Reach high, H.L. Trigg school students told


Kristin Pitts

Thursday, February 17, 2011

When Anthony Harrison stood in front of a group of H.L. Trigg Community School students Tuesday, he had a lot to say.

But like the rest of the Elizabeth City State University students who addressed the alternative school, his message was succinct.

“Each and every one of you has a purpose, a mission, a goal, and a reason for being here,” Harrison said. “You are somebody.”

Harrison was one of a handful of student leaders who gave motivational speeches to the mix of middle and high school students. Although speeches touched on everything from black history to the importance of safe schools, there was a common theme — that each of the H.L. Trigg students has potential.

“You are somebody. You can make it. Dr. King saw the dream. Barack Obama said yes we can. Some of you know that if it wasn’t for Rosa Parks, you may still be in the back seat of the bus. But where are you now? You’re sitting freely, wherever you want to go,” Harrison said.

Harrison, who is the president of ECSU’s “What am I worth?” organization, challenged the students to achieve successes beyond what is expected of them.

“A lot of people look at you here because you’re here at the H.L. Trigg Community School and say that’s a bad school,” Harrison said.

Harrison told the group to prove their critics wrong by pursuing higher education. It wasn’t just talk.

Not long ago, the ECSU junior was in the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank school system. Smiling at the memory, Principal Ainslie Jones told the students that Harrison had been sent to her office a few times, when she served as an administrator at River Road Middle School and Pasquotank County High School.

Today, he’s a success story.

“He got himself together. He finished school, and now he’s over there at the university,” Jones said. “He believed that he could make a difference and he decided to give back and make that difference.”

She asked each of her students to come back through the doors of H.L. Trigg in a few years to let her know that they’re doing well, too.

Although there was a lot of attention given to what the students could do after graduation, ECSU junior Joshua McFadden zeroed in on what the students could do to make their lives better now.

McFadden is the founder of ECSU’s Students Against Violence Everywhere organization. He said he founded the organization in part because of his own experiences as a young student.

Growing up, McFadden rarely felt safe at school. Following the presentation, McFadden said that during his high school and middle school years, several of his friends were killed because of school violence.

“We thought there was nothing we could do about it,” McFadden said.

Looking back, he says he wishes he had been more empowered to end the violence that surrounded himself and his peers. That was the message he brought to the H.L. Trigg students — that if they stop bullying and start being sensitive to other people’s problems, they can make their surroundings safer.

“School should be a place where students feel safe,” McFadden said. “We can save ourselves from violence.”