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“The Liv Bits” Star Shares Her Story of Hope and Love to West Orange Community

WEST ORANGE, NJ – Eleven-year-old Olivia VanLedtje has visited over 30 schools, spoken to over 25,000 people, and traveled to 19 states to share her message of hope and love under her brand “The Liv Bits,” along with Literacy Consultant (and mom) Cynthia Merrill. The dynamic duo are halfway through a whirlwind visit to all seven West Orange Elementary Schools and will hold a meeting with parents, students, and community members at Liberty Middle School on Oct. 22.


District Technology Integration Specialist Diana DiCosta arranged for the multiple visits after building an online relationship with Ledtje and Merrill via Twitter. On Oct. 9 the social media sensation visited Mt. Pleasant Elementary school, much to the delight of students and staff. Liv and her mom conducted workshops with a Kindergarten, First, Third, and Fifth Grade Class. In each classroom, amazing things happened.


Using an app called “Padlet,” classroom teachers were able to connect Liv and her mom to Google Classroom so that each student could create their own Selfie video. The video had to follow specific criteria: they needed to welcome their audience and introduce themselves (first name only!), share two facts about something they love, and end with the catchphrase “Stay strong, stay smart, and spread the light.”


After students created their videos, they were uploaded to Padlet, where teachers, fellow students, and Liv could comment. Following the classroom sessions, Liv held a school-wide assembly to share her story and hold a dance party.


The genesis of “The Liv Bits” began in 2013 when six-year-old Liv became fascinated with Merrill’s work with teachers as a Literacy Consultant in an arena called “The Selfie Center.”


“I can do that,” said Liv at the time.


When Liv was in second grade, she began to be bullied by a group of girls at her school in Durham, New Hampshire. It took a long time for her to tell her parents, but after talking about ways to deal with the hurt and pain, Liv and her parents decided to let Liv give voice to herself in a short video on Vimeo. In 2016. That video about stereotypes entitled #LoveEachOther,” went viral, inspiring Liv to continue sharing her passions, thoughts, and dreams in “Liv Bits.”


In the two years Liv has been online, she has had three negative experiences made by detractors. With the help of her tribe, or support network, Liv’s approach is to “block and bloom.”


“I block them and grow my heart,” noted Liv. “It’s better to love than to judge.”


In addition to her personal story and passions, VanLedtje and Merrill also bring with them an important message of “digital citizenship.”


“Behaviors of kids online is part of literacy,” said Merrill, “and we need to partner with our children to help them develop their own “Digital Identity.” Merrill went on to say that children should be able to create and manage their online identity and reputation, and to be aware of the long and short term impact of that presence. 


“A digital ID helps you to understand to who you are and how you connect online,” she continued. “When we erase the line between real life and digital life we will all become more responsible and develop a digital conscience.”


“Posts should be helpful, kind, and true,” said Liv. “They should reflect that who you are online is who you are in person. Share your passion, fight for a cause, and make a difference in the world.”


“The world needs more hope and love,” Liv shared during the assembly. “If you can learn to hate, you can learn to love.”


Concepts shared with students and more will be discussed at the “Tips for Staying Safe, Savvy, and Smart Online,” meeting on Oct. 22 at Liberty Middle School, 1 Kelly Drive, beginning at 7:00 pm. The community is invited to attend and become inspired about a positive global future for themselves and their children. 


Find out more about Liv and her mom Cynthia Merrill here.


See all the photos from their visit to Mt. Pleasant School here.


Liv Bits

 Liv (with pink flower) with Mt. Pleasant Kindergarten students. Students and staff wore shirts with positive messages like Liv always does.



Liv Bits

Liv and Mom Cynthia Merrill walk students through the Selfie video on Padlet.


Liv Bits

 Liv VanLetje, TIS Diana DiCosta, Cynthia Merrill.

Cynthia Cumming
Oct. 14, 2018