When Donald Trump announced his bid for the president on June 16, 2015, I didn’t realize that supporting his campaign would result in being mocked by students and teachers -- and eventually getting to meet the Republican nominee in person.
I remember the day I came home from school, grabbing my bowl of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios and turning on Fox News. Trump was standing there wearing his red ‘Make America Great Again’ hat. Almost immediately I loved that hat for so many reasons: the color, the layout, and the message.
My parents wouldn’t let me buy that hat. They reasoned that he had 17 opponents and told me not to purchase it until he won the nomination. Their rules bugged me, because I knew this movement would carry him to the nomination.
About a week later, I was with a buddy at the mall and saw the hat in a store window. My friend was generous enough to loan me the money to buy it because I had forgotten my wallet. I called my mom, and she gave the okay to get the MAGA hat.
I walked out of the store with a smile from ear to ear.
The excitement wasn’t meant to last. Just two days later I walked into school, donning my newest prized possession on my head, and was greeted with stares from my classmates and muffled comments made under their breath. I knew this was the intolerance Trump had been talking about.
Negative comments turned to actions the next day. Other students began knocking the hat off my head, insulting me, and trying to shame me into not wearing it. This went on for weeks, even two teachers started throwing verbal jabs at me, telling me to take the hat off in class, informing the class that Trump voters were 'dumb,' and one said to me, “thank God you can’t vote.”
My parents told me it would pass. I hoped they were right but things seemed to only get worse. One day, a girl walked up to me and threw my hat In the garbage, and I saw three people taking photos of her doing it. I had had enough. My friend who loaned me the money for the hat backed me up on all the abuse I had taken. We went to the assistant principal, who advised me to just leave the MAGA gear at home.
I texted a couple people about my ordeal, and before I knew it local news stations wanted to talk to me, leading to an interview with Howie Carr, and then a sit-down meeting with our Gov. Paul LePage (R-Maine).
After all the controversy over my hat, I was invited to stand in a V.I.P. section at Trump’s rally in Maine and got to meet the Republican nominee. The experience was surreal, something I’ve replayed in my head over and over again.
The whole experience from buying the hat to meeting Trump opened my eyes: Whether you support Trump, Hillary, or anyone else, treat everyone with respect.