‘Three Words For Matt’

PANAMA – The Panama Central School District community is rallying around one of its own.

Students, teachers, administration and general staff have come together to participate in an endeavor to lift the spirits of Matt Harp, a technology teacher at Panama, who has been absent from the school for three months due to health issues.

Last month, a video created by John Murphy, a fellow Panama shop teacher and longtime friend of Harp’s, was posted to YouTube. Entitled “Three Words for Matt,” the video depicts a series of various Panama students, teachers, staff and administration displaying three-word messages of encouragement directed at Harp set to the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’.”

According to Murphy, the video came about through a collaboration between himself and Dawn Sard, a teacher of elementary special education. Murphy said he was initially hesitant to create the video because of the personal nature of Harp’s illness, but he resolved to keep a positive attitude during the filming process.

“As I got into it, I told myself that it was something to make (Harp) feel better, but then I realized that it was about making us all feel good,” Murphy said. “I didn’t want the video to come out like we should all be feeling sorry for Matt. It was just a way to build him up and let him know that we’re all thinking about him.”

While Murphy was responsible for creating the video, it was Sard who conceived the premise of the three-word message. Sard said she took the idea from a former “Good Morning America” segment called, “Your 3 Words.”

“When we all found out about Matt’s condition, I started thinking about what we could do as a school community to show support and let Matt know that we’re praying for him,” Sard said. “I thought we needed to do it as a whole school because we’re all in this together. I sent out an email (regarding the ‘Your 3 Words’ idea) to everyone and, almost as soon as I did, I had more than 40 people say that they would do it. We didn’t want this to be a sad tearjerker. We just wanted it to be funny, silly, happy and uplifting for Matt.”

Sard said the longevity of Harp’s career at Panama – which has spanned three decades – also lent itself to representation from the Panama community at large, as well as his former students. Harp himself even made a guest appearance in the video, unaware of the true premise behind what Murphy was creating.

“They even got me at one point,” Harp said. “I just followed along without knowing what I was being filmed for.”

More importantly, Harp expressed gratitude to everybody involved with the project.

“I was surprised when I was presented with the finished product,” he said. “I was impressed that the whole student body got involved, including students that I haven’t had in class yet. It is a testament to the students at Panama, and I was touched to see the caring nature of the staff and student body in the Panama community.”

Through the video’s development, Sard said the Panama community, both within and outside of the school, has gotten closer.

“I think it did build a stronger community because we were standing united to do something great for Matt,” she said.

The video can be viewed by visiting YouTube and searching for “Three Words for Matt.” It was uploaded through Murphy’s school account, “MrMurphyVideo,” and has currently received more than 1,900 views.

The URL link to the video is: www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZKjieLeYMc.