Jim "Jimmy Soup" Surprenant doesn't look like someone a school-yard bully would have wanted to mess with.At 28, the Dracut native is a pierced, heavily tattooed and muscled -- 5-feet-11 inches tall and 230 pounds.But by wearing his signature "super-geek" non-prescription glasses Surprenant came across as much less intimidating to people, as intended, he said. Owner of "Geek Swag" anti-bullying clothing line says If nerdy glasses serve to make him seem more approachable, then he plans to keep wearing them for as long as they help him fulfill his life mission: eradicating bullying schools.
The best way to accomplish this is to empower each child to feel more comfortable in their own skin and to remove America's generations-old, tired emphasis of wanting to "fit in," Surprenant said.
Horrified by a surge of news reports about bullied teens committing suicide, and inspired by becoming a first-time father of a now 2-year-old son, Surprenant said he and three friends -- Ronnie Turcotte, Willie Colon and Jeff Pongphimkham -- teamed up to create Geek Swag clothing with an anti-bullying theme.
"Looking back at my own childhood, my biggest (regret) is that I spent so many years -- and so many other people I know spent so many years -- just trying to fit in," Surprenant said. "Now that I'm in my 20s and have a son and a very successful business, I'm asking myself, why did I waste so much time on that?"
"What we're trying to do is start an anti-bullying movement that encourages kids to be comfortable in their own skin, whether they are a so-called 'geek' or not," said Geek Swag's founder. "People can call you a 'geek' if they want, but geeks also have what is known as 'swag,' too."
And yes, despite his somewhat intimidating physical appearance, Surprenant said he was a victim of bullying.
"When I was younger, I was the heavier kid and was picked on a lot," he said. "So what happened, as I got older and matured physically, I wouldn't say I became a bully, but I wanted people to fear me as I had feared people most of my life.
"Before leaving high school, I got covered in tattoos, worked out a lot, and tried to make everyone scared of me," he said.
After enlisting in the Army, Surprenant served two tours of military-police duty in Iraq. Only eight years after graduating from Dracut High, "high school seems a light year away," Surprenant said.
Finally, after he had built a successful business, the birth of his son is what really triggered his anti-bullying activism and Geek Swag efforts, he said.
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