Warilla's school of rock gives kids a lift

Glenn Haworth and his band are filming performances at schools like Warilla High to raise awareness about bullying and mental health issues. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Glenn Haworth and his band are filming performances at schools like Warilla High to raise awareness about bullying and mental health issues. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

It is 10.30am on Wednesday morning and more than 200 Warilla High students are singing, dancing and clapping along to a live pop-punk medley of hits by Justin Bieber, Blink-182 and Carly Rae Jepsen.

A teacher at the front of the school hall co-ordinates a Mexican wave to ripple through the student crowd, and Glenn Haworth is on top of a PA speaker onstage, brandishing a pearl-white guitar and flashing a horns-up hand signal.

It has become a regular occurrence for Mr Haworth, manager of Haworth's Guitar stores in Albion Park and Fairy Meadow, who has spent several years visiting schools around the Illawarra spreading an anti-bullying and anxiety awareness message.

"It started with visiting schools with my old band, but I wanted to leave a message too," Mr Haworth said.

"I wanted to give a message about facing challenges and being resilient, having a dream and chasing that dream."

He has performed to schools around the Illawarra, and through regional NSW and Victoria. Mr Haworth peppers upbeat covers of songs by Macklemore, Bruno Mars and Rebecca Black, with stories of his own experiences of bullying and anxiety as a younger man.

"I know the feeling, and I've met a lot of kids currently experiencing bullying," he said.

"I've seen it up close. It's such a big issue and we need to encourage kids to talk about it. What got me over it was talking to a counsellor, and I was stronger for going through those challenges."

Mr Haworth's performances have been the impetus behind his new anti-bullying documentary, filmed during school visits.

"I thought it was the best way to get the word out and raise awareness about bullying and anxiety, to do a documentary," he said.

Collecting words from students suffering bullying or anxiety, therapists and Ness Love-Monk - mother of Kiama teenager Courtney Love, who took her own life after cyber-bullying - Mr Haworth's documentary will be completed later in the year, with a possible local cinema premiere.

"I want to tell kids to focus on the great things in their lives, the great things they have, not a small minority bringing them down," he said.

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