COLES COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — It’s been two years since a high schooler in Mattoon shot another student in the cafeteria.
On Friday all of the students spent the day serving the community that supported them through the tragedy. 15-year-old Josiah Lyons pleaded guilty to the shooting. The “Green and Gold Volunteer Day” was a way for Mattoon High School to show strength and unity as students and staff move forward from what happened.
Last year they did the same thing. It’s a tradition they’ve made to remind them that good will always triumph. September 20th is a day the high schoolers will always remember. Karla Ramirez says, “The second I walked out I heard the gunshots and ran out in fear.”
Ramirez was there the day Lyons fired the gun in the cafeteria. Two years later the school is taking the reminder of that and transforming the meaning of that day into something better. Ramirez says, “We’re trying to turn a bad day that happened two years ago into something good.”
Instead of spending Friday inside classrooms, students and staff went out to serve the people of Coles County. Good deeds were spread across several cities.
Football coach Troy Johnson says, “Hopefully it sends a message that we’re moving forward and the world is not bad.” With brushes in hand, the kids worked to repaint the barns at the fairgrounds.
While the shooting left a lasting impact on people, Asher Pratter says, “I think this experience has shaped our school and community for the better because now as a community and a school as a whole are more united than we were before this.”
These are the memories they want to showcase. Johnson says, “We’re trying to show these kids that there is good in the world and you can be part of that.”
About 900 high schoolers worked in the community on Friday. Other projects included planting flowers downtown and visiting nursing homes.
Josiah Lyons pleaded guilty to the shooting. Last year, he was sentenced to juvenile prison until he was 21. But the Department of Juvenile Justice decided to release him before that. He is no longer in custody.