A fourth-grader who was bullied because of his handmade University of Tennessee T-shirt was just given a four-year scholarship to the college, the university said Thursday afternoon.
The announcement comes about a week after the university found out that the boy was mocked by classmates after he pinned a homemade drawing of the UT logo to his T-shirt. The university first sent him a box of UT swag, then decided that his drawing was worthy of an official T-shirt — so it made one.
More than 50,000 orange shirts with the boy’s design have been presold by the university’s official store, VolShop. All proceeds from the sale of the shirts, which sell for $14.99, will go to the nonprofit Stomp Out Bullying, the university said.
The boy, who lives in Florida, would be part of the class of 2032.
The scholarship will cover his tuition and fees beginning in fall 2028 “should he decide to attend UT and meet admission requirements,” according to the statement.
“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,” the statement said.
It all began last week, when it was “college colors” day at an elementary school in Altamonte Springs, Fla., and fourth-grade teacher Laura Snyder wrote on Facebook that one of her students wore an orange T-shirt representing his favorite school, the University of Tennessee.
“He was SO EXCITED to show me his shirt. I was impressed that he took it one step further to make his own label,” Snyder wrote on Facebook.
But after lunch, the student came back to her room, put his head on his desk and began crying.
“Some girls at the lunch table next to his (who didn’t even participate in college colors day) had made fun of his sign that he had attached to his shirt,” Snyder wrote. “He was DEVASTATED.”
In an effort to cheer him up, Snyder wrote that she planned to buy him a University of Tennessee shirt. That’s when things took off.
Her post went viral on Facebook, eventually reaching University of Tennessee fans and then the university itself. The university sent the student a package of UT swag for him and his classmates.
“I’m not even sure I can put into words his reaction,” Snyder wrote in an update to her post. “It was so heartwarming.”
That was when the university’s official shop decided to take the student’s logo and turn it into an actual shirt.
“When I told him that his design was being made into a real shirt and people wanted to wear it, his jaw dropped,” Snyder wrote.
The student’s mother wrote a letter of gratitude that Snyder posted. It said, in part, “I can tell you that I spent a lot of my day reading all the kind words in support of my son and I’m touched beyond words,” she wrote.