A high school senior in Neodesha, Kansas, raised more than $5,000 to bring a pro-life speaker to her school for her senior project despite a controversy over her choice.
"I sold cookies, I sold 2,000 cookies to the community here and 266 t-shirts, so everyone has been very supportive," Wittum told KOAM-TV.
Wittum decided that for her senior project, she wanted to bring Abby Johnson, a former clinic director at Planned Parenthood turned pro-life activist, to speak at her school.
"She knows what it's like to go through that and work in that kind of place, and she's just sharing her story," Wittum said, "and I wanted to share that with my school and community."
Wittum’s selection of the project was not without controversy.
Neodesha High School parents complained to the school board about the project.
"Last week, there was just some complaints about the topic and it being during school hours and I think people didn't know it was optional and people thought it was religious. So there was just some confusion," Wittum said.
Wittum’s project had been approved by a senior project committee, but in the face of complaints, the school board held a meeting to determine whether or not they would allow it to continue.
"Well, initially the project was approved for school hours on school property," Don Potter, the local superintendent, told KOAM. "And then the school board was aware of that and rescinded any prior decisions."
The school board ruled that Wittum may present her senior project — but it must take place off campus and students who attend must have a permission slip from their parents.
"I wish it could have been at the school but I'm glad we get to have it, regardless," Wittum said.
She added that she has recived a great deal of support from the community.
"Because of all this, even if it would have got canceled, there's so much talk about it now and it's all over Facebook and I think our community is a lot more aware of it now than if there would have been no cancellation in the first place," Wittum said.
Johnson expressed admiration for Whittum’s efforts.
“I have a new hero,” Johnson wrote on Facebook. “Her name is Maggie Whittum.”
Johnson, impressed by Whittum’s initiative, told her that she would waive her speaking fee and use her airline miles to come to Kansas.
“Little did I know, Maggie was fundraising for me to come,” Johnson added. “She ended up raising $5,000 to pay for my travel, hotel and a speaking fee. (I have a surprise planned for the money...I will share it at the assembly when I speak).”
“I wish I was that courageous in high school. I wish I was half the gal Maggie is when I was a senior,” Johnson wrote. “Students, you may not think that your voice matters. But YOU are exactly what we need in this society. Your voice can change your community.”
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