WWE Wrestler takes SPC Mac J. Williams award recipients to see ‘Black Panther’

BY MARILYN SHAW, SPC Public Relations Specialist

SEMINOLE – Before the age of 16, Thaddeus Bullard was told he would be in jail or dead. Well, that’s not the life he’s living today. Known to many as WWE Wrestler Titus O’Neil, he’s on a mission to show other young minority kids that they can be whatever they want to be.

After delivering a motivational keynote speech at St. Petersburg College’s Dr. Mac J. Williams Academic Excellence Award Ceremony for Mid-County, Bullard felt compelled to make a greater impact. He declined his speaker retainer and treated all of the award recipients to a showing of Marvel’s new blockbuster movie, Black Panther.

More than 100 students from the Mid-County’s ceremony watched the movie with O’Neil on Wednesday, March 14 at the Studio Movie Grill in Seminole.

“I want these kids to see themselves as heroes, like the ones you see on the screen,” Bullard said. “But I also want them to be heroes in their communities, their homes and schools.”

During the month of February, SPC hosted three Dr. Mac J. Williams Academic Excellence ceremonies for minority Pinellas County high school students who achieved a 3.0 or higher GPA. The ceremony honors the memory of Dr. Mac J. Williams, Sr., the first African-American to be elected chairman of the Board of Trustees at St. Petersburg College.

During his speech, Bullard candidly shared the story of his humble beginnings and how he constantly got into fights and had a bad attitude.

“I’m a product of a rape,” said Bullard. “My mom was raped at the age of 11 and had me at 12. I know what it’s like to be told what you can’t accomplish.”

One day, someone from the Sherriff’s Youth Ranch encouraged Bullard to go after his dreams. That was the first time someone told him that, which changed his outlook on life.

SPC Student Support Manager Reginald Reed felt it was important for the high-achieving students to hear how O’Neil overcame adversity.

“My goal is to encourage these students to continue the hard work they’ve already set forth,” said Reed. “They’re leading by example, and I want them to know there’s still more work to be done, but they can do all things.”

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