If you know a kid who’s been bullied, you might tell them the story of the fourth graders, the fourteenth graders, and the most popular t-shirt ever.
It all started with a boy in Florida. He was in the fourth grade, and his school was celebrating "College Colors Day." It was a day when kids came to school wearing the colors (or the team shirts) of their favorite schools.
The boy might have been too poor to go to the mall and spend $20 on a t-shirt for his favorite school. Not every kid has $20. Then again, maybe he was very, very rich.
What we know is that when it came to sports, he didn’t cheer for the popular school. The boy liked a team that wasn’t even in his state: the University of Tennessee (@UTKnoxville), which fans call “U.T.” This showed he had the guts to stand up for what he believed.
When College Colors Day came, the boy had an idea. He drew a big “U.T.” symbol on a piece of paper and taped it to the orangest shirt he could find. That was UT's color. This showed he had creativity and determination.
When he got to school, all the other fourth graders were wearing their school colors and fancy athletic t-shirts. They took one look at the boy, with the homemade paper sign on his shirt, and started to laugh. Most of them probably didn’t mean to be mean, they were just going along with the crowd. Because they were only in the fourth grade, they probably didn’t realize he had guts, he had creativity, and he had crazy school spirit.
It was a hard day for the boy. He learned that day what it feels like to be bullied. It felt really bad.
Then an amazing thing happened. The boy’s teacher shared the story with lots of people. “He was DEVASTATED,” she said. Then she added, “Kids can be so cruel.”
When the story of the homemade UT shirt reached Tennessee, some much older kids found out. College kids. Kids who weren’t in fourth grade, they were in fourteenth grade and even older! They thought he was the coolest, bravest, most creative kid ever, and they fell in love with his handmade shirt.
Soon, somebody copied the boy’s design and printed it on an orange t-shirt. Thousands of college kids started wearing HIS shirt! Before long, the UT campus store sold 112,715 of them, on campus and all over the world. The store said it was the most popular t-shirt they ever sold!
The University of Tennessee store took all the money they raised and they donated it to a group called STOMP Out Bullying (@StompOutBullying), to help spread the message that bullying is not cool and needs to stop.
The moral of the story is when other kids make fun of you, it might feel horrible, but always remember: there are even more people, lots and lots of them, who are cheering for you. They want you to be happy, have lots of self-confidence, and be yourself!
Oh, and there’s one more part to this story. The University of Tennessee was so proud of their #1 Florida fan they offered him a four-year scholarship to go to their college someday.