Former pro wrestler inspires, moves Valley students with presentation
FORT KENT, Maine — Adults and students alike cheered and shed tears during a presentation Monday by former WCW and WWE wrestling champion Marc Mero.
Now a motivational speaker, author and founder of the nonprofit organization Champion of Choices, Mero focused his address on the importance of good decision making to achieve true success in life, which he said is measured by our relationships with one another.
Approximately 700 Valley Unified learners from the school administrative units of SAD 27, SAD 33 and the Madawaska School Department attended the presentation at the University of Maine at Fort Kent Sport Center.
Mero related some heartbreaking tales of regret over decisions he made which caused him to alienate those closest to him, including a younger brother and sister and his mother, all of whom died young before he had a chance to repair his relationships with them.
He encouraged Valley Unified learners to surround themselves with positive people who make good decisions.
“We are defined by our choices,” Mero said. “We become who we surround ourselves with.”
To illustrate his point, he spoke about at one time preparing to enter the world of professional boxing, after having won multiple Golden Gloves boxing competitions in the state of New York. Just a week before his pro boxing debut, however, Mero shattered his nose in an accident, requiring extensive surgery and putting that dream on hold for one year. During that year, he became entangled with friends who abused alcohol and drugs and Mero said he ultimately lost 10 years of his life to addiction.
“All that free time presented me with a lot of choices and I made a bad one,” he said.
Mero also said he was bullied as a child and considered suicide during his life. He encouraged the students to reach out to someone if they feel threatened, depressed or suicidal.
“Please talk to someone,” he said. “If you hold it inside it’s like a volcano and its going to erupt.”
Mero said he lost 30 friends to bad decisions including to drug overdoses, murder and suicide.
“It’s a list I should have been on,” he said.
Olivia Lizotte, a freshman at Madawaska Middle/High School, said she felt inspired by Mero’s presentation to “try to make a life worth living and help out family members.”
Lizotte’s cousin, Ian Michaud, an eighth-grader at Madawaska Middle/High School said he also was moved by Mero’s talk.
“It was sad and inspiring. My Nana died of cancer,” Michaud said. “I learned to make the most of life.”
Following the presentation, Mero met with students who lined up to speak with him. Among those students was Fort Kent 10th grader Jasmine Hodgkin, who said she could relate to Mero because she is still grieving the loss of her brother, Anthony Hodgkin, who passed away when he was just 8 years old and she was 6.
“I lost my brother when I was younger so this kind of helped me,” Hodgkin said of Mero’s presentation. “I learned that I need to let people in more and that it’s a good thing; don’t take it out on yourself or anyone else.”
Life By Design organized Mero’s visit, which the Valley Unified Regional Service Center and a variety of local businesses helped to sponsor.
“All the comments I heard from learners were positive,” said Peter Caron, Valley Unified coordinator of innovative practice and community outreach. “Staff and learners alike noted that Mero’s words, stories, examples, and anecdotes evoked lots of emotion and reflection on subjects of critical importance and relevance to today’s youth.”