Woodland senior a winner in national video contest

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From left, Woodland Regional High School senior Caitlyn Sousa, 17, of Prospect; Abby Peck, 8, a third-grader at Algonquin School in Prospect; Ayah Galal, 15, a sophomore; Heather Eustace, 14, a freshman; and Claire Mordowanec, 17, a senior. For her senior project, Sousa brought a national movement called Love is Louder to the Woodland community. She was named a winner in a national video festival for the movement. –RA ARCHIVE

BEACON FALLS — Love is louder than the fear of being diverse. It’s louder than loss, and it’s louder than someone who bullies another.

Caitlyn Sousa has embraced a nationwide message that resonated with her and brought it to Woodland Regional High School.

Love is Louder, started by The Jed Foundation, MTV and actress Brittany Snow, is a movement that strives to stop negative words and actions with a positive message of love, according to its website. It’s typically spread online through Facebook or Twitter.

Sousa’s passion for this movement has caught on in Woodland’s hallways and in the two communities of Region 16. She did this for her senior project, and to inspire change at Woodland.

The 17-year-old from Prospect has been named a winner for her video entry into a national video festival for the Love is Louder movement. The video, produced by senior Claire Mordowanec of Beacon Falls, is one of two highlighted on the Love is Louder website at www.loveislouder.com.

With help from classmates and teachers, she produced a three-minute video, which features three individual stories of personal struggles that the students have overcome. Love is Louder is written on the palm of one of their hands, and what it means to each is written on the other.

Sousa said every single person has some type of personal struggle. For her, it has been body image and perfectionism.

“If you don’t look at things in a positive perspective, or an optimistic perspective, you’ll just end up being buried in all of your struggles,” Sousa said.

Under the project, Sousa also created a display case that involved a photo shoot, a banner, two T-shirt designs, an edition for the school’s literary magazine and a scholarship for seniors. The scholarship will be funded through T-shirt and magazine sales, she said. Donations will be accepted, too.

Sousa learned of the movement through an article in Seventeen Magazine last year. In the piece, singer Demi Lovato spoke about her struggles with bullying and body image, she said.

That stayed with her throughout the summer, and then she saw Lovato in concert in September. It affirmed her decision to bring this to Woodland.

In her video for the contest, she spotlights three stories, one from Ayah Galal, 15, a sophomore; Heather Eustace, 14, a freshman; and Abby Peck, 8, a third-grader at Algonquin School, Prospect. After each story, they lift their palms to show what Love is Louder means to them.

Galal says: “Love is louder than the fear of being diverse.” Eustace says: “Love is louder than loss.” Abby says: “Love is louder than someone who makes you feel bad.”

Abby said she was bullied because of how she walked. Her father, Harold Peck, 46, said Abby walked on her tippy toes. She had to have surgery to lengthen her heel chords and she wore boots following the surgery, he said.

Her mother, Barbara Peck, saw a story about Sousa’s project, and wrote “Love is Louder” on her daughter’s boots.

“It helped me because I started ignoring them,” Abby said.

Sousa’s video can be seen here.