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Guinness record-holder tells students to be strong against bullies

Strongman Jon Pritikin barely notices the bruises he got from rolling frying pans. The scar on his chin evokes the most vivid memory, however, as he got it when he crashed to the floor as an elementary student being chased by bullies.

Pritikin, a 36-year-old motivational speaker from California, got the attention of Hampton Middle School students last week by performing feats of strength that landed him in the 2009 Guinness Book of World Records for “the tightest circumference of two aluminum frying pans rolled together with his bare hands in less than 30 seconds.”

After lifting two girls with a steel rod he bent with his teeth, Pritikin told his story of being teased and ostracized throughout his school years. He acquired the scar on his chin in the third grade when a fifth-grader tripped Pritikin as he ran from 25 other students.

“I’m not rich or famous,” he said. “But I relive my life in front of everyone to tell you to never believe the lie that you are not special.”

Pritikin has spoken about his experience with bullying to three million students as part of his “Feel the Power” program sponsored by the National Character Education Foundation.

He said one teacher’s encouragement urged him to persevere, to graduate from high school, and to be accepted to college, even without stellar grades. He said his hard work in college helped him to get his degree.

“That day, I made it,” Pritikin said.

When he saw that teacher years later at a conference where Pritikin was speaking, he ran to the back of the room to thank him.

Eighth-grader Amanda Hedges said she has friends that have been bullied. Pritikin’s story brought tears to the eyes of some of her classmates, she said.

“I don’t know anyone that didn’t like it,” said Hedges, 13, of Hampton.

Pritikin said he took his first-grade daughter to visit the elementary school where he got his scar. Choking up with emotion, he recounted his daughter telling him that if she had gone to school with him, she would have sat with him at lunch.

“At some point, you may need someone to be a hero in your life, or you will need to be a hero in someone else’s life,” he said. “Heroes help out people who are going through a tough time, or people who aren’t as strong as them.”


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