Students from Lake Norman Elementary School lobbied lawmakers in Raleigh last week to make stock car racing the official state sport.
The students delivered "letters of persuasion" written by fellow students at their school to the offices of all 170 state representatives and senators. They also pitched their cause to the House Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations, which agreed to send their bill to the House floor for an eventual vote.
"I felt really proud because I made an impact on people, a good influence," said fifth-grader Derrick Easter, 11, after he and 11 other students returned to their school on a chartered bus Wednesday night with 15 parents and several teachers.
The students spent the day promoting House Bill 333 and Senate Bill 322, which designate stock car racing as the official state sport.
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North Carolina's list of 38 state symbols ranges from its official dog (the plott hound) to its official carnivorous plant (the Venus flytrap). One symbol it lacks is a state sport.
Why not basketball? one legislative assistant asked the students on their trip.
Because basketball was born in Massachusetts, where it's the official state sport , fifth-grader Sloan Edemann, 11, said she explained.
Stock car racing originated in the N.C. mountains, "and it's more rich to our culture," said fifth-grader Lajja Pancholy, 11.
The students worked quietly for nine months in hopes of getting the General Assembly to finally name a state sport. They kept quiet, they said, so no one would find out what they were working on and propose another sport first.
They worked with N.C. Rep. Grey Mills, R-Iredell, of Mooresville, who submitted their idea Jan. 26 to the bill drafting division of the Legislative Services Commission.
Both the House and Senate bills were filed in the General Assembly March 10 and passed their first readings March 14. The bills were then sent to the Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations for its OK. Two more readings (votes) are needed for the bills to pass the House and Senate.
Kelley Earnhardt, daughter of the late racing great Dale Earnhardt, traveled to Raleigh to support the students with her husband, L.W. Miller III, and her daughter, Karsyn Elledge, a fifth-grader at Shepherd Elementary School in Mooresville, who competes in Mini-Outlaw karts.
Mooresville town commissioners Miles Atkins and Rhett Dusenbury also drove to Raleigh to back the students. Before the students boarded the bus to Raleigh, Atkins told them they were making history.
In Raleigh, one legislator after another complimented the students on their effort.
"Our office often receives letters from students, and they are always appreciated," Gerry Johnson, legislative assistant to Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, later wrote in an email to the school's principal, Boen Nutting. "Of all the letters we have received, these were without a doubt the most impressive in every way."