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Mike Miranda, bullied?
"Look at him," Mundelein football coach George Kaider said proudly. "He's all muscle. Technique-wise, he's our best weightlifter."
Yet, back in elementary school, every time Miranda looked up, literally, he was getting picked on by schoolmates. No one would ever know it by looking at Miranda today. He's so good at football, so mature, so trusted by his coaches. Mighty Mike could play mike linebacker, even at 5 feet 6 and 150 pounds.
"I was always smaller than everyone," Miranda said. "So they found it easier to pick on the smaller kid. I was the chubby, little, small kid."
He was bigger mentally than most. He used the bullying as motivation.
"I dealt with it my own way," said Miranda, Mundelein's handsome senior defensive end. "It didn't really get to me. And then I started building up confidence throughout middle school once I started wrestling and playing sports."
There are lots of li'l Mike Miranda bullying stories. If your son or daughter hasn't been bullied or hasn't bullied someone -- especially in today's cyber world of Facebook messaging, text-messaging and emailing -- chances are they know someone who has either been the target of bullying or played the role of the bully.
"It's an absolute, real, daily problem," said Kaider, who's also a counselor at Mundelein. "I think it's because so many kids don't know how to express themselves like adults and verbalize in a mature way. What they end up doing is hiding behind a computer, hiding behind a text message. When they put something (negative) out there (in cyberspace), they forget that they're the human being attached to those words or the human being attached to that picture that goes out there to a thousand people."
On Labor Day, the "Put Away Bullying" charity bash at the South Barrington Club hopes to bring awareness to an issue that has become as big in schools as drugs and, well, you know.
Former Bulls superstar Bob Love will speak about overcoming hardship and limitations and becoming much more than a basketball player. All proceeds will benefit the PACER National Bullying Prevention Center, which unites, engages and educates communities nationwide to address bullying prevention and awareness for children and teens through creative, relevant and interactive resources.
The bash includes music by the Eric Michaels Organ Trio with guest Suzanne Palmer, lunch, silent and live auctions and raffles. And, yes, bring the kids. Activities for little ones are planned, as well.
"I think you define (bullying) differently at the high school level than you do at younger ages," Kaider said. "At the high school level, it's not really bullying, but what it becomes is harassment. The intention is not to show up another kid, but the intention is to seriously harm the other person's reputation or their self-worth. It's intentionally harming another person. There's a target, and that person has targeted that other kid.
"I think at the younger grades, there's no target involved," added Kaider, who was once a vice principal at Woodstock. "I think (elementary school) kids will bully a kid because, 'You have rusty fenders on your bike,' or 'You have holes in your jeans,' or 'You live on a poorer side of town.' There's maybe a social element attached to it. At the high school level, it's truly targeting the heart and soul of another human being, regardless of their background."
Bullying today isn't what it parents dealt with when they were in school. Heck, it's even different from the days when Miranda was small and overweight.
With platforms like Facebook, your face never has to be seen.
"I don't think it's so much 'seeing' (bullying) nowadays with all the technology going on," Miranda said. "It's more cyberbullying. The perception people might have that it's face-to-face confrontations or calling out names in the hallways, that's over now because of Facebook and text-messaging and all that. I think it's this new wave of bullying."
"It can be almost on a daily basis," Mundelein senior middle linebacker Dominic Paliani said. "I feel like when people are in the moment, they don't realize when they post something on Facebook that it stays there. I think they think it's almost like they're just having a conversation with somebody. But after they do it, they realize it's staying on there for thousands of people to see."
Kaider has three sons, two in high school and a 12-year-old. He and his wife check their sons' phones daily.
"Here's how you recognize (bullying)," Kaider said. "The parent has to have full access to Facebook and texting."
He tells his sons, "It's not because I don't trust you. It's because I love you."
At the Paliani house, Dominic and his sister, who also attends Mundelein, follow a similar routine with parents Robert and Renae.
"Probably around 10 o'clock every night, we turn our phones in," Paliani said. "They want to make sure we're not up all night texting somebody. They want us to get sleep."
Miranda's mother, Christina Gonzalez, cuts her son some slack.
"Now with football, I'm too tired to even be up at like 9:30 or 10," Miranda said with a laugh. "I'm in bed passed out. She could take the phone if she wants. But I have no problem when she's like, 'Let me see your phone.' I have nothing to hide from her. I tell my mom everything."
Mighty good, Mike.
• For more information about the "Put Away Bullying" charity bash, please call the South Barrington Club at (847) 381-2570, and ask for Ralph Brown. Cost to attend is a minimum $35 donation ($10 for children).