MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — It’s not every 7-year-old who can say he has met the mayor and has now written a book that he hopes will, as he puts it, change the world.
But Terry Miles can say that. Well, he will say it after he gets to know you. He’s a little shy.
“It’s exciting,” the soft-spoken soon-to-be-first-grader said with a smile last week, dressed in a stylish button-up shirt and shorts, his short hair immaculately styled.
In April, Miles and his fellow kindergarten classmates from Longfellow Elementary School’s Muncie P3 program were invited to meet with Mayor Dennis Tyler to discuss their concerns about gun violence. Concerns that were raised by Terry in a letter to the mayor, which read, in part: “Dear Mayor, I want to ask an important question. People have been shooting at night and I want to ask you ‘Can you make them stop?‘”
Tyler and Detective Robert Scaife spoke with the children about making the shooting stop and staying safe.
Now the story behind that letter has become a book, “The Shot Heard Around the Town: A Story About How One Boy Can Change the World,” written by Terry (with help from some adults).
“He has had a huge impact — on me, on his classmates, on the community,” said his Ball State University student teacher Brittany Cain, who created the book with Terry as a class project.
After a story about his letter ran in The Star Press, it reached law enforcement veterans, including Delaware County Prosecutor Jeffrey Arnold.
“It was gut-wrenching,” Arnold said in April of the letter. “It brought to mind the adage that it takes an entire village to raise a child. ... That poor little kid has no control over (the misuse of guns). Even his parents might have no control over that. But the village can go out and do something.”
It also reached far beyond Muncie, with his story being shared online by at least one person who lost a family member in the mass shooting at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
Work on the book began shortly after that meeting with the mayor. Terry is part of an after-school program through the Ball State University-based MuncieP3 academic enrichment program at Longfellow and Huffer Memorial Children’s Center, where Cain is one of the BSU student instructors.
“I asked Terry if he would help me write it, so everything is in his voice,” she told The Star Press (http://tspne.ws/1lTCMD4 ).
They wrote the book during writing and reading time at the MP3 program.
When they were done, Terry read it to his classmates.
“They were so excited to see the pictures of themselves, to see Terry’s words, to remember what happened,” Cain said.
The book begins with a conversation that happened in the hallway at Huffer one day.
“Jermaine said he heard some shots by his apartment last night and was feelin’ scared,” the book says.
Terry goes on to say that “I finally spoke up and said, ‘I have been hearing them too. I got an idea! Let’s go talk to the mayor!‘”
His teachers “Miss Renee and Miss Brittany” tracked down who they needed to talk to at the mayor’s office. Terry sat down to write that impactful letter to the mayor.
And the rest is, well, what has made Terry quite the “role model” in the community, said Huffer Director Paula Gruwell.
“It has been a big year for our Terry,” she said. “He needed this in so many different ways. What it has done for his self-esteem and his personality ... it’s a difference of night and day.”
She said Cain and the other teachers played a big part.
“They listened,” she said. “They took one concern that was mentioned and decided to do something about it. And now that concern has grown into something wonderful.”
And the gun violence in the neighborhood?
Terry said he doesn’t hear that many shots anymore. “I’m happy about that,” he said.
Right now, the book is in digital form, available on an app based on her BSU class, Cain said. But her plan is to get it published in print, with all proceeds going back to the MP3 kindergarten program at Huffer.
Terry wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, he’d love to stay in that class if he could. He’s known as quite the classroom helper and leader.
Last month, he won his first award from MP3 at Longfellow, the Outstanding Community Leader award.
“He is one of the most helpful students that I have ever worked with,” Cain said. “He has the biggest heart of almost anybody that I know.”
(Terry, in fact, wants to be a doctor when he grows up so he can “help people, all people.")
He’s also a problem-solver, Cain said. “He sees a problem with a friend who may have a problem with someone else and Terry becomes the mediator.”
He saw a problem with gun violence and asked the mayor for help.
“Terry is the kind of person who influences you or gives you the strength to do your best every day,” Cain said. “Knowing Terry and working with Terry makes me wake up every day and want to be the best that I can be.”
Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com