Dina leads the myFace Wonder Project, an anti-bullying campaign educating students in schools across the country on the importance of celebrating uniqueness, being an upstander and always choosing to be kind. During her virtual school assemblies, she is often asked some very thoughtful and perceptive questions about living with a facial difference.
How did you relate to Auggie in the book, Wonder?
When the Young Adult novel by R.J. Palacio came out almost 10 years ago, I read it in one sitting and I related to the story from the first page when Auggie talks about wishing he had a magic lamp. I remember when I was around his age, maybe a little younger, wishing on my birthday when I blew out the candles that I could look like the other kids so it would be a little easier. Reading this book propelled me to create the Wonder Project and go into schools to present to students on choosing kind and be an active upstander, not a passive bystander.
Did you have an Upstander, someone who stood up for you, when you were a child?
I wish I had upstanders growing up in school and camp. It would have made such a difference. I did have the support and love of my parents who always advocated for me and I had friends but that is different than having someone who stands up for you when you are being bullied. This is why I feel so strongly about the Wonder Project and sharing my story when I speak to students.
How can I be an Upstander for someone?
If you see someone who is sitting alone, you can sit with them. If you see someone who is picking on another, you can take that person being picked on out of that situation. And if you see someone who is standing alone, a simple smile and hello can make a big difference for that person because you never know what they might be going through that day.