In November 2016, Donald Trump was inaugurated as president.
The week after his inauguration, a high school classmate of mine shared a video with me that showed her being on a bus heading to her high school.
As she walked down the bus line, the bus stopped.
A young man on the bus leaned down to kiss her.
A second later, a bus driver pulled out and slammed her into the ground.
My friend and I stared at each other, stunned.
I couldn’t believe what had just happened.
I had been on a school bus that day.
A week later, the incident would come to define the next eight years of my life.
For four years, I watched in disbelief as Trump won the presidency.
As a high-school student, I could never imagine what my future might hold.
I would have to find a new school and would likely have to move to another state.
The Trump administration had a hard time finding places to teach me.
Many schools were closing.
The federal government was not doing enough to support low-income students.
And the schools that were open faced new challenges.
My high school was one of them.
I could have been a student of color or a student with disabilities.
But I was white, so I decided to attend the nearby Parkerville High School in Duncanville, a town in northeast Georgia.
I took my high school exams that spring, and my grades were perfect.
I was accepted to a few other schools.
But the only reason I was allowed to go was because I was the only person from the town that had ever been on the same bus as the president.
The first time I went to school in the fall of 2016, I noticed a small sign in my window: “Duty to God.”
I could barely believe what I was seeing.
The signs had been put up by the Christian conservative group Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUDS).
The AUDS, which has called for the removal of all monuments and religious symbols from public places in the United States, is the largest national religious right organization in the country.
I didn’t think much of it at the time.
But as I sat in my high-rise classroom one spring day, a new message came to mind.
I was sitting in a classroom in a high rise in a school with the motto “Duty To God.”
The teacher and principal were sitting in the back.
They were talking about how they didn’t believe in the president, and the students were sitting next to them.
The message was clear: We should be on the side of the Bible.
I looked up from my textbook and saw that the school’s motto had been changed to: Duty, To God.
The school was in its third year, and I was still a freshman.
The students and teachers seemed happy with their new motto.
I felt blessed to be a part of their new ethos.
I began to notice how much more tolerant they seemed to be of other religious beliefs.
When I looked through my notes from the previous semester, I found a note in my calendar: I have noticed the students in this school are starting to look a little more like the ones in the Bible Belt.
After all, the Bible says, “I have loved you.
I have been loving you.”
The students in the high school in Duncanvill have been in this room, on this campus, for years.
They know how to pray, sing the national anthem, recite the Bible, and study the scriptures.
They believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and a God of love.
It’s a different world.
As the summer of 2016 wound down, I saw that a small group of students in my class was taking a break from school.
I approached them and asked what was wrong.
“We’re not in a good mood,” one of the students said.
“You don’t get to be in this mood for too long.”
After asking about their vacation plans, I realized the students had been spending time with their families.
The day before the break, I had met with my parents to share some of the news that had just come out of the White House.
I told them the news.
They listened and smiled.
I reminded them that I would be leaving Duncanville for a summer job in New Jersey.
I said, “Don’t worry, Mom, I’ll get you a new car.”
They were ecstatic.
I left the school a few hours later.
I wanted to spend some time with my family.
I got a call from a family friend: He’s got a friend from college coming over to visit me for a couple days.
It was June, and it was sunny outside.
We spent the day at the park.
My friends and I enjoyed a picnic.
As we sat on the grass