The nearly 250 students automatically stood up and cheered before he spoke to the group about his anti-bullying campaign, which urges children of all ages to take a kind and positive attitude when interacting with their peers.
“We try to use skills with basketball to convey a positive message,” Franklin said. “If we can help give a positive message to kids, then hopefully it decreases this bullying epidemic.”
The Globetrotters will perform at the Bryce Jordan Center at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Franklin travels the world giving speeches to schools in a program called the “ABCs of Bullying Prevention.” The interactive assembly focuses on action, bravery and compassion.
School administrators said Franklin contacted the school on Monday about the speaking engagement and they accepted.
“I think it engages kids really positively,” said school librarian Paije Davis. “They see someone they can recognize and the message really sinks in for them. It’s just another way to promote positive behavior at the school.”
Franklin said he knows firsthand what it’s like to be bullied.
“I’ve wanted to be a Harlem Globetrotter since I was 6 years old, but was teased and told I couldn’t do it,” Franklin said.
The 41-year-old has been on the team for seven years, and set out a couple years ago to invest time in anti-bullying efforts. The Harrisburg native has a bachelor’s degree from Lock Haven University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh.
For fifth-grader Ty Todd, the best parts of the speech were the tricks and the good message.
“I like how he made cool moves and he encouraged us to speak nice to others,” Ty, 11, said.
On a daily basis, Ty said, he tries to go out of his way to be polite and helpful.
Teacher Jennifer Oesterling said the school has started a campaign called PAWS, which stands for “practice kindness,” “act responsibly,” “work hard” and “show respect.” The initiative rewards students for good behavior.
For every good deed, a student is given a ticket. Davis said the tickets are motivational tools to teach respect and kindness. The tickets can then be handed in for prizes.
And Ty said he has too many to count.
“I think I just like helping people when they need help with homework and stuff,” Ty said. “I think others can be nice, too, by being kind to people or if someone is sad, to comfort them.”
“We focus on rewarding the good instead of highlighting the bad,” Davis added.
This is something the school hopes to focus on in the long-term.
“We hope to accomplish a day-to-day emphasis on positive behavior,” Oesterling said. “It goes on all year, and these are skills they can take with them beyond school.”
Davis said some parents have requested PAWS tickets and practiced the skills at home.
Franklin said the key is helping others make good decisions.
“The goal is to relay a positive message in every community we reach,” Franklin said. “I think it has the power to do a lot of good.”
Franklin’s next stop is in Reading.