P.E.T.E. Pursuing Excellence Through Encouragement

Encouragement is Key!

en·cour·age

1. to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence.
2. to stimulate by assistance, approval.
3. to promote, advance, or foster.

Encourage someone else every single day—  that’s the message Pete the Popcorn is taking with him across the country when speaking to America’s youth.

Nick Rokicki and Joe Kelley have developed a program around their bestselling Children’s Book, Pete the Popcorn. P.E.T.E. stands for Pursuing Excellence Through Encouragement. Through school visits, Nick and Joe teach kids to encourage each other every day, beginning in the simplest ways with the youngest children.

Follow the links above to learn more about school visits, media appearances and the Encouragement Across America Tour. And below, you will find an essay published when Pete the Popcorn was being released, that discusses ways encouragement can relate to bullying.

Nick’s Essay on Bullying in Our Schools, Published in February of 2012:

This week, we read Pete the Popcorn to 5 classrooms at Leverette Elementary School in Toledo, Ohio. Before this time next week, we have at least 10 more classrooms across the region scheduled.

These young kids we are reading to are priceless. They asked wonderful questions, told us great stories, showed us fantastic artwork and school work– and were all-around really smart children.


These readings have served to remind us why Pete exists. I cannot imagine any of these children being bullied— or bullying someone else. Children need to learn– starting at a young age– that they must always encourage each other, not tear anybody down. I hope that our work through Pete can help parents teach this lesson to a new generation. And this essay is for the parents— please spread this throughout the parenting community. This is why we wrote Pete the Popcorn, laid bare for all to read:

The outbreak over the past few years in this country of teenage suicides is literally unthinkable. How or why teenagers could treat each other so badly to drive someone to take their own life is tragic. But a part of me thinks that trying to change them or teach them at 14, 15, 16 years old is too late.

We need to start teaching kids, through subtle ways at a young age, that you simply cannot mistreat others. Perhaps this way we can eliminate bullying throughout the coming years as this current crop of youngsters pop up.

And bullying is a vicious cycle. I myself was subjected to bullying growing up because I was an overweight kid. It felt terrible. However, when I saw an opportunity to bully someone else because of a perceived fault, I did. And it’s not acceptable and it was not right. But I felt that I could do it to others, because it happened to me.

Yesterday, jury selection began in the cyber-bullying trial of Dharun Ravi. Ravi is accused of bullying his roommate Tyler Clementi through digital means– secretly filming him. When the video was leaked online and his school mates at Rutgers University began harassing him because of it, he drove to New York and jumped off the George Washington Bridge. Bullying knows no age, gender, race, sexuality or personality. Anyone can feel like they are completely alone in the world when being the victim of a bully. The key to solving the problem is to let them know that they are NOT alone.

And the best way to let someone know that they are NOT alone… is through encouragement. We’ve made up an acronym to represent P.E.T.E. — Pursuing Excellence Through Encouragement. I know I sound like Gary Busey. However, one of the multiple lessons that kids will take away from Pete the Popcorn is that we should encourage each other. And we all will grow up to be very different. And you can pop up to be anything you’d like. And yes– we will all become the people we are meant to be.

This country does need to take a huge Leap Forward when it comes to bullying. A multitude of celebrities– from Ellen Degeneres to Lady Gaga– have taken a stand. And that’s awesome. But there needs to be a wave across this country. There needs to be a moment.

When researching this book, we found that the last Wednesday in February is Anti-Bullying Day across Canada. People wear pink shirts to mark their stance against bullying. This year, that day in Canada happens to be Leap Day.

That needs to happen here in the United States. Once every four years is clearly not enough. But we’ve decided to make a stand this year– Leap Day is Pete Day. Pete stands for something– encouraging others. And Pete Day is our day to stand up and say, “enough.” I hope you join us.

What’s Next?

Lots of people ask what we’re up to next. What will we be doing to continue the chain of encouragement?

Our new book arrives on June 14th. The story is different. The message is the same. Encouragement is all around us.

Beyond that, we are diligently working on a book to be released in the fall for adults. We plan to embark on a speaking tour to civic groups, parent/teacher associations and churches. There, we will spread the message of P.E.T.E.

Finally, as you might be aware, we have three other books for Children planned in the near future: Gilbert the Grasshopper, Casey and Callie Cupcake and Pete the Popcorn: A Continuing Adventure.

So we are very busy. Writing, promoting, speaking.

Help us out– tell a friend, tell a teacher, tell a neighbor. Talk to them about Pete the Popcorn and our upcoming projects. And tell them something encouraging while you’re at it.

Take care,

Nick and Joe

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