“Champ Up!” echoed through the gymnasium of St. Ephrem’s.
On Thurs., Nov. 15, students learned how to “Champ Up” and overcome difficulties from retired Muay Thai champion Chris Romulo. Contracted by the Program for the Development of Human Potential (PDHP), Romulo gave the middle schoolers an intense speech on bullying, overcoming feelings of self-doubt and creating a better life for themselves.
He emphasized the importance of “Champions Uprising” which means to stand up, accept challenges of life and fight to win.
“Fall seven times, stand up eight,” he told the youngsters. “We all have a fighting spirit buried deep inside of us and all it takes is for you guys to figure out. I’m here today because I want to take you guys on a mission, a mission I’ve been on for a while, and I believe you guys are on right now. So I want to make you guys aware of the mission, and the mission is called Champions Uprising.”
The PDHP was founded in the mid-’70s and operates under the Department of Education and the Diocese of Brooklyn. Its mission is to provide drug, alcohol and gambling prevention services to students attending Catholic elementary schools in Brooklyn and Queens.
In recent weeks, spurred by National Bullying Prevention Month in October, Romulo has spread the message at several schools in Brooklyn and Queens, including also St. Patrick Catholic Academy, Holy Angels Academy and St. Bernadette School
During his speech, Romulo spoke about his struggles growing up. Being a Filipino kid growing up in Queens Village was rough, he said; he was bullied and discouraged from opportunities based on what other people thought of him, and what he thought of himself.
He found solace, as it turned out, in Muay Thai. Twenty years of his life were spent training, fighting and coaching. He fought in many cities, including New York City, and became the first ever North American Super Middleweight Champion. Romulo now lives with his wife Sarah and their family in Rockaway Beach, where they own a gym called Crom Physical Culture.
Romulo emphasized to the students the importance of believing in themselves, of not letting negative thoughts get to them and of facing their fears.
Romulo also showed off his basketball and breakdancing skills and invited students to play and dance. A surprise Fortnite dance by one of the students took over the gymnasium.
Because some of the students are going to high school in the following year, the importance of following the advice throughout life’s challenges was emphasized.
Vanessa Ciaccia, booking director of Romulo, reiterated this point.
“Everyday they’re going to be up against different challenges,” she said. “Not knowing what you’re coming up against, if you’re well-educated in that field, it would help you to make better decisions.”