Wrestling star shines bright in North Hills anti-bullying program

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

At 6 foot, 1 inch, and 220 pounds, Mike Mizanin, “The Miz,” is a terror in the WWE ring.

But the professional wrestler brought a peaceful message to fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at Ross Elementary School in the North Hills School District last week: “When you have a negative thought or a (get a negative) tweet, turn it into a positive.”

The Miz Challenge, as he called it, is part of the anti-bullying program, “Don't Be a Bully, Be a STAR – Show Tolerance and Respect.”

The program is part of an anti-bullying alliance co-founded by The Creative Coalition, a social- and public-advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment community, and World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.

He and other WWE wrestlers were in Pittsburgh for a night match at the Consol Energy Center, but Mizanin's morning was filled with the shouts of the young audience ready to chant “We are awesome!” and “Don't be a bully. Be a Star.”

“I was one of you,” said Mizanin, explaining how he was bullied during his elementary school years in Parma, Ohio. “I had huge teeth, and kids would call me ‘Horseface' and make horse noises.”

Even though his mother told him he was the best kid in the world, at that age, he said, he didn't know what to do. He also didn't have role models to teach him about bullying.

Now 32, he's making a difference by visiting schools and encouraging students to stop the bullying.

“I always volunteer,” Mizanin, now a Los Angeles resident, said. “This program is my favorite thing to do.”

Many of the students raised their hands when Mizanin asked if anyone had experienced bullying. Bullying can take place anywhere — in schools, on playgrounds and, now, on the Internet.

Michael Summers, 12, of Shaler Township, said he was bullied when he was in the fourth grade in his old school.

“It hurt, but I didn't hurt them back,” the sixth-grader said.

Michael did exactly what he should have done, according to Mizanin's presentation.

“Don't reply, tell an adult, and block them on Facebook and Twitter,” Mizanin advised.

He also recommended that students be friendly to a child who is being bullied.

“Tell the bully to stop, and get the kid away from the bully.”

Michael said he appreciated the wrestler's visit to his school.

“It was generous of him to speak to us about bullying,” the student said, “I don't like wrestling, but maybe I'll watch, just to see what he does.”

It was Mizanin's lifelong dream to connect with the WWE.

“I loved the WWE. I wanted to be a WWE superstar, so I believed in myself enough, worked hard and sacrificed,” he told the students. “Follow your dreams.”

He calls what he does in the ring entertainment.

“We have heroes and villains, but the difficulties (the bullied kids) face are real,” he said.

Mizanin didn't use his fists when his bullies approached, rather he “embraced the negative energy and turned it more positive.” He channeled his anger into something else.

“I have big teeth. I still do, but it makes for a great smile.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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