After overcoming bullies, 9-year-old becomes Lower Burrell’s mayor
Lower Burrell Mayor Nico Pampena was full of smiles as he shook hands with a bevy of officials after taking office Saturday, when Richard Callender abdicated his seat for a day.
Nico, 9, was excited to get to inspect the city’s fleet of police cars, fire trucks and other vehicles that impress kids young and old.
When he grows up, “I want to be an FBI agent to save people,” Pampena said.
He enjoyed opening a gift basket from the Pittsburgh Pirates and other gift bags from the local, county and state officials who came out to celebrate Pampena’s tenure in office.
Despite the smiles, there was a most serious reason for Saturday’s festivities: Nico has overcome the effects of being bullied.
He and his parents, Domenic and Amanda, previously shared their story with the Tribune-Review and detailed a thwarted suicide attempt and a 28-day hospitalization that has helped Nico to recover from the effects of the bullying.
The boy’s story struck a chord with Callender, who said he knows the harm bullying can inflict first-hand. Callender helped to organize Saturday’s festivities, which beyond the celebration of Nico and what an incredible boy he is, was also Anti-Bullying Day in the city.
It was also proclaimed as such by the state House of Representatives and Westmoreland County.
Callender invited Lindsay Brain of Wesley Family Services and Kimberly Fox of the Blackburn Center to give short presentations on bullying to aid in its awareness.
Bullying is more than joking with, picking on someone or putting them down, Brain said.
It is about a balance of power and someone using their power over someone to hurt them, she said.
Victims of bullying are often afraid and ashamed to talk about the situation.
Those fears and that shame is the reason people need to talk about bullying to identify and address the problem.
Those who witness bullying need to step forward to stop it, she said. One person who helps in that way can help foster the innate resilience of the person being bullied to overcome.
“We all have the capacity to do that for each other,” Brain said.
It’s important to lay a foundation of acceptance and empathy toward others, and that’s something the Greensburg-based Blackburn Center aims to do, Fox said.
Building those traits can help eliminate the causes of bullying, she said.
“Allow each person to be who they are even if we don’t agree with them,” Fox said.
The community’s support has been amazing as Nico’s story has been shared, his parents said.
“What they’re doing is just amazing,” Domenic Pampena said.
He was sleeping after a late shift at work when his wife woke him with the news that Nico was going to be honored and thought it was a dream, he said.
They have received emails from across the country, Amanda Pampena said.
Saturday’s events were just the start, Callender said.
Moving forward with more anti-bullying efforts will be the challenge for the future.
“This isn’t going to be the end of it,” Callender said. “How can we advance from here?”
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .