EAST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The giant boulder outside East Greenwich High School has been used by students as a billboard for more than five decades, which is why students decided to paint the rock in celebration of Pride Month.
ASAPP, a mental health advocacy group at the high school, was behind the project. The group painted a rainbow flag on the rock with the words “Happy Pride” in the center.
“We thought having that support for students would be really great and really welcoming, because being in the closet is super isolating,” Junior Michaela Shunney said.
But only a few days after the rock was painted, students learned their message of acceptance and inclusion had been defaced.
“It had ‘nah’ written all over it,” Shunney recalled, adding that the culprits also crossed out “Happy Pride.”
The group’s advisor Bob Houghtaling said while the students were understandably upset, he was impressed by how quickly they rallied to fix it.
Within hours, the group gathered to not only repaint the rock, but to also hang a banner atop the school’s entrance.
The students didn’t stop there. They also gave the school’s mascot a bisexual pride flag to hold.
“We’ve got some work to do in terms of bringing more people together, enlisting more allies, but I think a tremendous positive came out of a sad negative,” he said.
Shunney said instead of rewriting “Happy Pride,” the group chose to write “Love.”
“We wanted to show the people who did that hateful act before that love would always prevail over hate,” she explained. “We really just wanted to show that, even if something like that happens, even if there are people who are hateful, there are going to be people who love more and people who support more, and we just wanted to spread that message.”