It took grit and gumption.
And a cheering crowd.
When it was all said and done, the fumbled notes in an early-morning performance at a school rally demonstrated, in an unexpected but an unequivocal way, that the Go-Hawk Hustle, the middle school’s annual fundraiser, is not just a slogan.
The school spirit shined in an awkward moment at the Waverly-Shell Rock Middle School Hustle on Wednesday, when the eighth-grader slated to perform the national anthem stumbled on a few notes of the multi-octave song.
What Ella Pursell, the singer, did next and what her fellow students did to support her, affirmed the school spirit at a moment when it was tested in public view, with many cell phone cameras running.
The hustle itself was the culmination of months of fundraising for the school with a goal of $10,000, which was to go to school initiatives. The kids upped the ante, tallying $16,000, with the surplus going to the school foundation, a first for the middle schoolers.
As a counter narrative to the seriousness of raising money for a good cause, the principal, Jeremy Langner, had pledged to sleep in a tent overnight if the kids reach their goal, and several teachers had agreed to wear tutus for each $1,000 the students exceeded their target. Both the principal and five teachers kept their promises, with Mr. Langner, too, donning a tutu.
During the performance, the teen’s voice hit the first few notes on this early morning, with the hoarse-inducing rain lifting just moments before the event, Ella missed the pitch, as has happened to many top tier performers.
“Go, Ella! Go Ella!” the students chanted, clapping on encouragingly.
Fighting back stage fright and frustration, the teen regained her composure.
“You got this, Ella!” a girl in the audience shouted.
Ella took a deep breath, then restarted the song.
As she neared the last lines, a chorus of spontaneous voices joined her to reinforce the final notes of the song.
It was a powerful, teachable moment that needed to be reflected on.
It took a lot of courage to stand on the makeshift platform in the misty morning and try to hit the right notes in a challenging song.
But it took even more guts to persist through it until the end.
The supportive crowd had matched the resilience of the performer.
An affirming pat on the shoulder from one of the teachers, Mr. Chuck Buseman, fittingly moved on the day’s events.
Ella came down from the makeshift stage and into the arms of friends.
Many hugs later, she reflected on the experience thusly:
“It really shows that the school is such a supportive place and knows how to keep your classmates and your other students safe and know that they are welcome,” she said.
Mr. Langner, the principal, said the supportive crowd’s response did not surprise him.
“Our students understand and support each other,” he told Waverly Newspapers on Monday. “It gave me great pride to see them cheer and then finish the anthem in unison with Ella. This should make us all happy.”