EVAC Movement: Last core member graduates
Stranger replies to text sent by mistake to congratulate EVAC student
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Ever send a really important text to the wrong number? Was the person on the other side nice about the mixup? This is what happened to Jacksonville's Amy Dononfrio, the founder of the EVAC Movement, when she shared gradution pictures of her student to the wrong number.
The EVAC Movement is a youth-led community working to destigmatize society's perception of black boys. They work to educate kids and community leaders about how to bring positive change in challenging communities.
Donofrio was celebrating Alan's graduation, her EVAC student and mentee. She sent his graduation pictures to complete strangers. Alan is a student at Lee High School and the last core member of EVAC to graduate. So many emotions and so much excitement surround the achievement of a student who was on a fast track to failure.
Donofrio wanted to text Alan's elderly grandfather to share a closer view of the stage. His grandparents came all the way from California to see the ceremony. She put pictures and video into one big text message. When she hit send, the person who responded was not Alan's grandfather! But, they were kind strangers who understood what was going on. The recipient of Alan's graduation pictures replied: "We are so proud of your education accomplishment. I know it took a lot of work and dedication. May God bless you. We don't know who you are, but best wishes on your success."
In addition to the kind words, the person on the other side gathered their entire family for a group photo and responded with smiles and a thumbs-up to show their support of Alan.
Donofrio posted the mixup on Facebook. She wrote, "The world's full of so much more good than bad." She says her initial reaction was to laugh, but then tears fell because that family took the time to be "hope and light" in what Donofrio says can be a "dark and ugly" world. She never learned who the family was.
This kind of encouragement was significant for Alan. He is one of the original members of the EVAC Movement, which was formed to get people to think differently about the phrase "at-risk" when describing inner city youth. Through their personal tragedies they inspire hope, and cultivate change within themselves first, then the world around them.
Before EVAC, Alan had juvenile justice involvement, was absent two to three days a week from school and was failing all of his classes. He planned on dropping out. Alan's mother died in front of him at age 4, and he’s been homeless. The chances of him having success against these odds were slim.
Since Donofrio, who is also a teacher at Lee, chose him to be part of EVAC, Alan has broken a cycle in his family. He is the first to graduate high school. None of his parents or siblings made it past the ninth grade. Donofrio said Alan wanted to graduate for his mom.
Through the EVAC Movement, Alan changed. He had perfect attendance for close to two years. He presented at the White House, he made two presentations for EVAC at Harvard, and was personally recognized by former President Obama.
Donofrio says colleges have expressed interest in Alan and he is exploring his options. "Harvard loved him," she said.
The EVAC Movement does accept donations for the studetns. The money funds trips for the boys, school supplies, individual youth needs, meals/incentives for youth, promotional materials, and day-to-day costs of continuing this program. You can visit the website to be a part of the movement and hear more about how it got started.
Donofrio is active on social media sharing the stories of her students. She has campaigns that raise awareness of negative sterotypes black boys face through the use of "I am not a gang member" merchandise.
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