Students honor Shyan Harris in all-yellow tribute

  • Students of Miller Grove Elementary, dressed in yellow to honor Shyan Harris, gather on the playground. Staff photo by Taylor Nye
    Students of Miller Grove Elementary, dressed in yellow to honor Shyan Harris, gather on the playground. Staff photo by Taylor Nye
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$500 raised to fight childhood cancer

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Miller Grove

An empty rocking chair in the corner of the reading room with a quilt neatly folded over its back. Beautiful paper flowers on classroom door and bulletin board. A handwritten note to a student tucked away in a cubby reminds him he is special. Everywhere you look at Miller Grove Elementary School, you’ll find reminders of Shyan Danielle Harris, a school volunteer who lost her battle with health issues last February at the age of 30.

On Sept. 17, all of Miller Grove Elementary came together to let Shyan and the community know that she — and the causes for which she fought so bravely — were still on their minds. Students and staff alike dressed in yellow to raise awareness for childhood cancer and gathered over $500 in donations.

“She would go into the classes, and she would share her story of her struggle,” Ginger McCreight, Shyan’s second grade teacher, said. “They loved her, and my kids even here today, we just talked about her the other day when we decided we want to carry on this tradition. We want to do something for the awareness of childhood cancer in her honor.”

Shyan attended Miller Grove from first grade onward, and then came back after her graduation to be a volunteer in the school. Acting for five years as a volunteer in Reading Improvement teacher Stephanie Bland’s class, there were some times when Shyan made particularly difficult sessions go much more smoothly, Bland said.

“She had a heart to help people that were in some type of a struggle, especially struggling readers, maybe even behavior … they just loved her,” Bland said.

Miller Grove had always been family to Shyan — literally. Mother Vicki Harris serves as school secretary, and her teachers were there to watch her grow up.

“She was just someone you are just blessed to know once in a lifetime,” McCreight said. “She was an old soul, even when she was 7 years old.”

Perhaps this was due to the fact that Shyan’s most recent battle with health issues was not her first. At 18 months old, she was initially diagnosed with leukemia and after a strict treatment regimen was pronounced a survivor.

This is something that shaped Shyan’s identity, according to Bland and McCreight. In the past, Shyan helped organize a balloon release and a tutu fun run to raise awareness for childhood cancer.

“Anybody that can get me in a tutu is pretty special!” McCreight joked. “Every year she would do something.”

Shyan’s Miller Grove Elementary family was also there for her when, after years in remission, her leukemia reappeared.

“We would walk, when she got very sick, and we would walk here in the hall. She would have a speaker, and we would be walking up and down blasting the Elvis tunes because that’s how she would push,” McCreight said. “Even though she didn’t feel like doing it, her determination was the strongest.”

“There was just a peace about her,” Bland said. “She was literally a bright light in this classroom. There’s not a single kid who didn’t know her in this classroom.”

Shyan’s faith helped get her through this tough time, both teachers said.

“Her walk with the Lord was no secret to anybody,” McCreight noted. “She shared her love of Jesus. She would share it with anyone, and it was always very evident.”

A hopeful message Shyan wrote down before one of her surgeries is now something many in Miller Grove remember: “God’s got this.”

“There was no doubt in anyone’s mind where she was going after she left here. In her mind or anyone else’s,” McCreight said.

“We all have a long history with her. She had a desk in here, she had a badge and a key,” Bland said. “She was just a joy to know. It’s uncanny the way she was able to make a connection with any person.”

The school is planning a memorial for Shyan, although no concrete plans have been made yet.

Until then, the words she wrote on the bulletin board stand as her testament: “Every child is a different kind of flower, and all together we make this world beautiful.”