projectU club helping 'Someone' smile

Smiling is something that may have been in short supply over the last 18 months, but a special Farragut High School club made sure students did just that Oct. 1 with the 5th annual “Make Someone Smile Day.”

FHS counselor Andi Tenry said the long-standing event started when the school’s projectU club —based on the principles of kindness, inclusion and unity and a club she sponsors — began at the high school level five years ago.

“The first year we partnered up with the art department to screen print shirts and make comment cards,” Tenry recalled. “It was a last-minute, ‘Let's just try this and see how it goes,’ decision.

“I think we screen-printed less than 20 shirts. It has grown so much since then!

“The last few years we have partnered up with [school’s] National Art Honors Society to design and screen-print [the T-shirts] where members submit designs that are voted on and this year the winning design was Michael Scott from ‘The Office.’

In the past, Tenry said printed T-shirts have featured Babe Ruth, Dolly Parton, and Bob Ross.

“It's always fun watching what will be submitted and finding out the winner,” she added. “It keeps growing, and because the kids look forward to it so much, I looked for a sponsor this year, and reached out to Wil Glafenhein at Honors Real Estate, who covered all the costs of the supplies and 100 T-shirts.

“The funding part is always the hardest for the out-of-the box ideas the students have, and I am so grateful that there are business and people in the community that are willing to support their vision.

Tenry said in total, about 150 shirts were screen printed, and students, teachers and staff could bring their own shirts to be screened if they wished.

“The whole process takes a while. We usually start tie-dying T-shirts the week before, [and] personally wash, tie, dye, and then wash and dry again every single shirt before it is screen-printed. The screen-printing [itself] takes all day — we start right after school begins and barely finish delivering as the day is ending.

“It is definitely a labor of love, and most students don't see all the work their peers are putting in just to give away a T-shirt. Students and staff can bring in their own t-shirts for us to print. Plus, we always buy extra tees to give to our students in CDC classrooms.

“Their responses are always the most heartwarming — we get hugs and thank you cards — their thankfulness is the only gratification we could possibly need.

Peers nominate shirt recipients.

“The nomination form asks students to send a ‘thank you’ to a classmate that has been a lifesaver to them,” Tenry explained. “That is probably my favorite part of the whole thing — literally making someone smile because a friend took the time to enter them into the drawing. Most of the time the student had no idea they had even been nominated. We have a way for the student nominator to stay anonymous if they would like to as well.

“This year we went a little further and opened the form up to staff to nominate other staff as well. It was very uplifting to read the messages that teachers were sending to each other.

“They needed that.”

She said club members “love it once we start delivering the T-shirts to the students whose names were pulled in the drawing. At our first club meeting when we return back-to-school in the fall, I talk to them about giving to others and the benefit that they, in turn, will receive. It isn't monetary, there are no goods attached — most of the students working at ‘Make Someone Smile Day’ will not even receive a T-shirt, but it is enough for them that they have brightened someone else's day.

“That endorphin boost doesn't just impact those directly involved, it can be felt across the building, all day long.

“The kids walk around a little lighter, there are people engaging in conversation with others they might not normally talk to.

“It's just a really good day,” she added. “My favorite, actually.”