Her two sisters ended up committing to universities here, with one attending Dalhousie and the other Acadia. Her father, who has a background in agriculture, was impressed with the potential of the Annapolis Valley. Morden’s parents ending up moving to a farm outside of Middleton and are starting an organic heirloom seed business, focusing on garlic.

Morden said her parents are both substitute teachers and her mom used to teach at Pine Ridge Middle School, so it was great bringing the tour to a school where she has such a personal connection.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

GO ONLINE:

For more information, visit www.elsiemorden.com.

RELATED:

Recent Stories