On Tuesday during an anti-bullying assembly, Ravens star running back Ray Rice made a special appearance at Bel Air High School to talk about his experiences with bullying. Rice talked with the entire student body in an assembly as well as with private groups, the varsity football team and the Best Buddies organization.
After messages from Principal Gregory Komondor, Counselor Bruce Riley and others, Rice came in and stole the show.
Building off the ideas presented before him, Rice talked about his experiences with bullying and general respect in high school. As Rice made clear, he was "keeping it real" with the students.
"Keeping it real" meant that Rice openly told students that he was never bullied in school.
"Was I ever bullied? No. I was the guy in high school. I was the athlete. I got along with everybody," he said.
He then went on to talk about the good he did with that opportunity.
"I was the guy who broke all the barriers," he said.
He made everyone his friend because he was well-liked and he used his position of public approval to his advantage.
He also stressed the value of family and team in a community, especially a high school. He told the students that this is the time of their life in which they will be most loved and appreciated.
"When I go home, I am going to where I feel the most love," he said, adding he wants the Bel Air community to feel the same.
Rice ended with his most valued life lesson: "Who you are as a person is who you are when no one is watching. When I'm in the weight room at 5:30 in the morning, I don't need an audience."
Students will remember this event for a long time. The entire packed gymnasium was in complete shock to see Rice walked in. Despite his celebrity presence, the real reason Rice came was to make the school a better place. Students will remember his overall message of kindness, compassion and camaraderie.
After the assembly, Rice spoke with students from the junior varsity and varsity football teams and students from the school's Best Buddies program, where students work with special needs students.
Rice was invited to the school after a grandfather of one Bel Air High School student won a raffle to have a Ravens player visit a local area school, Komondor said.
"The students were completely stunned," Komondor said. "We kept it a secret from our 1,600 plus students. Now every time they see him on TV on Sunday they will remember his words."
For the past three years Bel Air High School has been involved in the Rachel's Challenge anti-bullying campaign, named after a Columbine High School student who was killed during shooting.
Komondor said having Rice speak to students was great because it reinforced the anti-bullying messages they had been receiving from teachers and administrators over the past few years.
The writer is the editor-in-chief of The Belairion, Bel Air High School's student newspaper. Aegis reporter Krishana Davis contributed to this article.