JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Students from Robert E. Lee High School are celebrating after winning the national KIND Schools Challenge Thursday.
It's a celebration long in the works for Billy Louper and his classmates. Some who have dealt with homelessness or a parent in jail, now Louper alongside Nick and Chris Burgess stand as winners for their project called #YourStoryIsMine: it highlights subjects them together, not what tears them apart.
"It helped them realize that people do care and that people are there for you and people do go through the same things as you," Louper said.
Robert E. Lee High School teacher Amy Donofrio stands in front of the class every day – sometimes late into the night. She helps students with essays and their bulletin board that earned the trio $1,500 from the KIND Foundation, a nonprofit started by KIND Healthy Snacks, and a partnership with Making Caring Common, a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
“Here until 9 or 10 o’clock on a Friday night working on this project because they believe that Jacksonville can and will be a better place for youth” Donofrio said.
Louper said the hard-work paid-off, but the announcement came as a total surprise.
“I was very happy too, I don’t know I thought they were going to pick a winner or something, it’s crazy, I don’t know it’s shocking,” Louper said.
Burgess added he was not expecting the support from around the school.
“The most memorable thing, the most unexpected thing was the interactions we got from students,” Burgess said.
Interactions evident by thumbs-up and heart stickers posted to their bulletin board on display in the school hallway. Donofrio shared her tips for leading the class.
“You work them out, you push each other some people need pushing at different times and I think the key to success with EVAC and the Kind Schools Challenge is just having the endurance to keep walking,” Donofrio said.
The KIND Foundation, making sure this type of leadership thrives at Lee, has promised $2,700 for next year’s project.