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Picked on mercilessly at school, Anita turned the tide on her torment by founding a website to help others... now she's pride of UK

By Victoria O'Hara

An inspirational teenager who endured relentless bullying but fought back by setting up a website to help others has won a prestigious national award for her work.

Campaigner Anita Dennison from Bessbrook, near Newry, has been named the Diana Anti Bullying Champion in the annual Roll of Honour.

Set up in memory of Princess Diana, it highlights more than 800 young people, between nine and 18, who have been championed for their lasting impact on society.

The 18-year-old, who runs her own anti-bullying website and Twitter campaign which not only helps other victims of bullying but inspires and advises parents and adults, was the only young person from Northern Ireland to win an accolade.

"I was just overwhelmed when I was told about the award to be honest," she said.

"I created my anti-bullying campaign after a negative experience so it was overwhelming to have something so positive happen.

"I never thought it would have such an impact on other people."

Tessy Ojo, chief executive of Diana Award, said: "We are incredibly proud to honour these ordinary young people who demonstrate qualities of selflessness, altruism and compassion.

"In the long term, we aim not only to award these socially active young people for their achievements, but also to engage, motivate and empower them to do even more through our training and network programmes." When Anita was 16, she was targeted by anonymous cyber-bullies who launched a campaign of hate against her.

Anita never discovered who set up the accounts on Facebook which were then used to verbally abuse her. "I never found out why I was bullied," she said.

However, the pupil at St Paul's High School, Bessbrook, became passionate about beating bullying across Northern Ireland.

Her campaign, which has 4,000 followers on Twitter, aims to reassure victims of bullying that they are not alone and encourages them to speak to someone.

"When I first got contacted by parents regarding their children being bullied and asking for advice, I really couldn't believe it," said Anita. "But feeling that I'm helping others who are going through what I did, or helping to prevent it was good but a bit weird to be honest!"

Anita, who is currently studying for her A-Levels, was also appointed the school's anti-bullying ambassador.

And she has also been involved in working with Lee Kand of the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum to deliver workshops to Year 8 pupils in St Paul's. Later this year, Anita will also take her experience and use it to help people of all ages across the UK.

"I've been asked to be involved in a project across the UK involving nine other people." she said. "It mentors young people and parents and teachers to tackle bullying. I was very honoured to be asked."

But her focus is also on sitting her exams later this year.

"I'm doing my A-Levels then go to university but I hope to always stay involved as a volunteer in anti-bullying campaigning. What keeps me going is that I've been through it. I just want to be there 24/7 and if I can get through it, anyone else can.

"It's so important for young people to know they aren't on their own and they have someone their own age to relate to."

Follow her Twitter campaign at @bully_don't and website at Be-a-friend-not-a-bully.webs.com

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