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Bully Prevention Programs for Schools



 



 

Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)

TIGERMAN Philadelphia Inquirer

'TIGERMAN' fights violence with love
Earning his stripes by reaching out to children.
Susan Snyder INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

As a child, Mark Anthony Ciarlante was tormented by classmates: "They kicked me, spit on me, and threw mud on me."

Instead of fighting back, he painted his face with his mother's makeup and pretended he was a tiger - a TIGERMAN - who would try to help everyone love each other.

Now, more than 30 years later, Ciarlante has transformed the fictional character he created as a child into a reality.

Donning a tiger-skin cape, face paint, and tiger-colored dreadlocks of rope, Ciarlante sings, dances and dazzles young children in schools as he delivers a message of peace, love and safety: Say no to guns. Get an adult when danger lurks. Respect everyone.

"RAH!" he roared, for "Reject All Hate."

Unlike the Power Rangers and the Powerpuff Girls, who fight to glory, TIGERMAN markets himself as the nonviolent superhero, and he's capturing quite a following in city elementary schools.

"It was like a spiritual revival. It touched my soul," second-grade teacher Karen Burkhardt said Wednesday after Ciarlante performed at H.R. Edmunds Elementary School in Frankford.

Second grader James Kidner didn't want to leave. Of TIGERMAN, he said: "Awesome!"

The school district wants to find private funding to expand Ciarlante's visits to more elementary schools, said Tim Spreitzer, deputy chief of staff. Ciarlante is in the middle of a 10-school tour, funded with a $5,000 grant from Lincoln Financial Group.

"The principals that we've spoken with by and large think he has a great program and he connects well with students," Spreitzer said.

He also has done performances in private schools and in a few other states, including New Jersey. Ciarlante, who began his show about three years ago, performs 60 to 80 times a year.

Educators said he instinctively knows which students need extra support, a talent he displayed at Edmunds when he called several aside afterward.

"He's got the knack," said assistant principal Carmen Alba, shaking her head in amazement. "He definitely will be here again."

Ciarlante, 38, a native of Northeast Philadelphia, said it's intuition.

"A force guides me to these kids," he said. "Maybe I was in so much pain as a child that now I can feel these kids' pain. I feel very strongly that this is my destination in life."

For Ciarlante, the bullying that began before he started school became so bad when he was a sophomore at Frankford High School that he dropped out. He later got his general equivalency diploma.

His mother, Mary, said she told him to fight back, "but he was a lover, not a fighter. The boys got jealous because the girls liked him so much."

They also made fun of him because he liked to dance. So she told him to do something positive. Out came TIGERMAN. "He was my therapy," Ciarlante recalled.

Later, Ciarlante continued to see the ill effects of violence.

About 20 years ago, his great uncle, who owned a grocery store in West Philadelphia, was shot and killed by a 16-year-old in a robbery.

In 1989, his mother was robbed outside her home in the Northeast and stabbed 15 times with a screwdriver. She chased her attacker, got his license number, and had him arrested.
 
But it wasn't until Ciarlante was working as an actor in New York City eight years ago that he decided to resurrect TIGERMAN.

It was Christmastime and he was playing Santa Claus at a department store. A little boy climbed onto his lap and asked for a real gun so that he would feel safe to go outside and play.

"My heart just broke," Ciarlante said. "Then I had an idea: Why don't I put TIGERMAN into action?" 

It took him five years to plan. He developed a theme song, video, costume and curriculum. Ciarlante has entertainment experience. He previously played bit roles on 21 Jump Street, on MTV, and in commercials.

He formed a nonprofit corporation now based at Resources for Human Development, which incubates small businesses.

Then he began to seek funding, which is still a struggle. He charges $200 to $500 per show, which pays for transportation, costume upkeep, and T-shirts and other prizes. To survive, he does odd jobs on the side.

In early 2000, he asked Mayor Street for a contribution. "I said I was starving and almost homeless. He offered me a banana," Ciarlante said, still smarting from the exchange.

Later, City Council adopted a resolution, praising his work. Ciarlante showed up in Council chambers in his cat garb. "I felt like I put my paw print in the history of Philadelphia," he said.

Ciarlante also has made inroads elsewhere. He so impressed a San Jose, Calif., official when he performed at the National Youth Crime Prevention conference in Texas last year that he was invited to that city to visit two schools.

At Edmunds, Ciarlante filled the stage with posters of antiviolence slogans. The TIGERMAN theme song boomed in stereo.

In his shiny black outfit with steel boots, shoulder plates and belt, Ciarlante danced out and twirled his cape, yielding "ooohs" and "ahhhs." He directed the children to clap, wave and sing. Throughout his fast-paced, interactive program, he called children onto the stage, asking them questions, giving them small duties, and handing them a copy of his superhero card.

Second grader Michael Delgado was a somewhat unwilling participant at first. But after the show, during which TIGERMAN told students he was beaten up as a child, Michael said he didn't want to fight again.

"I felt bad when he said they kicked him and spit on him," the boy said. "Fighting is bad."

Ciarlante called teachers onto the stage and asked them to dance as he played the "Come on Down" theme from The Price Is Right. To the two judged the best, he awarded computers - donated to him - for their classrooms.

"It gives them a chance to see a teacher as a person, someone who has feelings, too," he said.

Ciarlante hopes someday to have his own television show and a motor home to go from city to city, teaching America's children to think like TIGERMAN.

"My super power is my mind for knowledge and my heart for love, and I tell all the kids that they have that power, too."

Ciarlante can be reached at www.tigerman.com.

Copyright (c) 2002 The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

CNN NEWSMAKERS


Mark A Ciarlante aka TIGERMAN’s interview on CNN NEWSMAKERS. He talks about why he started his Bully Prevention program for younger kids in schools.

                          & OPRAH!


Mark A Ciarlante aka TIGERMAN performs for children in Whitesboro, NJ. Oprah donates over 1 million dollars to Stedman Graham’s community!

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TIGERMAN makes his Hollywood debut in Dumbstruck, The movie, directed by Mark Goffman, Produced by Lindsey Goffman.  For more information and to purchase DVD, go to:

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