Molly Hudgens speaking to Aberdeen teachers

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Tennessee school counselor Molly Hudgens always knew that she was working in the right profession. 

“But I didn't really feel like I knew my purpose,” she said. 

But everything changed in 2016, when an armed student walked into Hudgens’ office, and she was able to avert a school shooting. 

Now, she shares her story around the country. On Tuesday, she spoke to Aberdeen Public School District educators at a back-to-school event at Central High School. 

Hudgens said she finds that her story resonates with people, and quite often empowers them to share their own stories. 

“I've had this beautiful other chapter of getting to tell it to people and always being surprised how it affects people,” she said. 

Hudgens is the author of “Saving Sycamore: The School Shooting that Never Happened,” which details her 90 minutes spent talking to and praying with an armed 14-year-old. Her intervention resulted in a peaceful resolution—and in 2017, Hudgens received the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Citizens Honor.

She now works with Safe and Sound Schools, a national nonprofit school safety organization founded by others who have been impacted by school shootings. 

Hudgens also continues to serve as a school counselor at Sycamore Middle School in Tennessee.

“I stay because I think that people listen to me because I'm still in the trenches,” she said. 

Her advice for other educators—along with parents and students—is to pay attention. 

“If something bothers you enough that you go home and you're still thinking about it, you need to message somebody,” she said. 

What she wants educators to take away from her speech is to reflect on their interactions with students. 

“Do I just pass people by or do I get involved? Do I get to know them?” Hudgens said. “Because it's so much more rewarding if you do.” 

She also wants people who work with kids to know the importance of what they do. 

“It's really not even about the academics at all,” she said. “It's more about teaching them to be good people and modeling behavior that they can copy and emulate.” 

About the Aberdeen Public School District 

The Aberdeen Public School District provides a comprehensive educational program to approximately 4,200 students in grades K-12, with a mission of empowering all students to succeed in a changing world. Our students receive the knowledge and skills necessary to reach their potential in a global community through high expectations of academic achievement; diverse educational opportunities; and community involvement in a safe, supportive environment. Learn more at