Motivational speaker encourages Maries R-1 students to set goals, make good life choices

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 2/5/20

VIENNA — “No one has the right to bully you. It ends today! If you are doing this to other students, you know who you are!”

Maries R-1 students were attentive and receptive to …

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Motivational speaker encourages Maries R-1 students to set goals, make good life choices

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VIENNA — “No one has the right to bully you. It ends today! If you are doing this to other students, you know who you are!”

Maries R-1 students were attentive and receptive to the positive message presented to them by a motivational speaker who encouraged them to be kind, care about other people and make good life choices.

R-1 Superintendent Mark Parker introduced the speaker, Marc Mero, who is a former WCW and WWE Wrestling Champion who shared his life story with the students in the gym. Parker said he was approached by Counselor Natalie Martin about trying to get Mero to Vienna to talk to the students on his Freedom Tour—Choices.

Mero said he was in Vienna to speak to the students and encourage them to change, to inspire and to “unlock the champion you are destined to be.” His story is one of tragedy and triumph and he gave them two words, “I believe.”  He believes and wants them to believe a person can change their lives in a positive way.

His first life setback was at age 10 when he parents got a divorce. They lived in Buffalo, New York. He was a dreamer and wrote down what his dreams were. They involved money and wanting material things. He wanted a black Cadillac, a speed boat, and he wanted to be a pro athlete. He wrote it down in a little notebook and said he literally wrote his success into existence.

The divorce was hard on his mom as it broke her heart. She had to work two jobs to support the family and she got home late. His bedroom was next to hers and at night he would hear her cry herself to sleep. He went to his notebook and wrote down, “Buy my mom a house” and “be rich.” He thought money and fame were the keys to happiness and that happiness was the key to success. It’s a choice and not your situation and circumstances, he said. A problem he had again and again is that he had adverse reactions to adverse situations. He had the book he wrote in when he was 10 years old and he held it up for the students to see. Mero said it is a book of a little boy’s dreams.

Mero wanted to be an author but said he can’t spell. He wrote on a post it note “Book 2 years” and stuck it on his computer. He traveled all over the world and talked to people who told him about their regrets. Life passes so quickly and soon one year had passed and he hadn’t written anything for his book. He got busy and every day he wrote something and ended up with his own book, “How to be the Happiest Person on the Planet.”

He encouraged the students to write down their goals and put it where they can see it. Weeks become months and months become years and the goals are in front of them for them to act. Mero said this has been studied and it works. People who set goals and work toward them make more money. Build your own dream. Mero said every person has a gift, a talent that needs to be discovered. It is a mistake to surround ourselves with negative people who tell us we can’t. “When they say you can’t it is because they can’t. You are not defined by someone’s opinion,” he said.

Mero found his true passion in boxing and he continued to work toward his dream. He got up early and ran and did all he could to be a champion. Two weeks before the big match, he nose was shattered. His mom told him he can come back in a year and be the champion. “Mom’s greatest gift was she believed in me,” he said. His mom was on the sidelines when he was competing.

After his surgery he had free time and could not train. He made bad choices. The first was that he hung out with the wrong kids. He hung out with the partiers who drank and used drugs. He said one year and he thought he could drink and get high and come back in one year and be competitive. The one year became two then four years and 10 years. He was addicted to drugs and the only job he was able to get was as a construction laborer. He still wanted that Cadillac but he had thrown away the dream because of who he hung out with. “Friends are like and elevator,” Mero told the students, “They can bring you up or down.”

The saddest part about drug addiction is the people you hurt the most are the ones you love. When he was drugging, his mom would not go to bed until she knew her son was alive. He would walk by her in an intoxicated state on the way to his bedroom and he hated this. He would slam the door on the one person who believed in him.

His little brother wanted his attention also. He wanted to be a professional athlete and he wanted him to play catch with him. Instead Mero would take the ball and throw it as far away from him as he could. It was the same with his little sister who would say things such as “I call getting to sit next to Marc!” She would have tears in her eyes when he turned away from her. It is embarrassing to talk about and now he travels the world talking about joy and purpose and is happy to be in Vienna on this day talking to the students.

He asked the students to think about how they are treated and how they treat others. He has been told his presentation has changed lives and helped people who are hurting, depressed and even suicidal. He gets letters from people telling him this and he responds, writing back to tell them they are not alone.

The reason he started this program for students is because he himself was bullied at school. He was poor and wore bad clothes, tattered and worn out clothes that didn’t fit properly which were bought with nickels and dimes by his mother at garage sales. Once a kid noticed Mero’s clothes came from his garage sale and he made fun of him and Mero felt embarrassed and alone. He was the first one at the school door at the end of the day.

Fast forward to 2020 and the internet which is a tool to spread ugly and stupid things about students. Mero said students should not be so quick to judge other students because they don’t walk in their shoes or know what is happening in their lives. Maybe its bad like divorce, death, mental issues. “Your words can kill,” he told them, saying just because someone’s parents have money does not make them better than anybody. “When you hear negative enough times, your perception becomes your reality.” As they get older they will get stronger and should know they have a voice and it needs to be heard. He encouraged them to step up and speak up as he paced the gym floor and gestured. The students responded and stood up as one, clapping and yelling, their voices heard.

Mero resumed the story about his life. When he was 18 he moved from home. His little sister, Andrea, would call him saying she missed him and loved him and she invited him to her graduation. He didn’t go to her graduation and he was told she was looking all over for him there and it broke her heart. She wrote him a letter saying she was going to college at Syracuse, majoring in electrical engineering. She was smart and landed a job with General Electric. He went home and she was happy to see him and so proud of her new job. As part of the job she had to get a physical and cancer was discovered in her body. She fought through radiation and chemo, never complaining and always worried about him. She fought bravely and he was with her when she died. “What I would do to sit next to my little sister today,” Mero said. “Choices. We are defined by them and they affect us and our families for the rest of our lives.”

He was 30 years old and living paycheck to paycheck and dealing drugs to help support his drug habit. He was watching TV and saw a professional wrestling match and it was his “awe moment.” He told himself “I can do that!” He lived in Venice, Florida and he went to Tampa wrestling school and at age 31 he became a professional wrestler with a contract. He was Rookie of the Year-World TV Champion. He had money. He bought his mom a house in Sarasota, he bought a speed boat, a house in Georgia and a black Cadillac. He met President Carter, Kid Rock, the Hulk and he had an action figure of himself. He had everything.

But it wasn’t long before he went back to his old ways. The people he hung out with drank, did drugs and also abused prescription pills bought with all that money. His world began spinning out of control. He was empty and not happy. Money didn’t make him happy like he thought it would. Because of his bad choices, he lost it all. His wife walked out, he had 30 friends who died, most of them from drug overdoses. He should have been one of the ones who died and he did overdose three times.

While on a world tour he was in Japan and one night someone began to knock on his door in the middle of the night. It was the Japanese promotor who said he had an emergency call. His mother had died. He got in an elevator and out of the building and ran out into the street in Hiroshima, Japan. At the funeral he could not walk up to his mom’s casket and he looked on from a distance and prayed for his mother to wake up. Finally he went to the casket and thought his mother looked beautiful, like an angel. “I had repaid her by getting drunk and high and stupid. Why could I not have been a better son?”

Mero said his little brother, Guy, grew up okay and better than he had. Mero was the first person he told about his wife being pregnant. He had to have a drug screen for a new job and having blood drawn made him dizzy and he passed out in the doctor’s office, falling and hitting his head on the floor. He was in a Sarasota hospital and the family was told there was no brain activity and they had to make a decision as a family to let him go. But they donated his organs and saved several lives. It was a miracle “but not our miracle.” A month later baby Vollica was born. Mero said he’d like to go back and have the opportunity to play catch with his little brother instead of turning him away. “Why had I not been a better brother? Choices.”

Both of his parents died because they smoked cigarettes; his mother had a stroke and his dad died of lung cancer. He told the VHS students to “go home today and tell your family you love them and how beautiful they are.” He showed the students his last photo with his mother with his champion wrestling belt.

Life is not about winning the race, Mero said. He showed a video of Derek Redmond from 1992 in Barcelona when running the 400 meter and suffering an injury that ended his Olympic dreams. His coach and father, Jim Redmond, came onto the track and helped him finish the race. They did it together.

Mero told the students “we all go through stuff” at home and at school, and nobody can help you until to talk about  it. “No one has the right to bully you. It ends today! If you are doing this to other students, you know who you are!” He asked them instead of continuing to be a bully, to say they are sorry to those they’ve abused and that they really want to be their friend. “Show compassion and forever change your life. Smile and repair your broken relationships with parents, friends. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. We all make mistakes. Be careful who you let fall from your life. Go out and make someone feel special.”

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