JENNIKA INGRAM | Reporter
Palisades Charter High School junior Alyssa Antoci is the author of “The Purple Marble”—a book about anti-bullying—and she is expanding her reach with a one-act musical play version.
Alyssa began writing her book at 8 years old and spent three years perfecting it, publishing it at 11 years old, she explained to the Palisadian-Post.
Now at age 16, “The Purple Marble” is in over 375 schools, libraries and bookstores, according to her mother Tiffany.
Tiffany explained that the mother-daughter duo decided to create a nonprofit, Strength Behind Stars, after a local girl died of suicide after being bullied.
The organization was founded “to encourage kids to become Ambassadors for Kindness by providing classroom curriculum to every kindergarten through fifth-grade classroom in the United States,” according to its website.
Several other Palisades students are involved with the charity and on the board: Alyssa’s sister, Olivia, who attends Paul Revere Charter Middle School; Samantha Sternberg and Maren Meier from Pali High: and Ava Meier (Maren’s sister) who attends Corpus Christi School.
There are also students on the board from the Central Coast and other parts of Los Angeles County.
Since 2015, Alyssa has traveled all over California speaking to thousands of elementary school kids about kindness and bullying. She has also done speaking engagements at places like the YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, Rotary Club meetings, after school programs, large events, school assemblies, anti-bullying concerts and library book readings. These events will often include book signings.
Last year, “The Purple Marble” was adapted into a one-act musical and performed by the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in front of 22,000 kids in a three-month-period through their outreach program.
“I’m getting to meet a lot of new people and visit a lot of new places, and not a lot of people get that opportunity,” Alyssa shared about why she likes public speaking. “I’ve heard I’ve helped a lot of little kids to overcome bullying.”
Alyssa has been at Pali High for one semester so far, but shared that she loves it and has not seen bullying at the school. She spends time hanging out with her friends in the Village and appreciates what a close community it is.
“We are now reaching out to local schools to see if they would like a copy of the book and have Alyssa come speak,” Tiffany explained.
The two are also looking for a local professional theater company to put on the one-act musical based on her book for younger grade schools to come and see it, or for a traveling theater company to perform it.
Playwright Leo Cortez wrote the musical adaptation. Alyssa spoke with Cortez several times to ensure the play was kept closely aligned to the true nature of the book.
“It is a highly impactful piece, and students, teachers and parents walked out feeling affected by it in some way,” Tiffany explained. “It comes from the perspective of the bully, the bullied and the bystander, so everyone can relate.”
Alyssa has spoken to small groups of kids as well as assemblies with hundreds of students.
“I talk to kids about other things besides bullying, too,” Alyssa said. “A lot of little kids will put up their hands. I love getting to see them all.
“A lot of kids have dreams, and when I was their age, I never thought it was possible, but my family and mentors told me to push toward my goals, and I want to be that mentor to them.”
In January 2020, Alyssa will speak to local schools in Newport Beach, including Andersen Elementary School, among others. She also plans to speak at a few Los Angeles YMCAs and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angles, as well as a local church group and some local schools in Los Angeles.
Alyssa shared some of the reasons she came up with the title for the book.
“Everyone needs strength and everyone is a star,” Alyssa said.
“That quote comes from how the name Strength Behind Stars for their nonprofit came to be,” Tiffany shared. Purple is Alyssa’s favorite color. She came up with the marble idea because “a small act of kindness can have a big impact, and a marble is a small object.”
For more information, visit strengthbehindstars.org.