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Never Give Up: BMX Rider Gives Anti-Bullying Talk

On Friday, October 20th, Jane Ball Elementary School and Lincoln Elementary School each had a special visitor. Matt Wilhelm, a record-breaking, professional BMX rider and motivational speaker, came to our schools for our annual anti-bullying assemblies. He is known for his fast-spinning and aggressive riding style. He is a three-time X Games Medalist, World Championship Silver Medalist, two-time United States National Champion, and Guinness World Record Holder. He also advanced to the semi-finals of America's Got Talent. He also won the America's Got Talent YouTube Competition and won FOX TV's 30 Seconds to Fame. Wilhelm is also a motivational speaker and performs at over 300 schools per year. He was featured in the award-winning documentary Stop Bullying: Speak UP with President Obama.

Matt’s morning session was at Lincoln and the afternoon session was at Jane Ball. He began his presentation by talking to the students about how the show was going to run. He explained the correct way to clap and cheer for the performance, he also explained that there were loud and quiet parts of the show. He did give the disclaimer, “Please do not try these tricks at home.” To kick things off, Matt showed us some pretty amazing tricks and spins on his bike. The “tail whip” is a trick that he currently holds the Guinness World Record for. The “turbine” was a trick that he did on America’s Got Talent

Throughout his BMX tricks, Mat explained how he went about learning these new things. He said that he would take a trick that he thought was easy and then made it harder, and then made it harder, and then made it harder. He kept trying and never gave up on his goals to achieve this trick or that trick. He challenged the students to go home and explain a trick that he did today to their parents. This trick was “wheelie,” upside down, and spinning, all at the same time. 


During the “quiet part” of the show, Matt told us his story. Matt grew up in the Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn, IL. His first big competition was in the X Games and he was so nervous. He explained how the performance went when he crashed multiple times and received last place. Matt told the students that he could have given up at that point, but he persevered and kept going. He went back to the X Games and many other competitions. This is when he encouraged the students to never give up and had them say out loud, “Never give up!” He told them, “If you make a mistake or something is hard and you get frustrated, don’t listen to the voice in your head saying that you can’t do it. Instead, listen to the voice that is saying to never give up and keep trying.”


Matt jumped right back into more tricks, specifically the harder tricks, as requested by the students. He demonstrated the “hitchhiker” trick which was where he stood the bike vertically, while he balanced on the bike pegs and stood straight up, while only holding on with one hand. The students admitted that they wanted to see a crash. He then showed us the “dump truck” trick, which he said took a while to learn and that he crashed a lot with this one, but he nailed it this time. He talked about the Tony Hawk video game and how you can create combos in it by taking one trick, adding another trick, and another… He also mentioned that he ate nachos with Tony Hawk himself. 

Each school had two student volunteers, Lincoln had Piper N. and Dylan P., and Jane Ball had Bella A. and Ronald C. Matt explained what the students would be doing and then demonstrated it. The trick that he demonstrated was very difficult and dangerous, leaving the students in shock and regretting volunteering. Some of the teachers looked very concerned as well. He strapped on their helmets and explained that the trick that they would be doing was easy. The student stood on the front pegs of the bike, had one hand on the handlebars and one hand on the bike seat, then they took one foot and kicked the tire back, which rolled the bike. The entire time each of the students did this trick, Matt was there to hold them up to avoid falling. The students were cheering and clapping for their fellow classmates’ bravery. 


Along came another “quiet part” of the presentation. Matt told us his story of when he was bullied in school. Matt was a scrawny kid with big ears, a crooked nose, allergies, asthma, and a speech impediment. The bikers and skaters were different and didn’t really fit in with others. Growing up, he liked to take his bike to the dirt hills to ride up and down them. He told the story of when a group of the “popular” kids pushed him down and bullied him. His nickname was “Ears” because of the size of his ears, which was out of his control. When he was being bullied, another kid named Glen spoke up and said, “Hey! Leave him alone.” Matt said that Glen might as well have been a Spiderman or Batman because Glen was a superhero to him. The tough guys that picked on Matt, never bothered him again because he had someone speak up. He encouraged the students to be another person’s superhero, just like Glen was to him. 

Matt brought posters with him that he would autograph and hand out to the students. He grabbed a blank one and autographed it with the name “Ears.” He explained that this poster wouldn’t be worth anything, tore it in half, crumpled it up, and said that some people can make us feel like trash, as he held up the balled-up poster. Matt then explained that if you let those things go, ignore the bullies, have people in your corner (like Glen), and never give up on yourself, then you can be successful to the point that your name autographed on a poster can be worth something. He then handed out a few autographed posters to a few lucky students in the audience.



Now it was time for more tricks. The “cliffhanger” included him tilting the bike forward onto the front wheel and standing up with no hands. He showed us the “Spiderman” trick, where he rode the bike up to the wall and put his feet up against the wall. Another trick included him riding the bike and then balancing on his hands on the handlebars and making his body completely horizontal to the ground. His most famous trick, which he got $25,000 for, was very complex. He spins, flips the bike upside down, and takes his hands off while spinning. The favorite trick of the day was when Matt jumped over two staff members at both schools. At Lincoln, he jumped over Mr. Zaremba and Ms. Kickert, and at Jane Ball, he jumped over Mrs. Mazur and Mrs. Maravilla.




We took so many things away from Matt’s presentation. We were honored to hear his story and learn from it. The motivation that Matt gave our students was enlightening! We learned that hard work pays off, to never give up, and to be someone’s superhero. Our students were mesmerized by the tricks that Matt had to show off. Matt said to our students, “I hope that one day I have the opportunity to vote for you on a show like America’s Got Talent.” Matt’s story inspired us all to strive for our goals and be the best version of ourselves.