Former Arizona Cardinals fullback Reagan Maui’a visited the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Recreation After-School program on Tuesday, October 20, to speak to students and staff on bullying and its impact in schools and at home.
The Reagan Maui’a Foundation is an anti-bullying nonprofit organization newly founded in 2015. The purpose of the organization is to help kids understand what bullying is, learn how to recognize it, and learn what can be done to prevent it.
Maui’a spoke of his firsthand experience as a victim of bullying. He moved from American Samoa in the South Pacific to Oakland, California, at the age of 10, and at that time he did not know English. Speaking only his native tongue, he was unable to communicate with his fellow classmates. He was frequently subjected to teasing, and even at the age of 31 he can still remember and is still affected by the bullying he endured as a child.
When asked what the word “bullying” means, the kids gave great examples which included hitting, kicking, hurting feelings and spreading rumors online. Everyone raised their hands when asked if they wanted to stop bullying. He encouraged the kids to talk to a parent, grandparent or teacher if they ever felt they were being hurt.
“The one thing that helped me get through bullying, the one thing that helped me smile and be happy, the one thing that made me feel better,” said Maui’a, “was love.”
“Love,” he continued, “is when you see a kid sitting by themselves, being sad and not talking to anyone. Love is when you go over to that kid, sit down next them and say hi. Love is when you show kindness. Love is being nice and being friendly. Love is forgiving. You can stop bullying by saying yes to love.”
Maui’a took time to answer a few questions. Although some questions surrounded his football career, one student asked, “Did you eventually feel better after you were bullied?”
“Yes,” said Maui’a, “by finding love within myself. By learning how to love myself and accepting who I was and accepting that I was different. When you understand that you’re different and it is okay to be different, that is the first sign of loving yourself.”
Maui’a also visited Salt River Elementary School and Salt River High School. While speaking to students of SRHS, Maui’a touched on one of the biggest dangers of bullying, suicide. Two letters of suicide were read to the audience which brought forth its severity.
“Love is what is going to solve this issue of bullying, and I want you to say yes to love,” said Maui’a.