Boxer and owner of Elite Training Center, Paul Rubio has become Pleasanton’s local voice and advocate against bullying.
Patch featured Paul’s inspiring story, “” last November.
Born with spina bifida, Paul was paralyzed at the time of his birth. At the age of three, he was granted a second chance when he gained movement in his toes. After numerous surgeries, Paul learned to walk. However, what should have been a joyful new chapter in his life turned ugly when Paul entered Kindergarten.
When Paul enrolled into elementary school, he walked with an awkward gait. That, combined with other complications due to his disability, contributed to years of falling victim to bullying.
The teasing began with simple name calling in elementary school. By middle school, Paul had been beaten up numerous times, was pelted with rocks regularly, and was thrown into trash cans. Some of the more serious incidents included having his head locked into a gate and having been beaten so badly that his bullies rode their bikes over him while he lay helpless in the street.
At the age of 12, Paul turned to his stepfather, who was an expert in hand-to-hand combat. After only a few lessons, Paul gained the confidence and the skills to finally speak up and defend himself against the kids who had been the source of his anguish for nearly seven years.
When the article on Paul published, Patch received numerous emails from readers who were inspired by his story. One southern California reader, a grandmother of a child born with spina bifida, requested to speak with Paul regarding her grandson.
Over a series of months, Paul was in touch with the family through email and phone calls. In December, Paul traveled to southern California to meet and encourage 7-year-old Dominic. Paul continues to counsel and encourage Dominic and his family. He hopes to meet with school in the near future to share his anti-bullying message.
Meanwhile, Paul has taken his message to Pleasanton’s local elementary schools. At the end of April, he met with fourth and fifth grade boys at both and elementary schools.
The children were captivated as he told a story of a boy who was bullied, later revealing that he was that child. Students were genuinely surprised by the reveal and had numerous questions.
Paul addressed all forms of bullying including verbal, physical, and electronic bullying such as texting and cyber-bullying. He encouraged the children to speak up, find support from adults, promise to never bully other children, and to learn to let the little things go.
School counselors Nicole Lodato and Abby Johnson were present during the presentation. Both were teary-eyed as the boys opened up about their experiences of being bullied.
“The kids that bullied me made people not want to be my friend,” shared one child. “He made up rumors about my family and told me that my family didn’t care about me.”
“I locked myself in my room for two days and wouldn’t come out,” said another boy. “I didn’t feel like eating or drinking anything.”
Paul sympathized with the boys, telling them, “I get it. I used to want to go to sleep and dream forever.”
The children collectively shared their feelings of humiliation, sadness, anger, and depression.
“You guys are good kids,” he told them. “You’re smart. Be strong inside and know who are on the inside. Know that you’re a good person no matter what anyone else says.”
Paul surprised the boys with “No Bullying” t-shirts designed by Build Your Own Garment in Dublin, who gave the shirts to Paul at cost in order to support his efforts. Paul encouraged the boys to contact him if they ever needed to talk.
School counselor Nicole Lodato also held a parent’s session to offer advice and encourage parents to talk to their children about bullying.
“Kids are afraid of getting in trouble if they report bullying,” said Lodato. “It’s really important that we focus and teach elementary school children how to deal with bullying, especially when they are the bystander.”
Lodato addressed the fourth and fifth grade girls separately.
“Bullying is different with boys and girls,” said Lodato. “Girls have to deal with what is called Relational Aggression, which is indirect bullying such as gossip, talking behind the back, and cyberbullying.”
Paul is currently being sponsored by the Tri-Valley Community Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to strengthen the region’s communities through civic engagement and sustainable philanthropy.
Tri-Valley Community Foundation has provided the funds to help Paul hire three high school students to work at his facility. Their goal is take kids off the street, provide them with working experience, and surround them with healthy role models. They also hope to offer grants to fund programs at the facility for low-income kids.
Paul is in the process of creating Bully Prevention Seminars, a non-profit organization geared to sponsor scholarship programs to keep kids that can no longer afford to pay tuition in his mixed martial arts classes and off the streets.
“With all of the low-income housing being developed around here, if we don’t offer the kids something to do, they will likely find themselves in trouble,” said Paul.
Paul works with kids of all ages at his studio teaching them confidence and instilling in them personal self-worth. He meets with them both in group format and, when necessary, one-on-one to cater to their individual needs.
"My heart is with the kids," Paul said. "If I can spare even one child from enduring the struggles that I went through, then everything I've gone through has been worth it."