Lauren Michelle Dowler
Recently I came across two public interest articles that caught my attention. The first being the story of a fourth grader from Altamonte, Florida who longed to show his support for the University of Tennessee (UT) at his school's College Colors day- he just couldn’t get a shirt in time. Encouraged by his teacher, Ms. Snyder, this innovative little dude decided to make his own, pinning a hand drawn UT design on an orange t-shirt. During lunch, the student visited her in tears. The girls at the table next to him ridiculed him for his homemade design; amongst them a girl that he had known for years and considered a friend.
Upon arriving home that day he told his mom what happened.
“She didn’t mean to do it,” he defended her. Even in the midst of the humiliation he encountered, he continued to believe the best and advocate on behalf of his peers.
Moved by what she had witnessed, Ms. Snyder reached out via social media to see if someone had a connection to the university so that she could buy him a shirt. The post went viral, and consequently she was overwhelmed by the response she received, even catching the attention of the university itself. Not only did they supply this young boy with apparel, they sent a box of UT swag for the entire class to share. The very students that initially bullied him were showered with gifts- now isn’t that full circle? The university took things a step further and publicly announced that because of this child’s Volunteer State spirit, should he choose to attend the University of Tennessee one day, they desired to cover the cost of his college education!
Ms. Snyder didn’t realize that the simple act of reaching out and advocating on her student’s behalf would receive such a widespread response, even making headlines with the New York Times, and ABC’s World News Tonight.
Similarly, the young boy didn’t realize that his courage and creativity would influence thousands of people resulting in the change of a culture. See, now when you watch UT games on television you’ll notice fans and band members sporting the university’s latest design: that of a fourth-grade boy who risked mockery to support a team he loved. Not only is his favorite team supporting him, but he also has a fan club worldwide.
Stay tuned for the next story.
We all need an advocate, and we’re all capable of advocating on behalf of someone else.