Half a month ago, Paradise Junior High School student T.J. Horner got mail – mail signed by United States President Barack Obama.
“I felt really excited,” the sixth-grader said. “I started jumping around. It came from the White House!”
A technical glitch during a Solutions Toward Addiction Recovery (STAR) Council life-skills program in Laurie Broussard’s social studies class forced prevention specialist Kari Thorn to improvise.
“While the teacher and technical support gentleman worked to get the video to work, I explained to the kids that they didn’t have to wait to be all grown up to make a difference,” she said. “I wanted to give them an opportunity to exercise their freedom of speech and asked them to write a letter to a government official of their choice requesting a specific change that concerns youth today.”
Horner opted to address his handwritten, paragraph-long letter to the nation’s highest-ranked governmental official.
“(My letter) was about going against alcohol, that it does bad stuff to people,” he said. “Alcohol shouldn’t be allowed. They shouldn’t make alcohol. It does brain damage.”
Although he wasn’t the only one to write to President Obama, Horner has been the only student to receive a response sealed by the stamp of the presidential office.
It read, in part: “With a commitment to your studies and to serving your community, there is no limit to the impact you can have on the world around you.”
This response reiterated the premise of the STAR program and provided an anchor in Horner’s life.
“I want to be an architect. I’m really good at art,” Horner said. “Drinking alcohol could affect that, my dreams. So that’s why I think it’s important. Drinking alcohol can ruin your dreams.”
Horner is the son of Shaunda Fort of Runaway Bay and Tim Horner of Paradise.