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Tom Murphy and Goff Middle School students at Sweethearts and Heroes presentation

Goff Middle School students receive anti-bullying training from Tom Murphy of Sweethearts & Heroes at an assembly on Wednesday morning in the school gym.

Students at Howard L. Goff Middle School learned how they can be real-life superheroes during anti-bullying assemblies on Wednesday morning. Facilitators from Sweethearts & Heroes, including former professional mixed martial artist Tom Murphy and Ret. U.S. Army Sgt. Rick Yarosh led the dynamic presentations.

Their colleague Pat Fish, an aspiring young leader who first saw Sweethearts & Heroes as a student in South Glens Falls, N.Y., led Circle in various classrooms, which is built on the ancient ritual of communicating in a circle to build empathy.

The program is designed to give young people hope in a challenging world with real strategies for making a difference.

“We are very excited to have Sweethearts & Heroes at Goff Middle School,” said Goff Interim Principal James McHugh. “Their mission to create a more empathetic and kind world is needed now more than ever. The impact of social media and the never ending flow of negative media information has impacted students and families everywhere. I am confident that Tom and his team will encourage our students to think more deeply about what they say and choose to do.”

Mr. Murphy engaged with students during the presentation and actually provided training for how they can be active bystanders to help peers who are being bullied.

During one exercise, Mr. Murphy acted as a bully towards a student. Two other Goff students, dressed as superheroes wearing green bath towels as capes and white swimmer’s caps and swimming goggles on their heads, took turns intervening to help their classmate. The demonstration showed how students who witness bullying can take action to help someone else.

“We’re thrilled to be working in New York schools for the 2022-2023 school year, and we’re honored that our friends and colleagues at Goff Middle School have invited us to their district,” said Murphy. “The most recent national data tells us that student anxiety and hopelessness are still on the rise, a trend that was escalating before COVID hit, so our work in East Greenbush is crucial.”

Ret. U.S. Army Sgt. Rick Yarosh, a HOPE expert and motivational speaker with Sweethearts & Heroes, speaking at an assembly at Howard L. Goff Middle School.

Ret. U.S. Army Sgt. Rick Yarosh, a HOPE expert and motivational speaker with Sweethearts & Heroes, speaking at an assembly at Howard L. Goff Middle School.

During the presentation, Mr. Yarosh shared his personal story with students and teachers. While serving in Iraq in 2006, his Bradley tank was hit with an IED and he was burned severely. During his recovery he struggled but his family, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and even a child who saw him at a restaurant and showed him kindness, provided him with the hope to carry on. Since then, he has become a motivational speaker and joined Sweethearts & Heroes to make a positive impact on young people around the country who are dealing with hopelessness.

“They were giving me the hope that I needed to get through those really awful moments,” as he talked about his own Sweethearts. “They are the people in our lives who give us hope when we absolutely need it the most. I wouldn’t be who I am today or where I am today in my life if it wasn’t for the hope that I received and the Sweethearts in my life.”

For more than 15 years, Sweethearts & Heroes has presented what Murphy calls “‘the ‘stop, drop and roll’ of bullying” to more than 2 million students in school districts from New England to Hawaii. Murphy, Yarosh and Fish also tailor their presentations and workshops for businesses, nonprofits and civic groups.

“We go where we’re needed,” Mr. Murphy said. “That’s what heroes do.”

Sweethearts & Heroes has visited the East Greenbush Central School District previously, including Goff Middle School in 2019 and Bell Top Elementary School in 2015.

For more information on Sweethearts & Heroes, visit:


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