A former wrestling superstar on a journey to inspire youth and eliminate bullying recently spoke to Fayetteville-Manlius middle school students about making positive life choices.
On Oct. 22, Marc Mero presented his program, “Champion of Choices” to Wellwood Middle School students in grades 5-8. The program focuses on combating negative behaviors and self-destructive thinking while inspiring students to set tangible goals and appreciate those who support them.
“We continue to look for ways to help our students make positive choices in all aspects of their lives,” Wellwood Principal Melissa Corbin said. “One part of our school’s strategic plan includes hosting speakers that empower, inspire and motivate students.”
At the beginning of his presentation, Mero emerged from behind Wellwood’s stage curtain wearing dark sunglasses; a metallic championship wrestling belt hung over his shoulder. Music was pulsing through the auditorium’s speakers, highlights of Mero’s wrestling career were projecting onto a screen above the stage, and students were cheering. Mero paused in front of students for a moment before hushing the fanfare.
Making an entrance is something Mero is used to. In fact, he spent most of the 1990s honing the grand arrival ceremony that often precedes a professional wrestling match.
Born and raised in Upstate, NY, the wrestler-turned-motivational speaker spent most of the 1990s entertaining wrestling fans across the country. He won four New York state boxing titles before signing on with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1991 under the ring name Johnny B. Badd. In 1996, he made his World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) debut. His time with the WWE – where he was best known as Marvelous Marc Mero – spanned four years and countless matches before injuries overcame the wrestler’s abilities. His official retirement from in-ring competitions came in 2006. One year later, in 2007, he founded the Champion of Choices program.
“My wrestling career is a big part of who I was, but that’s not what I’m here to focus on today,” Mero told Wellwood students. “Today, I am going to talk about why it’s important to make good choices.”
Mero told students that his athletic success led him to fame and fortune, but bouts of drug and alcohol abuse overshadowed what could have been a better time in his life. He told students he was presented with a lot of bad choices because of the people he opted to spend time with.
“We become who we surround ourselves with,” he said. “Friends are like elevators, they’re either going to take you up or they’re going to take you down.”
He told students that he chose the rock star lifestyle over his family. He didn’t attend his sister’s high school graduation and often ignored his younger brother’s requests to play baseball with him in the back yard. His sister and brother both died before he could try and make up for lost time, Mero said.
The slideshow scrolling on-screen behind Mero paused on an image featuring two columns of names. “Death List” was the slide’s title.
“I’ve had more than 30 friends die from some form of substance abuse,” Mero said, pointing at the screen. “It’s a list that I should have been on.”
Mero concluded the hour-long talk by encouraging students to think about the choices they’re making, the people they’re surrounding themselves with, and the impact they’re leaving on others.
“Stand up for each other,” Mero said. “Maybe you can bring hope to another student who feels hopeless, maybe you can be a light in their darkness.”
He also told students to keep their dreams in focus and challenged them to write their goals into existence.
“The more you see your hopes, dreams and goals written out, the more likely you are to take action and accomplish them.”
Following the presentation, Mero spoke with several students who had lined up to talk with him.
Marc Mero presented his program “Champion of Choices” to Wellwood Middle School students in October.