“Praise Helix” has arguably become the catchphrase most associated with Rawlings McDaniels, if not Anime Club itself.
As the club’s vice president, McDaniels has been its “face,” making frequent appearances on school announcements. He is also the individual who brought the phrase to the limelight of the MTHS community.
Albeit, “Praise Helix” isn’t his creation.
“I believe it was 2012, 2013 maybe, when the gaming community ‘Twitch’ began to play the game Pokemon Red Version,” McDaniels explained. “[The population of the city of Mountlake Terrace] playing that one game at all the same time, caused a sequence of events that sprouted this religion. And from that religion, we have Helix, who is a fossil and this fossil tells you when [to do things] and when not to do things.”
McDaniels doesn’t expect “Praise Helix” to be his legacy.
“It’s just a silly, stupid phrase,” he said. “I’m probably not even the first person to have said it. It’s not mine, it’s just a fun thing to do.”
McDaniels is optimistic, hopeful and likes to throw out a joke or two every once in awhile. He paraphrases quotes from his friends and recalls memories fondly. He’s moving on from the place he says is “homely” and on to the real world.
“Man, the dream is about to end and I’m about to wake up,” he said.
McDaniels, 18, is vying for a summer job and set to attend Edmonds Community College in September. Although his major is undetermined, McDaniels is passionate about art and English and hopes to find a related major.
McDaniels wrote stories as a sophomore, replacing the characters of Japanese cartoons, also known as animes, like “Soul Eater” (an anime in which characters are able to turn into weapons) with his friends.
“I thought, ‘Wow, [‘Soul Eater’] is awesome. That’s awesome. That’s awesome.’ And then the creators of that anime left it, and some other people tried to revamp it and I thought, ‘Wow, this is really bad. I bet I could do better than that,’” McDaniels said, who hesitated before he added, “And I feel like maybe I did.”
From there, he turned the stories into Japanese graphic novels, or mangas, which have been incomplete since the summer of his sophomore year, due to his friends parting ways. He said he hopes to finish the mangas in the coming summers, during his free time.
But for McDaniels, sophomore year wasn’t all about drawing and telling the stories of others.
That year, an estimated 250 students in the Edmonds School District were without permanent housing and as of today, that number has more than doubled.
McDaniels was one of those 250 students.
“I was like, ‘Whoa, homeless. Doesn’t feel too good,’” he said.
With nowhere to go after school, McDaniels and his older sister found themselves at the public library until closing playing “Pokemon” and watching anime together.
“I think [being homeless] allowed my family and I to become closer as a family because prior to us being homeless, we were all very drifted apart.” McDaniels said. With him and his sister in high school and a working mother overcoming addiction, the experience brought the trio together.
While homelessness came unexpectedly, McDaniels took it in stride.
“Another thing I’ve learned in high school [is that] there is no plan,” McDaniels said. “You just gotta go in.”
Learning support teacher and McDaniels’ freshman and sophomore English teacher Antoaneta Beeston was a major influence on McDaniels.
“He was very shy and insecure when he came as a freshman,” Beeston said. “And I think in his junior year and especially now in his senior year, he has become so open to everybody. He’s laughing, he’s smiling… I think he’s the real Rawlings that we didn’t see in the first two years.”
The number of conversations the two have had together is endless, but the one Beeston recalled also bears a general life lesson – one of many she believes will help him in the future.
“I told him, ‘One day, when you are a great dad, talking to your son or daughter, or talking to a teen who is crying and doesn’t see the light in front of him or her, your experience will come – to help.’ Experience makes us who we are,” she said.
Beeston said McDaniels is capable of seeing things from the positive end of life and talks about the world around him lightheartedly. She said she hopes that others learn from him and she’s fairly certain there are some who have.
The legacy McDaniels is leaving behind, Beeston said, is his kindness to other people.
While McDaniels may not know exactly where he’ll be in five years, he does know what he wants to accomplish over the course of his lifetime.
“I want to make a manga, or a story, whatever, that inspires other people to do good,” he said. “Stories make people happy. And people happy means world happy,” McDaniels said simply.
Beeston knows McDaniels wants to make others happy.
“He really, really cares about a lot of people. I don’t even know, sometimes, if people know that he’s caring about them,” Beeston said. “But he is. He has a big, big heart.”
But is McDaniels ready to leave to start a new life outside of the high school dream?
“That’s the real question,” he said. “I think it’s time for me to be ready… I need to start doing stuff with my life.”