In 8th grade, Hope Rubito was in a very dark place. Having moved from Gray to Lewiston a few years earlier, she was a victim of constant physical and verbal abuse at school and cyberbullying online. The torment was so great that at age 13 she attempted suicide and would’ve succeeded if a teacher hadn’t notified her parents about her sudden distant behavior. Thankfully, Hope’s life took a different direction and from that darkness and depression, she transformed herself into a beacon of kindness and an advocate for anti-bullying.
A Gentle Force on a Mission
Hope is acutely aware of how bullying can affect a person’s mental health, self-esteem, and confidence and how prevalent an issue it is among young people. Her mission now is to shine a light on this important topic and show how a having a positive attitude, engaging in open communication, and reshaping the narrative can change the outcome. In her drive to raise awareness and help others, Hope has become a gentle force within her community. “I want to continue to advocate for those who are too afraid to use their voice,” says Hope. “I am a survivor of severe bullying and would like to be a role model to those that are going through a similar situation to show them they are not alone; that they will be found.”
From Private Despair to Public Service
As a chairwoman of the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council (LYAC), Hope and her young colleagues have worked closely with municipal staff, local officials and members of the community to address issues surrounding bullying. Through this organization, Hope has shared ideas and helped design programs that have brought awareness to bullying, sparked conversation, and prompted meaningful change.
In one event, LYAC recognized 6 elementary students as winners of their “Humankind = Kind Humans Bullyproof Lewiston” anti-bullying poster contest.
In another event, Hope shared her personal story of bullying with students at Lewiston Middle School. She also had the opportunity to recognize Karla Good, that special teacher who intervened when she was younger and literally saved her life.
Hope was integral in creating the “Listen Up Lewiston, Anti-bullying Forum” and served as a panelist for LYAC’s program titled “A Call for Kindness.” During this event, both students and adults shared emotional and eye-opening stories about the harassment and bullying they each had experienced. You can learn more about the event, which was promoted by Maine’s Big Z radio station here.
By spreading her inspirational message, Hope gained the attention of current Lewiston Superintendent Todd Finn who is now expanding policy on bullying district-wide with a focus on restorative justice and prevention. Hope credits the superintendent with impacting her voice. “After sitting down with Mr. Finn in a private meeting, telling him my story, I realized someone was finally listening to me and what I have to say. It took years to be heard, but I want others to know it is possible. Don’t give up, keep trying, no matter how long it takes, someone will find what you have to say valuable and your voice will be heard.”
Moving Forward May Bring Hope Back
As she finishes her Junior year at Maine Connections Academy, Hope is considering studying counseling in college. By furthering her education, she would like to learn more about the mental health aspect of the human mind, and how counseling plays a big part in balancing that. Given that she has so many local friends who have supported, mentored, and inspired her in the past few years, she’d like to return home after college to continue her advocacy work. In fact, she has a vision of opening a teen center in one of the abandoned mills in Lewiston, providing a safe, judgement-free space for teenagers to spend time together.
Giving Back to Green Dot Lewiston/Auburn
Hope has become a monumental anti-bullying advocate for the Lewiston community and beyond. Her passion for helping others, and particularly those who have faced bullying, is evident in her leadership, actions and words of hope.
Berman & Simmons is happy to offer Hope Ributo a $250 sponsorship award, which she has chosen to donate to Green Dot Lewiston/Auburn, a group of local volunteers teaching safe, effective strategies to reduce harassment, assault, and interpersonal violence. She’ll also receive a $500 award for her education.
As a final note, Hope would like to offer some of her favorite resources related to suicide, bullying, and mental health:
- Dear Evan Hanson – Tony award-winning musical which depicts the story of a young man with social anxiety disorder who fabricates a relationship with a deceased student to make connections with his peers and become closer to the boy’s family.
- You Will Be Found – Original Broadway cast recording from the Dear Evan Hanson musical
- You Will Be Found – Book by the songwriters of the Broadway show Dear Evan Hanson