Wake Students Find Classmate's Illness A Lesson In Diversity
Posted March 25, 2002
WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — Wake County students are using their classmate's illness to learn more about diversity.
In a graphing exercise at Holly Springs Elementary, Christopher Brown is just one of the bunch. However, Brown has leukemia, a blood cancer diagnosed four years ago when he lived in Nashville.
"It's a pain. You definitely don't want to have it, and you have to get a lot of shots," he said. "I ended up losing my hair, and some kids made fun of me, but I just basically ignored them."
After moving to Holly Springs, Christopher experienced a different reaction from classmates. Teacher Jeannie Davenport taught them about Chris' disease, and the third-grade kids looked out for him.
Christopher missed a lot of classes when the daily regimine of pills knocked the energy out of his small body. Sometimes, he was tired and needed to put his head down during class, but the boys and girls in his class understood.
No one complained when Christopher needed a mid-morning snack to calm a churning stomach after the chemicals designed to kill the cancer made him feel ill.
Davenport said Christopher inspired them with his refusal to be treated differently than his classmates. He even refused an easier workload.
"It taught them a lot about diversity, and even though someone is different or they may have a disease or a handicap of some sort, they're still able to do all kinds of things and function," she said.
Third-grade classmates made a book last year to get Christopher through his last round of chemotherapy. The book was filled with congratulations that he had survived. The students encouraged him with get-well notes and pictures of the life they fully expect him to live, active and healthy.
"They wrote really nice things in there, and I just like that they're being nice," Christopher said.
This year, Christopher's new best friend, Stuart Walls, learned just how to treat him.
"The same as I am with everyone else, because he's no different than anyone else," Walls said.