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Globetrotting to St. John Notre Dame School, Folsom

Former Harlem Globetrotter Sterling Forbes discusses bullying with fifth graders
By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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The look of surprise on John Koch’s face told the whole story.

The wide-eyed fifth grader in Courtney Hamilton’s class at St. John Notre Dame School in Folsom just learned he had won a red, white and blue Harlem Globetrotter basketball, soon to be autographed by former Globetrotter Sterling “Smooth” Forbes. Koch created, drew and colored what Forbes’ kids and current Folsom High seniors McKenzie and Mason deemed to be the best anti-bullying poster out of the several made by students in the class. Minutes after learning he won the basketball, the 10-year-old was speechless.

“I still don’t know what to say,” Koch said.

Koch and his classmates had some special guests last Thursday afternoon, as Forbes, decked out in his Globetrotter gear, visited the class to talk about bullying. Each student in the class had a copy of the book Forbes wrote called “Bubba Bully Bear,” which tells the story of Bubba, the meanest bully ever to attend Happy Cub Elementary School. With the help of Coach Barkley, Bubba learns that it’s much more fun being helpful than it is being a bully.

“It’s an issue that’s very important to me,” Forbes said of bullying. “I really hate to see kids being bullied. I think it’s something that’s going on around the country and at so many different ages; young kids in elementary schools, junior highs and even high schools, and when you hear stories about kids committing suicide because they were so unhappy from being bullied it tears me up and just makes no sense.”

When Forbes asked the kids what options students have when being bullied, he received all kinds of responses from the class, some of which included,  “Find a teacher or parent who could help the situation.” “Tell the person you don’t like what they’re doing. “Walk away.” “Start being nice to them and then they won’t know what to do.”

Forbes assured the kids, “Your voice makes a difference, and there’s always someone to talk to about it.”

The students read the book prior to the visit and enjoyed discussing it with Forbes, as arms shot up around the classroom when Forbes asked questions about the story.

“I learned that people can change and that bullies can sometimes turn into good people,” Koch said. “I learned not to judge at first and to give them a second chance.”

Following the discussion about bullying, Forbes talked about his nine years as a player with the Harlem Globetrotters and impressed the class with several ball tricks he learned while with the team.

McKenzie and Mason, seniors that star on the basketball court at Folsom High, have earned scholarships to the University of California, Berkeley and Harvard, respectively. Forbes used them as good examples of the importance of putting school first before basketball. The brother-sister duo also answered several questions the students had for them.

At the end of the visit, the Forbes trio autographed each student’s copy of “Bubba Bully Bear.”

“It was really cool,” Koch said of the visit. “I liked when he was doing all the moves and spinning the ball the best.”

“Bubba Bully Bear” is part of Sterling Forbes Hooked on Books series. For more information, search “Sterling Forbes Hooked on Books” on the web.