From Tears to Action: How One Student’s Passion is Making Texas Schools Safer

December 8, 2020 / by The “I Love U Guys” Foundation

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It was when Tatum’s mom Traci Reeves came home from an “I Love U Guys” Foundation train-the-trainer event, buzzing about the stories and lessons learned, when Tatum first learned about The “I Love U Guys” Foundation, our story, and our programs. Tatum was then a sophomore at Christoval High School in Texas where Traci is a Marketing teacher and involved in the school’s efforts to implement the Standard Response Protocol (SRP) and Standard Reunification Method (SRM) protocols. 

“My school is so small that everyone thinks “nothing can happen here,”” Tatum told us. She had been involved in just about every other activity and corner of her high school: Cheerleading, student council, National Honors Society, University Interscholastic League, the business organization DECA, and “practically all sports.” But school safety? Until the day her mother shared materials from The “I Love U Guys” Foundation training, Tatum admits that she “was oblivious, to be honest.”

Then Tatum’s mom showed her a video where John-Michael Keyes tells the story of his daughter Emily. That’s when things changed.

“First I had to wipe the tears away,” Tatum told us. “Then I realized we didn’t have a plan.”

“First I had to wipe the tears away. Then I realized we didn’t have a plan.”

The timing, as it turned out, couldn’t have been better. Tatum, moved to tears by Emily’s story and awakened with the reality that her school didn’t have a plan in place to respond to such a tragedy, got to work. She saw an opportunity through DECA, the business organization she was involved in that prepares emerging high school leaders and entrepreneurs for the world of business. She could use the SRP as a centerpiece for her DECA Community Awareness Project: an annual challenge where DECA students prepare a paper and a presentation, and are judged at the district, state, and national level. 

She needed a topic. Her school needed a plan. Perfect fit.

Tatum discovered through her research that Christoval High School had received a record number of threats in 2018, from bomb threats to reports of suspicious people on campus to natural disaster threats, and that the school administration was readying a plan to deal with it all. By implementing the SRP and SRM, Christoval High School was turning a corner from reactive to proactive, and Tatum saw her project as a way to help. 

The result? Well, what would you expect from a National Honor Society and University Interscholastic League member?

Tatum created School Safety is More Than a Drill: a 30 page paper and live presentation. It was awarded First Place at the district level competition. Then it was awarded First Place at the state level competition. (We have no doubt as to what would have happened if the pandemic hadn’t cancelled the national award event.)

“I’ve never made a video before.”

It’s little wonder that Tatum’s presentation burst the buttons of the administration across the district and her school. When Texas’ Region 15 Education Service Center’s Executive Leadership Specialist Dr. Michael Bohensky saw it, he asked Tatum to make a video so they could share not just the recognition that Tatum brought to the district but the message of school safety preparedness that it embraced. The result is nothing short of a powerful public service announcement for school safety and The “I Love U Guys” Foundation programs. Not bad coming from someone who’s never made a video before, let alone having never taken the lead in school safety. Take a look:

“People feel safer.”

Today Tatum is a junior at Christoval High School, and is as involved in her school as ever. But she’s added school safety student leader to her already-jam packed calendar. She helps the administration with SRP and SRM implementation, and by keeping the programs up to date when The Foundation issues updates (like we’ve recently done with the SRP 2021). As the student lead for the SRM at her school, she makes ROK boxes, preps backpacks, and has received the Texas School Safety Center’s School Safety Certification.

“We didn’t have a standard protocol before, no one took it seriously,” Tatum told us. “It’s especially important here, 20 minutes away from a hospital or law enforcement.” 

And now, thanks in no small part to Tatum’s leadership, “people feel safer. We have a common vocabulary that makes it clear what to do, and everyone knows what’s going on.”

Tatum, you inspire us. Thank you for the powerful reminder that protecting the joy of youth is an active exercise, and that we all can play a role.

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