Students at the Cuba-Rushford and Fillmore central school districts learned how to battle bullying this week with the help of Sweethearts and Heroes.

Fillmore Central School students in grades 5-12 on Monday had a day full of presentations, workshops and an assembly focused on cyberbullying, while Cuba-Rushford Middle-High School students on Tuesday and Wednesday went through various anti-bullying presentation, workshops and drills.

Since 2011, Sweethearts and Heroes has presented to more than 1 million students at hundreds of schools across the country, including local ones in recent years like Allegany-Limestone Middle-High School in 2015.

The program is developed by Tom Murphy, a former professional MMA fighter and Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran from St. Albans, Vt., and Jason Spector, an educator and coach in Glens Falls.

Murphy and Spector say their program is “the stop, drop and roll of bullying,” as it emphasizes an action-based approach — going beyond awareness — to stop bullying. They also emphasize H.O.P.E., or “Hold On Possibilities Exist.”

“Just talking about awareness doesn’t fix anything,” Murphy says. “What separates us from other anti-bullying presentations and projects is that we have the plan to curb and even stop bullying in your school, or wherever it exists for you. But we go beyond bullying. We are about humanity, giving H.O.P.E. to the hopeless and making the world a better place.”

“We use Einstein's quote: ‘The world is a dangerous place not because of those who choose to do evil, but because of those who choose to do nothing about it,’” says Spector. “We offer a unique perspective on bullying and leave audiences with an A-B-C action plan to fight it. Bullying isn’t the problem. Bullies have been around forever. The problem is we don’t have enough Sweethearts and Heroes in the world.”

In addition, Rick Yarosh, a retired U.S. Army sergeant who was injured in Iraq with burns over most of his body, gives a message about overcoming adversity and turning a negative situation into a positive one.

For more information on Sweethearts and Heroes, visit sweetheartsandheroes.com.

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