U.S. teens and tweens have chosen Mark Wahlberg as 2010’s U.G.L.Y. Celebrity based on the strength he exhibited while overcoming adversities.

As a teenager, Wahlberg dropped out of high school and instead filled his time with drugs and crime. He decided he needed to take action to fix his life during a 45-day stint in jail.

He told the Daily Mail, “As soon as I began that life of crime, there was always a voice in my head telling me I was going to end up in jail. Three of my brothers had done time. My sister went to prison so many times I lost count. Finally I was there, locked up with the kind of guys I’d always wanted to be like. Now I’d earned my stripes and I was just like them and I realized it wasn’t what I wanted at all. I’d ended up in the worst place I could possibly imagine and I never wanted to go back. First of all I had to learn to stay on the straight and narrow.”

With the support of his parish priest, he began channeling his energies and talent into positive, creative endeavors, eventually forming a successful career as an actor and producer.

This confidence and determination is what has led Wahlberg to catch the attention of students participating in the U.G.L.Y. program. Hey U.G.L.Y.. – Unique Gifted Lovable You (HU), is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering youth with self-esteem-building programs to enable them to be part of the solution to societal ills like bullying.

They feel that celebrity-watching can lead teens to feel unsure of themselves, and they therefore work to show young people that believing in who you are, not what you look like, is what matters the most. HU created the U.G.L.Y. Celebrity of the Year Award to highlight celebrities who embody this strength and quality.

Celebrities are nominated as part of Hey U.G.L.Y.’s media literacy program. In the program teachers hold open discussions with their students about how we are all bombarded with news and gossip about celebrities. They delve into what characteristics make a good role model. Students then create a list of three celebrities that they think are good role models and three which they believe are not. After each group explains their selections to their classmates, the teacher sends the nominee selections to Hey U.G.L.Y. who tallies the results.

“Mark Wahlberg is a shining example of overcoming adversity and we applaud teens for recognizing his transformation” said Betty Hoeffner, co-founder and president of Hey U.G.L.Y. “He inspires us all to know that we can consciously make the choice to change and turn our lives around. He is an inspiration to all youth especially those suffering from low self-esteem.”

Low self-esteem is a critical issue facing teens today. It has been proven that low self-esteem affects learning and can lead to such problems as delinquency, unhealthy relationships, eating disorders, substance abuse and suicide. According to most estimates, about 30 percent of today’s teenagers are dropping out of high school and every school day 160,000 students miss school because of bullying.

Source: Hey U.G.L.Y.

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