The Teens Behind the RNC Balloon Drop

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by Phoebe Petrovic

The Republican National Convention ended with 125,000 balloons dropped from the rafters. How do you blow up 125,000 balloons? Teenagers from Garfield Heights did it.

After tying hundreds and hundreds of balloons, 14-year-old tuba player Kiliell Wallace is wishing he had the nimble fingers of a guitar player.

“It's the tying that's really, really, really hurting us,” said Wallace. “So yeah, that's the problem.”

The students here are all from Garfield High's band and chorus. Their booster club took this job in exchange for a $7,500 donation from the contractor who provides the convention with the massive balloon drop.

The students told me they were excited to play a role in the Republican convention. So I asked a 14-year-old Kahlil Tyus and 17-year-old Allison Hill how they feel about Donald Trump.

“The majority of our school is African-American, so you can only imagine how we're going to feel about Donald Trump and how he feels about us,” said Tyus.

“Donald Trump is a bully. That's how I see it. He's a bully,” said Hill.

As they sat there surrounded by the red, white and blue balloons, they told me they want the next president to focus on making college affordable and combatting gun violence, police brutality and racism. Eighteen-year-old Terez Siggers says police shootings are weighing her down.

“I remember, maybe last week, I woke up one day, went on Twitter and this video just went viral. The next morning, it was another one. I couldn't take it,” she said. “I couldn't take - like, it's too much. I don't want to keep waking up to bad news. I want to wake up to - hey, look at this. It's a beautiful world. I'm waking up to another man killed for selling CDs. Like, I can't. I don't want to hear it anymore.”

Terez told me that when she joined choir as a freshman, she and her peers made an extra effort to be welcoming and supportive. And now she says it's like they're all best friends.

Teen after teen told me they're looking for that same sort of unifying force in the White House.

“What's most important to me is the president who's trying to make peace with almost everybody, trying to bring everybody together,” said Holland Petway.

Like most of the high schoolers who made tonight's balloon drop possible, Holland Petway is too young to vote. But he cares a lot about who wins.

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