Local students meet UFC fighter, learn "superpower" plan to fight bullying

(WHAM photo)

Bullying in today's world is different than it was 10 or 20 years ago. Now, it doesn't necessarily end with the school day. Cyberbullying can be endless.

That's why East Irondequoit is taking a new approach to stop it.

At East Irondequoit Middle School Thursday, professional MMA fighter and UFC veteran Tom Murphy showed his fighting videos to a crowd of students.

But Murphy wasn't there to talk about fighting.

“A lot of kids here have some serious challenges. The physical bullying, the verbal, emotional,” said Murphy.

He says kids are getting bullied at younger ages. Cyberbullying is making it worse.

“It's the absence of sweethearts and heroes in the kids’ life,’ Murphy added. “People that give hope and jump into action and do things other people aren't willing to do.”

Thursday, he had students in Irondequoit play a game called "Stop, Drop and Roll," an action plan for bullying.

“It's the starter pack of superpowers. Superman flies in and takes somebody away from the situation. You know why stop, drop and roll works? You know why fire drills work? Because we practice them. Imagine if we practiced bully drills and role playing with kids, so that when they got in to high school and middle school, they've done these scenarios hundreds of times. It's life-saving," said Murphy.

Joining him at the presention was Rick Yarosh, who shared his story of adversity. A retired U.S. Army sergeant, he was burned over most his body in Iraq.

“The darkest days for me, I would've never got through, without parents in the room, the doctors in the room,” Yarosh explained. “My message for them is nothing but hope. It's to let them know they have hope inside of them, to give that to kids who might be hopeless. And it's crazy to think that when I was in Iraq and on fire, the helplessness that I felt in that moment? There's kids in every building that feel that hopeless.”

Their message: H.O.P.E., or "Hold On, Possibilities Exist - a message resonating with students.

“That's us doing what we can, with what we've learned, and changing what we saw to do something right,” said Diana, a student at East Irondequoit Middle School. “Even if we do the littlest thing, we'll still impact somebody somewhere.”

Megan, another student, added, “Even a hero in your own world, sticking up for someone, giving to charity too.”

Sweethearts & Heroes visited nearly 100 schools and 100,000 students last year. Murphy would like to bring the program to elementary schools as well.

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