Motivational Speakers Discuss Bullying At Jamestown Schools

Motivational speaker Chris Hollyfield, pictured on stage, spoke at various Jamestown Public Schools on Monday. The string of speeches were organized by the agency Impact. Hollyfield and motivational speaker Preston Centuolo, pictured at right, visited the high school at the end of the day to address bullying. P-J photos by Jordan W. Patterson

“My name is Chris Hollyfield and I am somebody,” said Chris Hollyfield, motivational speaker, to students gathered inside the Jamestown High School auditorium.

Hollyfield and Preston Centuolo, motivational speaker, visited various schools in the district to address bullying and self-improvement.

The string of events was organized by the district, IMPACT and additionally sponsored by the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. Hollyfield has been seen on ESPN, 60 minutes and performed for the WWE as well as acting in various movies.

Daniel Soderberg, IMPACT campus fellowship director, helped coordinate the various events and called them “really powerful assemblies.”

“They are tremendous,” Soderberg said. “We used (Hollyfield and Centuolo) because they are very excellent in what they do.”

Soderberg noted that the students easily connect with what the duo has to say.

“The need is there,” he said about addressing bullying in Jamestown. “The need is very great.”

Hollyfield has a form of dwarfism called achondroplasia, and while he is “visually different” he reassured those gathered in the auditorium “the only thing different about me and your classmates, your teachers and your parents is that my arms are shorter, and my legs are shorter. But my upper body is same size as the average person.”

Hollyfield went on to describe how he was treated in school because of his size. He told the crowd that older students wouldn’t sit with him and people who did sit with him would consequently lose friends.

He discussed different types of bullying including social, cyber, verbal and physical bullying. After giving an example of each type of bullying, Hollyfield shared a story of how he was physically bullied one day when he was 12 years old inside the gym at his school. The incident ended with Hollyfield being picked up and thrown onto his face by a group of older students. Prior to the physical violence, the same students verbally bullied Hollyfield as he was dribbling a basketball. Bystanders in the gym remained silent. Hollyfield believed that if the bystanders had stood up for him, the incident could have been avoided.

“It’s OK to speak up,” he told the Jamestown students.

While being bullied growing up and attending school, Hollyfield said he didn’t allow it to affect his happiness.

“Learn to love yourself because when you love yourself you’re going to have respect for yourself,” he said. “And when you have respect for yourself you’re going to have respect for other people.”

Hollyfield emphasized that the students had a choice to be a somebody or a nobody when it comes to positive change and speaking out. He reassured everyone that despite his struggle and being an “undersized man in an oversized world” that he was somebody.

Prior to Hollyfield’s speech, Centuolo opened the assembly after being introduced by Jamestown students. Centuolo described himself as being “special needs” and detailed his struggle growing up and attending public school when he was younger.

“The reason why I do what I do is because everyday in America 160,000 kids stay home from school because they’re afraid of the way someone is going to (bully) them when they get there,” he said.

Centuolo shared his story and explained that people throughout his life would attempt to define him by the things he couldn’t do as opposed to what he could do. He noted that the students in the high school are at the moment in their life where they get to choose who they want to be.

“Make it count,” he said, “because you have the opportunity to be a hero for somebody.”

Centuolo and Hollyfield challenged students to find 10 different people each day for the next 10 days to inspire with the goal of inspiring 100 people when the challenge is over.

“I think it’s good for the students to hear from others,” said Mike McElrath, Jamestown High School principal. “They hear from us quite a bit. It’s good to bring in people that have other experiences that relate to the kids.”