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Harlem Globetrotters talk to children about bullying prevention

CYPRESS, Texas – Two star athletes are making their way around Greater Houston elementary schools sharing with thousands of students about bullying prevention. Teachers and school officials said that is a lesson needed now more than ever.

Harlem Globetrotters Julian "Zeus" McClurkin and El Gato Melendez are dividing their time among 13 local elementary schools before their game in July, to help share a message with 10,000 students about bullying.

"Every time we have a game, we'll send one of our girls or our guys out, and we'll present our ABCs of Bullying Prevention campaign program," said McClurkin. "We try to catch them early – elementary school is the best. An initiative that we got tasked with five or six years ago was with the National Campaign to Stop Violence, and they issued essays to school-aged kids and that asked them what was the No. 1 problem that students today faced in schools and a lot of the kids talked about bullying. It's a huge epidemic and we saw that need there so we saw an opportunity to create a program."

The athlete shared the ABCs for Bullying Prevention, promoting "action," "bravery" and "compassion."

"I get an opportunity to share with them my bullying experience, and they're like 'Well, if he was bullied and made it through it, then I can make it through it too.'" McClurkin said.

He created activities, made jokes and built an energy in the room, captivating students to listen, inspiring them to be kind to their classmates, reach out to those who are having a difficult time and to report students who are doing the bullying.

"I learned to not be scared of bullies," said fifth-grader Elijah Sampson.

"If I see somebody sad, I'm going to ask them to play with us – with my friends – and we're just going to be kind to them," said fifth-grader Morgan Vanarstal.

Of course it wouldn't be a visit from the Harlem Globetrotters without some Globies tricks. McClurkin taught students ball handling tricks – spinning, bouncing, and dribbling the ball.

"Tricks always get their attention, but then he really zoomed in on the message, and I think that's truly important," said second-grade teacher Karen Russi.

For fifth-grader Luke Robbins, the athlete's message was loud and clear.

"My favorite part was about how he teaches people not to be rude and not to bully other kids because they will be brought down and be hurt," Luke said.

McClurkin even spoke about cyberbullying, telling student to ignore and not engage with hurtful online posts.

"I think we all know, in light of everything that's happened, how important it is to start at such a young age teaching children about kindness; this is the message we want all kids to know," said Robison Elementary School Principal Kelly Gerletti.

The Harlem Globetrotters will be playing a game at the Berry Center in Cypress on July 15.

For more info on the Globetrotters, click here.