'Don't let the bullies win'
IT'S hard to imagine looking at Bianca Franchetto that she would be a victim of school-yard bullying.
Yet, the pretty 17-year-old found herself the barb of many jokes, fending off hurtful comments during her 12 years of school until she graduated last week.
But she isn't one to dwell on the past or seek revenge, instead she wants to spread a message of hope.
"I felt proud of myself that I kept going through school, even though I got bullied ... I hadn't really felt like that before," she said.
"A lot of people drop out because they can't handle it, but I want to tell them to keep going. I want to say to the people who are getting bullied, 'you can get through it'. It's worth it at the end to graduate."
While social media was one avenue bullies used to target Bianca, mostly it was verbal abuse at the hands of bored teenage boys.
"I was getting called names like Shrek, crack head, meth head. It was horrible," she said.
"I was in class in English and they were saying [I looked like] I face-planted the ground. They were saying I was walking around like a monkey in the classroom."
Bianca also suffers from anxiety and depression, further inflaming the situation.
Asked why she thought she was picked on, she said simply: "Because I'm a different person. I'm not afraid to speak my mind."
"But I'm also a very kind-hearted and caring person and when people are mean to me, it gets to me.
"I react sometimes, but I try to ignore it most of the time. I tell myself I'm the better person, I'll be the one exceeding in life, not them."
Ironically, Bianca has a twin sister, Kader, but the two look nothing alike. And unlike Bianca, Kader was popular at school and never experienced bullying like her sister.
This could sometimes make Bianca feel left-out but she drew on the encouragement from her family, including her mum and boyfriend Caleb.
On the night of her formal, Bianca said she she felt "beautiful" and it was this feeling and achievement that had inspired her to reach out to others.
"I know what it feels like to get bullied, you just have to keep going," she said.
Bianca would like to start a bullying campaign in Bundaberg and has created a Facebook page - Stop Bullying - as a place for those who want to help or need help themselves.
She also has a passion for children with a disability having witnessed the bullying they are sometimes subjected to and plans to complete a Certificate III in Individual Support to pursue her dreams.
"I want to help them," she said.
Turning 18 in three weeks, the teen really does have the world at her feet.