FORT MILL, S.C. — When third-grader Cloreta Flynn walked into her classroom at Orchard Park Elementary for the first time, she noticed one of the desks wasn’t like the others.
“I was really excited on ‘Meet the Teacher’ because I figured out both of my friends were going to be in my class,” the 8-year-old said.
On the first day, when all of her classmates took their seats, one of the other girls in her class was seated at a desk surrounded by plexiglass.
“I asked why she had plexiglass on her desk and my teacher told me it was because her parents asked for it,” she said.
By the end of the first day, Cloreta said she watched while many of the kids in class teased the girl for having a desk that was different than anyone else’s.
Cloreta went home that day and told her parents what happened.
“Then, later, I told my dad and I said I wanted plexiglass because I didn’t want this girl to be left out that she was the only one having it,” the 8-year-old said.
So, the following day, Cloreta’s family requested plexiglass for her desk too.
“I just thought it was a nice thing to do for somebody,” Cloreta said.
For her, the plexiglass on her desk was one more thing she could do to try to show compassion to her classmates.
“If you be kind to others, you’ll get that kindness back,” Cloreta said.
The little girl with a bright smile had already made peace with the fact that this year would probably be similar to school in-person last year: she wears a face-covering in her mask-optional school in Fort Mill every day; she isn’t allowed to sit as close to her friends as she would hope.
“It’s kinda tough but we still get to learn pretty normal,” Cloreta said.
So, when one of her classmates asked Cloreta why she now had a plexiglass shield, too, she told her friend she did it because she didn’t want the other girl to be alone. A few days later, that classmate requested plexiglass, too.
At a time when there is so much division in this country, Cloreta’s father Leo Flynn said the simple acts of kindness spreading through his daughter’s classroom are a good reminder of what really matters most.
“I’m proud of her,” Flynn said.
Ask Cloreta if she’s proud of herself, and she’ll nod, smile, and cartwheel away -- eager to just go back to being a kid.