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Actors visit local schools to promote anti-bullying campaign

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By Emily Dougherty

    KEENESBURG — Two actors flew straight from the Super Bowl Feb. 5 to Colorado to visit a few local schools, including close-by Weld Central High School Feb. 7.
    Quinton Aaron, who played Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher with Sandra Bullock in the hit “The Blind Side,” and Eric Martinez, from “Love Lies Bleeding” and ABC’s “Scoundrels,” stood with microphones in front of the entire school and answered any question students threw at them.
    The topic of the conversation was anti-bullying.
    “Bullying has become a national problem,” said Martinez. “I was bullied in school and was always scared to tell someone. So this hits really close to home for me; and if there is something I can do now to help someone else going through it, I will.”
    By any estimation, Aaron was born to be a bully. The actor stands at 6 feet 8 inches tall and 300-plus pounds, Aaron would be intimidating if he weren’t such a nice guy.

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    On the contrary, when Aaron was in high school, he was made fun of for his big size.
    “Like Michael, I had a lot of struggles growing up,” Aaron said. “We’re both larger than life, kindhearted people who because of our size didn’t use it to take advantage of people. Basically we’re just big, gentle giants. That was what I was able to connect with.”
    The duo had the high-schoolers laughing and thinking seriously about their actions – how to handle bullying, how to walk away from being a bully and what to do about being a bully to yourself.
    “It’s dirt off your shoulders. A saying I live by is ‘Your opinion costs me nothing, so I pay you no mind,” Martinez said. “That’s how I do it. Who cares what everybody else says?”
    One student asked each about their respective positive impacts from the anti-bullying campaign.
    Martinez answered saying, “There’s been no negatives. Every school I’ve been to has been tremendous. People have gotten a positive message out of it. A lot of times it just takes a person to say it for other people to acknowledge it.”
    Aaron kept the mood light by serenading the crowd with a Luther Vandross song, and even the staff and faculty got to ask questions.
    The men began their anti-bullying campaign because of their experiences with it and used their platform in the movie and music industry to spread the message.
    “If I can tell kids my story and they can relate to what I went through, then maybe I can get them through a tough time in their life. That is what it is all about.” said Aaron.
    For Martinez, that message resonates even stronger because he has his own teenager to raise into a respectful person.
    During the assembly, one teacher asked Martinez to explain the meaning of integrity, which is one of the school’s focuses.
    “Having integrity is being a person of your word, having the courage to stand up for what you believe, having the courage to speak for others when they can’t speak for themselves,” Martinez said. “All you have is your word.”
    After speaking to the crowd, Martinez and Aaron signed photographs and autographs for the whole school and spent time visiting classrooms.
    The Hudson-Keenesburg Lions Club hosted the actors’ anti-bullying campaign. The club hosted the two actors for dinner at the Keenesburg Fairgrounds for the club’s Charter Night.
    The campaign started with a special appearance at Speedpro Imaging of Broomfield for its grand opening celebration Feb. 6.
    According to David Navarro, Lions Club member, the charter has a special focus on creating a better community and future for area youth and works to bring bullying awareness to the state.
    “Due to the growing media coverage regarding bullying in our state and across the country, we felt that the time was right to take a preemptive approach to the issue and provide a strong anti-bullying campaign to raise awareness and, hopefully, prevention,” Navarro said. “The Hudson-Keenesburg Lions Club knows that our children are our future and will continue to provide positive opportunities for the youth in our community and across Colorado.”
    Navarro added that students appreciated the fact that Aaron and Martinez, who are famous actors, took the time to come to their school and speak to them.
“That really made them feel good, that they were important,” he said. “The students were engaged, no texting or chit-chat during their presentation. [Eric and Quinton] were down to earth and friendly. It was easy to relate to them because they didn’t seem ‘Hollywood.’”

Contact Emily Dougherty at 303-659-2522 ext. 223 or edougherty@metrowestnewspapers.com.