Abuse can happen to anyone. That was the point that freshman Zachary Pollicino tried to make when he got up in front of the whole freshman class to give a speech on abuse as part of a PAC (Peer Advocates for CHANGE) presentation. But this wasn’t just your average speech, this was a speech about his own personal experience with abuse.
He began by setting the scene. He’s a 6-year-old boy at the time living with his at the time alcoholic mother and her abusive boyfriend, Reese, in Pheonix, Arizona. “I remember one day in particular, better than any high school football game, any party, any prom, it is the clearest day in my memory,” Pollicino said during his speech. He had angered his mother’s abusive boyfriend and Reese exploded. His mom was dragged to the bathroom and locked inside. Pollicino was thrown against the wall in his bedroom as if he weighed nothing.
“All I wanted to do was get my mom out of the bathroom,” Pollicino said in his speech. He snuck down the hallway, let his mom out of the bathroom and brought her back to his bedroom. Using a little flip phone, he called 911 while consoling his crying mother. The two of them snuck out into the hall to leave but standing at the other end was Reese screaming and holding a gun. Without thinking, Pollicino, at the age of six, shielded his mother with his own body. Luckily the police arrived before any shots were fired.
The auditorium was dead silent when he finished. As he walked off the stage, the crowd of freshman erupted in applause. Those who listened were caught off guard by his story and the message that came with it. “Zach as a person seems like he’s outgoing and everything’s been normal, but when you hear his story it’s kinda shocking,” Isabelle Nichols said, one of the freshman in the audience.
The rest of the PAC presentation continued and if people weren’t paying attention before his speech, they were listening after.
“I love how he set the stage for taking it seriously and how people can also put on a false front,” Amy Bremel said, one of the faculty members in charge of PAC.
Other PAC members were impressed with his courage since he stood up in front of not only his fellow freshman, but also all of the student athletes on campus. “I think that all the testimonials and all the people that wrote them were incredibly brave… My personal distinction with Zach is I couldn’t imagine standing up there in front of people much less my own peers and do that story,” Ashlee Brady-Kelly said, a member of PAC.
As far as Pollicino’s thoughts on being part of PAC, he feels it’s a way of giving back. “I’ve had a lot of people in my life who were there for me… the least I could do is give it back and try to help somebody that I don’t know as well or somebody that I do know as well, and joining PAC gave me the opportunity to use my knowledge and to help people,” Pollicino said.
He also had to give the speech a second time in front of all the student athletes, including his teammates on the football team. Pollicino was happy to say that his teammates were extremely supportive and understanding. “A lot of guys came and gave me hugs or shook my hand and said that it was something that took a lot of courage… and I really feel that they got the message and got where I was coming from,” Pollicino said.
Although it was a traumatizing experience for both Pollicino and his mother, he said she is doing a lot better. “My mom’s a beast, my mom’s a savage. My mom actually runs her own nursing home in Orange, Connecticut,” he said.