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Once homeless Jacksonville teen now giving away 2 scholarships

19-year-old turns devastating loss into chance to help students better their futures

Kimani Burton with two teachers from Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology
Kimani Burton with two teachers from Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology (Courtesy of Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Kimani Burton went from going in and out of homeless shelters to being able to give two $1,000 scholarships to students at his alma mater.

“I have this money just sitting there,” Burton said. “I’d rather it goes to kids who deserve it and need it.”

Burton, 19, who studied culinary arts at Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology, used some colorful language to describe his childhood and its difficulties.

He said he had to learn how to parent himself at a very young age. His mother had trouble finding a stable job, and he was constantly in and out of foster care.

Burton contemplated suicide many times throughout his life, and when he was 14, he almost succeeded.

That suicide attempt left him in a coma for three days, but a series of dreams he had during the coma inspired him to create a nonprofit organization called House of Jupiter.

Burton described one of his dreams in which he watched a fatherless little girl from a bird’s-eye view.

“At the end of the dream, I made a promise with God that if he let me come back, that I would be a father to her,” Burton said. “The next day I woke up, and ever since then I’ve had this driving force to become a person that she’s happy to call her dad.”

Last February, Burton found out that he was going to be a dad. However, the child's mother decided to terminate the pregnancy.

Burton found out in a text message.

“I was devastated,” Burton said. “I had no say.”

Burton said since having the dream of the little girl, he’s wanted to name his child Jupiter, and he had been saving for a college fund since he was 16.

“The money that I was saving for (my child’s) college fund is the money that I am giving away,” Burton said.

Burton, who now works as an assistant nurse at Ascension St. Vincent's, will award two $1,000 scholarships to seniors at Peterson. He said he's less concerned with an applicant's GPA than with who they are as a person.

As part of the application, Burton is asking students to answer an essay question: “If I had the power to change the world, I’d start with...”

Applications are due by the end of March. Finalists will be selected the last week of April, and the winners will be announced in May.

To apply, send the essay, letters of recommendation, college acceptance letters, and a letter of introduction to wethefuturenpo@gmail.com.

To learn more about House of Jupiter, visit www.houseofjupiter.org.