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Wisdom from a Wild Man

Published:   |   Updated: March 7, 2013 at 04:16 PM

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A decade ago you might have seen him drop-kicking Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in the neck off a 10-foot ledge.

Now Marc "Johnny B. Badd" Mero, also known as "Wild Man," has what he calls a more powerful definition of victory: happiness.

"Happiness is the key to success," Mero told a crowd of hundreds of Fox Chapel Middle School students Wednesday afternoon. "It's not your circumstances or situations, but your response to them."

Mero said success was not just about writing down your goals — which is important — but it's even more important to take action to actualize them, and make those goals real.

Next year Fox Chapel Middle will kick off a program called, "The Leader in Me," principal Ray Pinder said, which will focus on students setting goals and taking positive action to achieve those goals much like Mero describes.

"One of (Mero's) big messages is to take action towards goals — that's something we talk about a lot here at Fox Chapel and other schools do, too," Pinder said. "It's a message that we stress that I feel is important."

Mero said there is absolutely more turmoil occurring with the county's younger generations; more than he's seen in his lifetime.

"When I was a kid you kind of knew who the bully was, but with social media you don't know who the bully is," Mero said. "Kids are just trying to grow up so fast and missing the best years of their lives."

Mero wrote on a social networking site that he woke with a broken heart once he heard about the suicide of West Hernando Middle School student Miguel Rodriguez, 12, who was present in the audience during a presentation Mero gave shortly before his death.

"I went to the funeral and everything with his mom, and she was really thankful that I was there," Mero said. "Miguel was holding something inside that was really bothering him, and I don't want to come back and go to another funeral."

The economy is horrible. Parents are arguing among financial stressors and divorcing. And there are parents absent from homes, Mero said.

"We're throwing away a generation, and I hate to put it like that, but I receive so many letters," Mero said, adding that he'll easily receive around 200 student letters within 24 hours after each presentation. "They aren't like, 'Hey, great speech.' They're, 'Hey, this changed my life.'"

Some of the students are suicidal, Mero said. Some cut and mutilate themselves. Others are facing some form of molestation. Those letters are separated, and their authors are offered professional help.

"Kids want to feel like there is hope," Mero said. "I tell parents that kids don't need your presents. They need your presence more than what you can give them."

The sheriff's office was instrumental in bringing Mero to Fox Chapel Middle School, Pinder said — Lt. Michael Burzumato rallied the crowd and gave the opening announcement for Mero's speech — but the sheriff's office also has donors and sponsors that offer funding to bring him at little to no cost to the school, "which is nice."

"From an administrator's perspective, what I try to do, and what we all try to do, is encourage students to make positive choices — to think of whether something is good or bad — and encourage them to make the right choice," Pinder said. "I think students need to be reminded; we remind them everyday, but sometimes I think we need someone else to." (352) 544-5271

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