WWE's "Be a STAR" campaign made a pit stop on the Road to WrestleMania XXVIII Thursday, dropping by the Hialeah Middle School in Miami, where several WWE Superstars and celebrities helped to spread the word of tolerance and respect. (PHOTOS | WATCH)
David Otunga, Rey Mysterio and Alicia Fox were among the Superstars representing the charitable cause. They were joined in the endeavor by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz, James Durbin of American Idol fame, as well as the Miami Dolphins mascot, T.D and former Dolphins player Twan Russell. Otunga, Mytsterio and Alicia were the first to address the multitude of students assembled for the rally, each delivering the Be a STAR rallying cry and preaching the values of tolerance.
“If you are being bullied, you are not alone," Otunga told the students in attendance. "Three out of every four students are bullied. Look around ... that means most of you have experienced some form of bullying.” Otunga next recounted his own experiences with bullies as a child, and reassured the students that perseverence was key in the face of adversity.
"I'm standing in front of you today because I didn’t let bullies win," he said. "As hard as it is, you can get through it."
Mysterio, a fan-favorite and former three-time World Champion, also preached the value of fostering a positive environment in school, and advised the students to turn to a teacher, parent or guidance counselor should they find themselves the target of a bully.
Speaking about her own past, Alicia echoed her fellow Superstars' sentiments and encouraged the students to "stay confident. Help each other reach for the stars. You are stars!"
James Durbin, the rocker who shot to fame last year as a contestant on American Idol, had the most heartfelt moment of the assembly when he took the stage and discussed his childhood struggles with both Tourette's and autism, plus his own experiences with bullying, which the singer described as being relentless.
"I would go to teachers, adults ... even call the police. Anything to feel safe," Durbin said of his coping mechanisms.
Durbin's story did have a happy ending, thankfully; he re-encountered his childhood bully later in life, and the bully apologized for what he had done.
Russell, who played football for the Dolphins and currently serves as the team's Director of Youth and Community Programs, took the podium as well and addressed the assembled children emphatically: "No one should be bullied. No one should have their lives dictated for them."
The event concluded with both speakers and students taking the "Be a STAR pledge," at which point Russell helped Diaz award several students with tickets to WrestleMania XXVIII and the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony. Those lucky children will undoubtedly find themselves surrounded by plenty of friends over the next few days.