May 21, 2021

St. Mark student’s letter leads Indianapolis mayor to proclaim ‘Be a Friend Day’

Quinn McGill, center, sits arm in arm with her friends and classmates Christina San, left, and Kaelynn De la Cruz on May 10 at St. Mark the Evangelist School in Indianapolis. Quinn, a fourth-grader at St. Mark, asked Indianapolis Mayor Joseph Hogsett to declare May 10 as “Be a Friend Day,” which the mayor did. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Quinn McGill, center, sits arm in arm with her friends and classmates Christina San, left, and Kaelynn De la Cruz on May 10 at St. Mark the Evangelist School in Indianapolis. Quinn, a fourth-grader at St. Mark, asked Indianapolis Mayor Joseph Hogsett to declare May 10 as “Be a Friend Day,” which the mayor did. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Quinn McGill knew that her hometown of Indianapolis had experienced some sad events recently, and she wanted to do something about it, to help people in the city to be happy.

To achieve this goal, Quinn needed help.

So the 10-year-old fourth grader at St. Mark the Evangelist School in Indianapolis wrote a letter on April 21 to Joseph Hogsett, the city’s mayor, five days after the tragic shooting at a Federal Express facility near Indianapolis International Airport that claimed the lives of eight victims.

Quinn proposed that May 10 be declared “Be a Friend Day” in Indianapolis, choosing that day in part because it was a school day for her when she could be around many of her friends.

“I think it is important,” Quinn wrote in her letter, “because a lot of people have friends and we never really get to celebrate them. Some people don’t have as many friends and we should be a friend to them.

“ …There has been some sadness in Indianapolis, and I think that this would bring some joy.”

Hogsett agreed and fulfilled Quinn’s wish. A member of the mayor’s staff hand-delivered a proclamation from Hogsett on May 10, Be a Friend Day in Indianapolis, to Quinn at St. Mark School. The event was covered by a local TV station, with members of Quinn’s family on hand.

In the proclamation, Hogsett noted that “our community has been through a difficult year, highlighting just how important the love and support that friendship provides truly is.

“During a year of at-home learning and quarantining, it has been difficult to see our friends during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have all had to find new ways to reach out to friends to share with them how much they mean to us … .”

Quinn was taken aback by all the attention she received.

“I was really surprised, because I just thought they were going to write back instead of doing all this.”

Tristan Litz, Quinn’s mother and an English teacher at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, was proud to see her daughter honored.

Although she helped her daughter organize and structure her letter, Litz noted that the ideas and words came entirely from Quinn and were a result of her being a student at St. Mark.

“I am certain that St. Mark has played such a formative role in her development as a person and as a Christian,” Litz said. “And so to the people who have found out about it and told me how much of a great job I’ve done as a mother, I put it all back on St. Mark, because it’s all the seeds that they have planted here.”

Rusty Albertson, St. Mark’s principal, said the difference Quinn made in writing her letter to Hogsett just shows how the students in his school “take kindness seriously.”

Encouraging students at St. Mark to be kind to each other is a priority in part to create a welcoming atmosphere for its large ethnically and racially diverse student body, which includes Black, Burmese and Hispanic children.

“I’ve made a lot of friends here,” Quinn said. “It makes it easier, because it’s not just one kind of person that you can be friends with. It’s all different kinds of people.”

St. Mark’s Catholic identity and its ability to teach the faith helps to deepen that experience of friendship for Quinn.

“Jesus was always nice to people,” she said. “He was friends with a lot of people, because people always talked with him.”

Because kindness is such an integral part of the mission of the St. Mark School community, Albertson admits that he sometimes takes it for granted. He was glad to be reminded of it by one of his students.

“Seeing this kind of brings it back to our minds,” Albertson said. “None of us are beyond being taught. And what a better way than by a faith-filled [girl] who’s not afraid to write to the mayor and ask for this, unbeknownst to any of us. She did this on her own.”

Litz was a proud mother as she watched her 10-year-old doing something good and being honored for it.

“It was beautiful and rewarding,” she said. “She has such a bright light inside of her. She doesn’t have a loud personality. So, a lot of people don’t see that, unless they really dig for it. It was neat to see it come out in that beautiful letter.” †

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