Oh, those crazy kids. Walking out of school. Raising a ruckus. What do they know? Gun rights are a complicated political issue.
Well, not so fast. Before some of you dismiss outright all of the young people you saw and/or heard on TV and radio last Wednesday who abandoned their school classes for social justice-style protest following the Florida school shooting in February that killed 17, consider this.
Students at my old school, East Wilkes High, also walked out. And in the schoolyard commons in a brisk breeze they released 17 yellow helium balloons, one each in honor of the gunned-down students and faculty in Florida.
But then off to the side was an odd red balloon. It had nothing to do with the Florida tragedy or guns.
The red balloon rose high in the air for an eighth-grade student at a rival school who at the moment was fighting for his life in a Washington, D.C., hospital after being hit by and trapped under a tour bus during a school field trip to view the monuments at the National Mall.
So on a day of nationwide teen protest, kids at East and at other area schools remembered and even took up a collection for 14-year-old Hunter Brown of the North Wilkesboro area.
East students gathered to “symbolize our hope for his speedy recovery,” according to the school’s website. Sadly, the teen died the next day.
East students called their protest Honor and Hope. “The Hope part of the ceremony was for Hunter,” junior student Ben Calloway, a neighbor of mine, told me. Students chose a red balloon “because it is Hunter’s favorite color,” Ben said.
Also, they took up a collection called Hats for Hunter, with money going to the family staying by his side and facing medical and other expenses in D.C. The student’s school principal called for prayers as well.
Here in the hometown, a day of teen protest got supplanted by a day of teen support for one of their own.
“Caring hearts don’t know school boundaries,” wrote Elkin Elementary principal Pam Brown Colbert (no relation) in an internet post four days prior.
The Elkin principal then called on her fellows to allow and encourage students to wear hats to school and in class in exchange for a $1 contribution. News of Hats for Hunter in schools spread like wildfire and picked up broad support.
In just four days schools in Surry, Wilkes, Yadkin and Alleghany counties had joined in, as well as some businesses that took donations.
Colbert’s school, for instance, raised $1,665 on school protest day.
“We’re all family, together,” fifth-grader Callie Hall told a WFMY TV news crew from Greensboro at another of my old schools, C.B. Eller Elementary, near Pleasant Hill. “We help each other out when things like that happen.”
Say what you will about the protests, the inflammatory rhetoric, the danger posed by guns, the Second Amendment and the violence in our society.
But by the end of the day of protest, I came away from it all feeling pretty good about our future.
I came away knowing that if it gets down to brass tacks, I can be confident that our young students will have our backs.
On a personal note: This marks the eighth anniversary of these weekly “Hometown” columns. Thanks for reading.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.