Effective partnerships amplify impact for education initiative


The following is excerpted from Issue 27 of The Corporate Citizen. To learn more about how your corporate citizenship peers apply the principles of effective partnership, enroll in the Corporate Citizenship Partnership Management course on May 15-16, 2019 in Miami, FL.

When investing in the future workforce through education, corporations are able to enact change most effectively when they align their own missions and expertise with their corporate citizenship initiatives.

The future of the country’s workforce depends upon the education of its students, particularly those in underserved communities, who are most likely to fall behind due to a lack of resources.

As a brand focused on characters and narrative with a dedicated young audience, World Wrestling Entertain­ment Inc., or WWE, directs its corporate citizenship efforts toward promoting bullying prevention messages among its school-aged fans. WWE is a Connecticut-based integrated media and entertainment company, most well-known for its spectacular in-ring entertain­ment and global media reach. It employs approximately 800 people in offices located in nine countries, and its programming reaches more than 800 million house­holds in 25 languages, available in more than 180 coun­tries. With such a large network of fans, WWE is well positioned to spread its messaging far and wide.

WWE uses its extensive network to support and educate on a variety of topics, including bullying, which is a prevalent problem among students—in 2015, nearly 21 percent of students aged 12-18 reported being bulled at school.[1] To address, educate about, and prevent bullying, WWE champions the Be a STAR (Show Tolerance And Respect) bullying prevention program, which is designed to encourage young people to treat others with respect through education and grassroots initiatives. The original Be a STAR bullying prevention curriculum was created by the National Education Association Health Information Network and True Educator Inc., aligning with national education standards to complement existing curriculums. Since 2011, WWE has held more than 150 bullying prevention rallies and the Be a STAR resources and programs have connected with nearly half a million children globally.

In 2017, the company expanded the reach of Be a STAR by launching a collaboration with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. With the expertise of their partners at Yale, WWE has been able to build out and enhance the Be a STAR curriculum, so that it better reflects and builds on children’s emotional development—their ability to recog­nize, understand, label, express, and regulate emotions. With the Boys & Girls Clubs’ participation, WWE is able to share its Be a STAR messaging, resources, and materials with youths across the nation.

“One in every four kids has been bullied—that’s something that we need to put an end to,” said Stephanie McMahon, chief brand officer at WWE. “That’s what the WWE is here for—to give young people the tools that they need to stand together and stand up against bullying.”

Thanks to a pilot program run in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has been able to test program elements and improve the efficacy and relevance of the approach. The revised Be a STAR curriculum, which is available for free download, contains explanations, for example, of the difference between bullying and conflict, and an overview of the effects of bullying, its prevalence, facts around cyberbullying, and how the exercise of social and emotional skills can help defuse bullying situa­tions. It also includes 14 weeks of session materials complete with videos, step-by-step instructions, and worksheets. In addition to these educator resources, WWE also makes bullying prevention materials available to students and parents—including links to organizations like GLAAD, DoSomething.org, and the National School Climate Center—so that all members of the school community are supported.

At the time of this publication, the Be a STAR cur­riculum is available to 4,300 Boys & Girls Clubs across the United States, meaning that thousands of students are, every day, given the opportunities to develop their emotional skills—skills which are key to reducing bul­lying and creating happier, healthier, and more compas­sionate clubs. In addition, these thousands of young people have been able to meet some of their favorite WWE Superstars face-to-face, learning from them the benefits of treating others as equals and with respect. To date, 112 WWE Superstars have participated in 25 Be a STAR rallies, and 65 have participated in 20 events at Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide.

“I think [bullying is] something that needs to be brought to the forefront of how things are moving along today in society in general,” said Tye Dillinger, WWE Superstar and Be a STAR volunteer. “I think it’s becom­ing a growing issue and I’m glad that we’re able to voice our opinions as WWE Superstars, be a part of Be a STAR rallies, and actually fight back against bullies.”

The Superstars who engage with members of the community through the Be a STAR initiative are in a unique position to discuss bullying, as some of them were admittedly bullied as youths. Further, the storylines that are woven throughout WWE’s narrative arcs often involve a villainous heel known for pushing others’ boundaries, which serve as a springboard for these conversations. “[The students] see WWE Superstars as larger than life, but we also have the same problems,” said Dolph Ziggler, WWE Superstar and Be a Star participant. “We have so many commonalities.”

It is these commonalities that make WWE’s Be a STAR events and rallies so unique—and so effective. “The WWE Superstars are people who are on TV, who have been bullied, and who have had to come up with solutions to that bullying,” said Julia Hubbard, social worker at Phoenix’s Herrera Elementary School, where WWE Superstars visited. “The great thing about it, is that they’ve taken those experiences and they’ve turned them into something positive.”

To learn more about how your corporate citizenship peers apply the principles of effective partnership, enroll in the Corporate Citizenship Partnership Management course on May 15-16, 2019 in Miami, FL.


[1] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2017 (NCES 2018-036), Indicator 11.