Antioch: Students rally around teen after Nintendo is stolen

ANTIOCH — Shawn Hawkins was devastated.

The classroom where the Antioch High School sophomore usually left his backpack for safekeeping before heading to physical education was locked, and he couldn’t squeeze it into his locker at the boys’ gym.

So the 15-year-old stashed his belongings nearby and headed off to class on the football field earlier this month only to discover upon his return that someone had rummaged through the backpack and, ignoring his cell phone, ear buds and video games, nicked his Nintendo 3DS.

“I was very distraught and sad,” Shawn said, adding that when he reported the theft of his video game console to school officials they told him that without witnesses or footage from surveillance cameras there was nothing they could do.

He felt the loss especially keenly because the device was more than a toy; it represented Shawn’s dreams of a career as a video game developer.

The 10th-grader wasn’t just playing videos as a member of Antioch High’s gaming club; for the past three years he has attended a summer camp at Stanford University and University of California at Berkeley where he learned to write code.

In addition, he just interviewed for a spot in an intensive Oakland after-school course that gives young people hands-on experience in various facets of designing video games to prepare them for working in the industry.

And Shawn already has his sights set on attending UC Santa Cruz because it offers degrees in computer gaming.

So in desperation the teen turned to a whiteboard in the student lounge and wrote a message to the thief, asking him or her to return it and promising that he wouldn’t tell on the culprit.

Within days students were taking photos of the note and sharing it on Snapchat, which is how Shawna Cantiliano learned of Shawn’s troubles.

The 16-year-old decided to do something more than simply pass on news of the theft and announced that she would be taking up a collection to replace the console.

Other kids stepped forward, some of them strangers, to offer a buck, $5 or even $10 — at least 15 in all, Shawna says, adding that a teacher also had a hand in the goodwill gesture and made a run to the store to buy a Nintendo 3DS XL.

When the junior and a friend dropped by Shawn’s history class to present the surprise, there was a pause during which the teen’s expression registered puzzlement, astonishment and then … joy.

“You’re an angel from God!” he declared after throwing his arms around Shawna and planting three kisses on her cheek as the class clapped.

“I was stricken with happiness,” he said later, admitting he shed a tear of happiness over the answered prayer. “It’s a Christmas miracle. Even though it wasn’t Christmas, I felt it was a gift from God.”

As for Shawna, she says she tries to go out of her way to help others but also credits her peers for stepping up to comfort a classmate.

“There’s  a lot of underlying kindness (at Antioch High) that’s not really brought to the surface,” she said. “It’s only like in unfortunate events like these you really see it.”

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