It was game day in Vidor, Texas. There were signs up around town wishing the high school team good luck. Students, teachers, and administrators were wearing black and gold, the school colors. Everyone was positive and upbeat. They just didn’t mention that Vidor High had little chance of winning.
Because Vidor High School is in a region with much larger schools, it doesn’t win very often on the football field or on the basketball court, but that doesn’t affect the students’ attitudes.
They know what true winning is all about.
“We’re always up and looking for the good things,” says Rebecca Packard, student-body president. “Our spirit is awesome,” says Mollie Hoosier. “Everyone knows that about Vidor High.”
That attitude of looking for ways to win in life instead of in competition may be influenced by the student officers at Vidor High School. This past year, the LDS students (numbering 75 in a total of about 1,500) have been the leaders in the school. The student-body president, each class president, and many of the student council members are LDS. These young Mormons want to make a difference in their school and use their influence for good among their peers.
It’s a little unusual to find a school’s student leadership so dominated by LDS students in an area of the United States outside of Utah. But these young people have learned how to make the most out of high school and support each other in staying true to gospel teachings. Their friends at school can’t help but notice, and it’s making a difference in big ways and in little things.
For example, drinking, especially at weekend parties, was a big problem for their peers, so some of the LDS students started throwing their own parties and inviting everyone, as long as they followed the house rules.
“Dad announces the rules at our house,” says Priscilla Packard. “No tobacco; no alcohol; you have to be 14 to attend the party; no pairing off in the corners; and absolutely nobody outside in the cars. Then we dance, and talk, play games, and have contests to see who can do the most back flips in a row. One guy from school who had never been to one of our parties before said, ‘Wow, there’s no alcohol here, and I’m still having fun.’” The parties given by the LDS students are popular with everyone because it isn’t just the same old thing.
Then the LDS students have changed some small things, like the way the kids at their school slow dance. Instead of bear hugging as their schoolmates were doing at school dances, the Mormon kids chose to dance using the usual waltz position. It even became known as dancing “Mormon style.”
“It makes dancing more casual,” explained Brandie Carner. “You hesitate to ask people to dance when you don’t know if they are going to hang on you.”
“You can talk easier,” added Natalie Fawcett. “You’re more at ease.”
“It has changed at school,” said Brandie. “We had a school dance just the other week, and everyone was dancing Mormon style.”
How do you let your friends know your standards? A group of LDS students, who were talking about their high school, groaned in unison. The answers came fast and in a jumble. “Oh, everyone already knows. They know by what you do. They know because of our older brothers and sisters.” Voices overlapped, with several people explaining at once how they always had to be an example, because if they did something they weren’t supposed to, someone was sure to comment, “I didn’t know you Mormons did things like that.”
The reputation of what an LDS student is like precedes them. “The teachers know what to expect,” says Veronica Jenkins. “They know the Mormon kids will work hard and try to get good grades.”
“And if you slack off,” adds Brandie, “they’ll call your parents. Teachers know the Mormon parents care.”
The LDS students try to be good examples, and some of their fellow students can’t help but notice and want to know more. “I was always associating with them,” said Erika Redfield. “It was the example I noticed. Mormons seemed to always be sensitive to other people’s feelings. They were never fake or dishonest.”
When Erika was thinking about her future, planning her education and what she wanted to do, she felt a hole in her religious life. She called one of the LDS girls she knew at school and started asking about things her friend believed. Soon she was investigating the Church with the missionaries. Erika said, “My testimony came really slow at first, but every time I read something, I prayed about it. I had the feeling that it was true. Whenever I found the truth, I wanted to hear more.” But it wasn’t easy. Friends and acquaintances made sure she was well supplied with anti-Mormon literature. “I don’t know how I stood up to it all.” But Erika had found what she was looking for and was baptized.
Now Erika feels very much a part of the LDS group. “The peer group at school is awesome. They try hard to make you fit in. I could never repay them,” Erika says pausing, “but no one asks for anything in return.”
That’s part of the secret the LDS students at Vidor High have for sharing the gospel. They try to be friends with everyone. “There are lots of people out there who aren’t LDS who are good people,” says Priscilla Packard. “Like Erika. Even before she joined the Church, she was a great person. Find those good friends and socialize with them.”
And they try not to be obnoxious about letting their friends know what they believe. Here are some of their suggestions about letting your classmates know about the Church:
Molly Hoosier: “Don’t start by telling them that our church is the only true church. They think we’re being conceited and rude to them. And don’t put down other religions.”
Elizabeth Williamson: “Don’t ever start arguing. You have to stand up for the Church, but don’t get into an argument.”
Spencer Simpson: “Don’t get into far-out subjects.”
Priscilla Packard: “Take it slowly. Sometimes the thought of talking to missionaries is too intimidating. It makes them too nervous. Talk to them about the Church just as a friend.”
Erika Redfield: “Just in conversation, don’t make yourself seem superior to them just because you don’t do the things they do.”
Natalie Fawcett: “Stay away from parties and things that could be trouble. Stay strong.”
And most of all, these students agree, it’s important to live a life that illustrates what you believe. Example cannot be underrated. It speaks much louder than words.
Erika is telling the group about a boy in one of her classes who is getting ready to be baptized. When she tells them who it is, Spencer is amazed. He says, “I sat by him yesterday. That goes to show you that you have to be an example all the time because you never know what it will mean to the person next to you.”
It means something special to be LDS at Vidor High. It means something significant to be a good example. Student-body president Rebecca says, “At school, it’s cool to be good.”
And with an attitude like that, everyone can be a winner.
William and Joissine Williamson took a Mr. Busley into their home as a boarder. While living with them he talked a lot about his past and meeting the Mormons. He said Brigham Young was a good and wise leader. Mr. Williamson listened and did some thinking and finally way off in Texas in the early 1900s, he decided that if he ever got the chance he would join that church.
At noontime on January 9, 1900, two Mormon missionaries wearily made their way up the long lane that led to the Williamsons’ front door. William, looking out the window, exclaimed, “Them’s my men!”
When William and Joissine were baptized, their posterity, all nine children, were heirs to their conversion. They formed a small but united group amid great prejudice.
Their descendants make up the majority of the LDS students at Vidor High School.
Here’s some advice from the LDS students at Vidor High about getting more involved in high school:
Join different types of clubs. You never know how much fun you’ll have if you don’t join in.
Meet all different kinds of people. Don’t be with one person all the time.
Run for student offices. Peter LaPray says, “Don’t let anyone run unopposed. Run just for the fun of it, no matter if you win or not.”
Keep your grades up. Don’t procrastinate. Turn assignments in on time.
Take school seriously. Have fun, but remember you have to plan your schedule carefully, so when it’s time to graduate you’ve completed the classes you need.
Learn to set goals and finish them. Earn your Young Womanhood Medallion or your Eagle Scout Award. Maintain your standards at all costs.
Support other groups who are doing good things.