Here’s the story of a University of Tennessee t-shirt design that went viral.
It was just another day at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Students were rushing to classes with their books and computers. Professors were reviewing their notes for their upcoming lectures. Everything seemed normal, but far away events would change that drastically.
Institution of Higher Learning Teaches Us Something
Because meanwhile, 662 miles away in Altamonte Springs, Florida, a boy in Laura Snyder’s fourth-grade class was preparing for “college colors” day. Students were supposed to wear the colors of their favorite University. For this young man, his favorite was the University of Tennessee and the orange and white colors of the Volunteers.
He had a T-shirt that was orange in color, but it wasn’t from UT. So, he decided to create a hand-drawn UT sign on white paper. He attached it to the T-shirt, and that’s when the trouble started.
Bullied for his Imagination
His efforts may have been a little rough, but when he went to the lunchroom things turned ugly. “Some girls at the lunch table next to his (who didn’t even participate in college colors day) made fun of his sign that he attached to his shirt. He was devastated,” said his teacher Ms. Snyder.
“I’m aware that it’s not the fanciest sign, but this kid used the resources he had available to him to participate in a spirit day,” she continued. “He was so excited to show me his shirt but after lunch, he came back to my room, put his head on his desk and was crying.”
Ms. Snyder was so upset by this incident that she made it her cause to do something to cheer up the young boy. She told him she was going to buy him his own University of Tennessee shirt. She posted on Facebook asking if anyone had a connection to the University so she could make the gift “extra special.”
The post on Facebook caused quite a stir. It went viral with the University of Tennessee fans sharing the post and the information actually reaching the University itself. The response was overwhelming with UT sending a shirt to the surprised boy. And, more UT swag was sent for the whole class.
Ms. Snyder was enthusiastic, she said, “I’m not even sure I can put into words his reaction, it was so heartwarming. My students were so amazed at all the goodies in the box. He proudly put on his jersey and one of the many hats in the box, all who saw had either goosebumps or tears.”
University of Tennessee T-Shirt Design Goes Viral
That’s when everything went to a new level. The University of Tennessee announced it was going to use the young boy’s handmade logo to create a new shirt and sell it. Using a portion of the proceeds to fund anti-bullying causes.
“When I told him that his design was going to be made into a real shirt and people wanted to wear it, his jaw dropped,” said Ms. Snyder. “He had a big smile on his face, walked taller and I could tell his confidence grew today! Thank you to the UT Nation for that,” she concluded.
Ms. Snyder’s student’s mother wrote a letter to express how grateful she was that the teacher had gone the extra mile for her son.
His mother said, “I can tell you that I spent a lot of my day reading all the kind words in support of my son and I am touched beyond words.” His mother also wrote, “I am overwhelmed by the love I feel from this extended community and the pride I feel for my son for being a V.F.L. (Vol for Life),” she continued, “Every comment, item sent, and action taken on behalf of my son will never be forgotten and hopefully will serve as inspiration for him throughout his life.” It seems that everyone was touched by this teacher’s generous actions.
The crude logo that this student had drawn on a piece of paper and displayed on his shirt to show his support of his favorite school became a symbol. It illustrated how children encounter bullying in our schools.
His simple gesture ignited the support of fans and the University in a way few could have predicted. Florida has the Gators, Seminoles, and Hurricanes, but this young man somehow became a fan of UT. The University of Tennessee is glad he did. The University’s website states, “Now you can share in this student’s Volunteer pride by wearing his design on your shirt too.” The response to the new shirt was so great that it crashed the online campus store’s website. Preorders were an astounding 16,000.
Stomp Out Bullying
The publicity benefits UT, but the proceeds will benefit Stomp Out Bullying, a national group that is dedicated to changing student culture. It’s website states, “Standing up against hate, racism, and discrimination. Changing the culture with inclusion, equality, civility, and unity becomes our destiny.”
University of Tennessee Nation
The University of Tennessee has a proud academic tradition and was founded in 1794, two years before Tennessee became a state. It has been ranked 52nd among public universities in the United States. UT alumni have gone on to be Rhodes Scholars and a Nobel Prize winner. The Lady Volunteers and Volunteers have been very successful in sports as well. With 20 male and female sports teams at the University, UT has won a total of 23 National Team Championships including 16 NCAA Division One Championships.
With outstanding success in the classroom and on the field, it comes as no surprise that UT had some tricks up its sleeve.
The University of Tennessee’s interim president, Mr. Randy Boyd said, “I was touched to learn of a young student’s heart for the University of Tennessee, and I loved his imagination designing his own shirt.”
We congratulate the University of Tennessee for grasping a teachable moment. They are not only teaching us something about being kindhearted but using the opportunity to raise money to end bullying. At the same time, they’re doing something very special for a boy who was just displaying his favorite “college colors.”
Vol for life!
— Tim Moodie
Tim Moodie is a Freelance Writer and Product Developer. Moodie is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a degree in Radio and Television Broadcasting. As of today, he has not designed any Gophers’ logo yet. But, there’s still time.
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