From homeless to hopeful: Student overcomes odds with help of local foundation
School can no doubt be tough -- but for thousands of students here on the First Coast not only do they have to worry about grades and peer pressure, they also have to worry about where they will sleep at night.
More than 2,000 students in Duval County are currently homeless. Sabon Greene used to be one of those students.
"Nobody knew," Sabon said. "When it happened, I didn't tell anyone."
Sabon Greene is a junior at the University of North Florida and an aspiring engineer. Getting to where he is today though came with some serious hurdles.
When he was in high school he and his brother Rashan had a secret they kept from just about everyone. First Coast News was first introduced to them four years ago.
"Sometimes I spill secrets," Rashan said. "Even when my mom tells me not to tell them, I spill them."
Being homeless though was a serious secret neither brother wanted to tell. Rashan kept this secret for an entire school year.
It all began for them as a family in 2008 when their mother lost her job and couldn't find employment due to the recession. Sabon was in the 10th grade when they were evicted from their home and forced to leave practically everything behind. He was only 15.
"We didn't have a car," Sabon said. "We didn't have any vehicle. So, we took what bags we had that we could get out of our home and walked out on the street."
The street is where Sabon and his family slept before eventually finding their way to the Sulzbacher Center.
"It was hard just leaving out your house, leaving all your furniture, dishes, and clothes because you don't haven't any money and you don't know what help is out there."
The one thing that Sabon didn't leave behind was his college career. He was dual enrolled in high school and college with a 3.5 GPA when he became homeless. Sabon ended up bringing his school books with him to the shelter.
"I was real positive like I am now, so everybody thought everything was normal but I ended up getting something published in the school newspaper," said Sabon, whose inspirational story eventually led to the discovery of his homelessness.
Once the secret was out, the I'm a Star Foundation stepped in to help him. Eventually the help they provided helped get him to the University of North Florida.
"The first time I heard Sabon's story I was actually heartbroken but heart warmed because that young man was determined," I'm a Star Foundation Executive Director Betty Burney said. "The one thing that struck me about Sabon is even though he was homeless he made sure he did his work."
The foundation was able to provide Sabon with some of the books he needed in his college classes. The student lead organization comprised of middle and high schoolers also ended up providing Sabon with a scholarship.
"You're situation doesn't define what you can do with your life," 11th grader Jaylon Feacher said. "Especially when it comes to being homeless. You can always make a way out of it if you keep God first, and he strived to be the best he can be."
Since 2013, the foundation has raised more than $65,000 for the Duval County School District's Homeless Education Department.
Four years later, Sabon is now thriving. He and his family are no longer homeless, and he is thankful for all the students with the I'm a Star Foundation who helped him write this chapter in his life.
"I really think it's important, purposeful and inspirational because you have young kids trying to do positive things within the community," Sabon said. "It's been an inspiration to me as well knowing there's a generation behind me trying to do good things."
The I'm a Star Foundation will be hosting a celebrity basketball game on July 22nd, 2017 in Jacksonville to raise money for homeless students. The goal is to raise $50,000 this year. The foundation will also be collecting supplies for homeless students.
On Monday, July 17, I'm a Star Foundation will also be live on Facebook and Instagram at 7 p.m. The community can ask its members questions about its celebrity team, as well as donate to its GoFundMe page.
The game will be held at Paxon School for Advanced Studies and starts at 6 p.m. All proceeds will be donated to the Duval County Homeless Education Department. Tickets cost $5 and can be purchased here.
Below is the Wish List of supplies to help homeless students: