Here’s a rare example of good news becoming great news: On Thursday, the University of Tennessee offered four years of free tuition to a boy who was bullied because of his homemade UT shirt.
The Florida boy, whose name has been kept private by his family, received an “honorary acceptance” to join UT’s class of 2032. When the time comes, if he decides he wants to attend and meets the admission requirements, the college will cover his tuition and fees for all four years.
“University officials have spoken several times with the boy’s mother, who has expressed gratitude to the university and said the family has been deeply touched by the overwhelming outpouring from people around the world,” said a statement from the university.
UT learned of the story after the boy’s fourth-grade teacher posted about the bullying incident on Facebook on Sept. 4. Laura Snyder later updated the post to express gratitude and report on her student’s reaction to a box of goodies the university sent.
Not only did the school deliver enough swag to share with the boy’s whole class, it created a Volunteer-orange T-shirt using the boy’s design. (The school’s sports teams are called the Volunteers, or Vols for short.) According to the college’s Thursday statement, more than 50,000 T-shirts have already been pre-ordered. Proceeds from the sales will go to Stomp Out Bullying, a nonprofit that provides anti-bullying education and resources.
As UT notes, the scholarship for the young Vols fan won’t be paid for by T-shirt sales. The university will spring for it if he comes to Knoxville in 2028.
Volunteer Nation is abuzz about the young superfan and his adorable shirt. On Monday, an Instagram account that documents the Rock, a campus landmark, posted a photo of the Rock painted like the kid‘s shirt.
Volunteer fans joined together to give the college props. User @Guinnothy jumped in to share their UT pride:
@YankeefaninTenn was bursting at the university’s scholarship announcement:
This is so awesome! I love Tennessee people!! I love Tennessee!!! #tennessee #vols #govols https://t.co/kEeKrz3LNk
— James Boofer 📸 📰 (@YankeefaninTenn) September 12, 2019
If you want to support UT’s anti-bullying donations by buying a T-shirt, keep in mind this tip from the college’s Twitter account: Not all the shirts out there are officially sanctioned.
Please be aware that there are other sites selling this design. They are not affiliated with the university and have no agreement with the student's family or with @STOMPOutBullyng.
— UT Knoxville (@UTKnoxville) September 12, 2019
Visit the VolShop to snag a real one for $14.99.
I’ve only been to Knoxville a couple of times, but these good vibes are contagious. I’ll go ahead and say it: Go Vols!