The worst day of 13-year-old Alexa Petito’s life was back in sixth grade when she found a fake Instagram account portraying her in a negative light that was created and operated by around 16 students at her old school in Nassau County.
Alexa’s mom, Jacqueline Petito, said the most shocking image used was a kindergarten picture of Alexa with her face put on an African-American body holding a gun. Alexa said that the account was even used by people who she believed to be her friends.
“Being tormented, harassed or bullied changes someone’s life forever,” said Alexa. “I asked myself, ‘Why can’t it be someone else? Why is it me?’ I never really got an answer for it and I couldn’t understand why I was so overwhelmed.”
Alexa said the harassment was so bad to the point where she had to change schools. She poured her thoughts and feelings on the situation into the pages of her journal, and these entries eventually ended up in the hands of Director, Producer and Actor Jaret Martino, who took an interest in the story. They decided to come together to create the 13-minute film called “The Worst Day of My Life” staring Alexa as herself.
“When I heard Alexa’s story and the awful latest news surrounding bullying, I knew we had to make this film as quickly as possible,” said Martino. “If we could help at least one child out, then it’s a win.”
They presented their film to the sixth grade class at Jonas E. Salk Middle School where they filmed and afterwards had a conversation with the students. They also partnered with the Child Abuse Prevention Services (CAPS) Bully Prevention Center to discuss the movie.
“If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem,” said CAPS Bully Prevention Specialist Kara Santucci during the presentation. “Think about all the people in that movie who didn’t post the picture, but they looked at it, laughed at it or showed it to other people and they all had choices.”
Santucci along with the CAPS Bully Prevention Center’s Executive Director Debbie Mullarkey said even if you don’t get involved in the thick of a bullying incident, there are other ways to be supportive to those going through a tough time.
“You can go over to your friend after the fact and say, “Hey are you okay? Do you need to talk to someone,'” said Mullarkey. “And, make sure you tell the teacher or whoever works at your school.”
The advice that Martino and Alexa passed down to the students was to not be afraid to stand out and remember that tough times always pass.
“There is no such thing as perfection and you should embrace your differences and what makes you different,” said Martino. “In the future, that’s what gonna be your power.”
“You should always look to the future,” said Alexa. “There are always better things to look forward to.”
The project is dedicated to victims of bullying who lost their life. The next steps are to present the movie to as many schools and venues as possible. Martino recently secured a screening for the film at Mindfield Film Festival.
The trailer can be seen below and you can rent the film here.