Updated Story as of Monday, August 5, 2019: Amonte Green turned 16 in May of 2015 when he was a student in my 8th grade pre-algebra class and it was at that time that I learned he had never had a birthday cake. I baked him a cake and the class and I celebrated his birthday with him. A few weeks later, his mother passed away and he spent the next 4 years homeless. He was part of the WPHS Class of 2019, but dropped out of high school after his junior year and did not graduate.
On June 24, 2019, Amonte called me for help when he was released from jail for fighting in the group home where he was living. After a week of trying to navigate the services and resourced available for a homeless young adult without a high school degree, I realized that we needed more help more immediately and I made a “call” of my own through Go Fund Me to the Winter Park community, and America. The response has been absolutely stunning. We are so grateful for the love, support, words, stories, donations, time, and effort that so many have shared. I am not just inspired by the generosity of the Winter Park community, but by those from all over the country who have contributed. The response has shown Amonte that there are a LOT of good people out there who care and love and want to help when and where help is needed, especially when they know their resources are being honored, valued, respected, and used carefully and wisely. I thank every for their trust in Craig and me to use their resources with respect and trust that we make sure Amonte does the same.
In the short 5 weeks since we opened the GoFundMe, Amonte has grown tremendously. Here are some of the milestones he has reached:
· Enrolled in high school and will graduate in October with his High School diploma! Graduation party scheduled for 10/19/19
· Been seen by a dentist for the first time in 5 years and will need all 4 wisdom teeth extracted since they are coming in sideways.
· Been seen by Dr. Lawton orthodontic, who has volunteered to help correct his teeth and bite, free of charge. Once this is complete we will need to find someone to put in 4 bridge teeth because he will be missing 4 teeth.
· Obtained a full time job (that he likes) as a landscaper and not missed a single day of work since his first day on July 1st.
· Paid off any and all legal fees owed to the county court and/or DMV.
· Has been accepted into a 12 week program called Life Works.
· Has his own “home”. He now rents a beautifully furnished room (all furnishings donated) from a homeowner not far from where I live.
· Has a bike for transportation
· Has a city bus pass for transportation
Aside from these milestones, another goal that has been reached is Amonte feeling loved, uplifted, and that people believe in him. This is priceless and absolutely necessary to help him be successful. The encouraging messages I have received have all been passed on to Amonte and I am in the process of putting together a binder of ALL of the comments received during this process so that he can always looks back on them and remind himself at any time, how many people are cheering for him from the stands.
What I have learned during this process is that there is a gap between young adults who need help, and them getting the help and support that they need to become a contributing part of our communities. Whether they are homeless, jobless, haven’t pursued school after high school, or stuck in a minimum wage job, there are many young adults who need support after high school, or to obtain their high school degree. My husband and I found it was very difficult and frustrating to navigate and access the government resources in order to help Amonte live and it also became clear that he needed, not just the resources, but a massive support system to raise him up. The funds donated here are used for Amonte’s benefit.
It has been my goal to be completely transparent with the spending of the GoFundMe money for several reasons. First, when people donate their own money and time they want to know specifically where it’s going and how it’s being used. They want to know it was used wisely and not wasted. Second, I want Amonte to know that the money that is being donated is being used to help him. When Amonte’s mother passed away, social security checks were issued to him, however he never received them. It’s important that he learns he can trust this village of people with financial resources. Third, documenting all of the spending of the money will help me recall and reflect on our process so that I could use one day to repeat the process again with another young adult in need at The Green House. All of these expenses are on the spreadsheet that I post weekly and are expenses that I have receipts for. Our goal is to use as little as possible and make the money last as long as we can since we know that there will be more things that he will need in the future.
Having said all of that, today I am raising our fundraising goal to $50,000. I currently know of 3 other young adults, one who graduated from high school, and two who did not, who need similar support to becoming independent contributing members of our community. They are not homeless but need full time guidance and love and they need the tailwind that has been created and demonstrated by this amazing army of angels. This Thursday, Craig and I plan to meet with someone who will be helping us establish The Green House entity and the purpose of The Green House would be to continue to support Amonte, and others who need similar support. Given that temporary and transitional shelter/housing was the most difficult to secure, my dream is to have a residential home that I can use for temporary and transitional shelter for young adults like Amonte who are in need of intensive help to get them on their feet and ensure they successfully transition to independent living, complete education, gain full time employment, and become a productive part of our community. I will be adding a more detailed plan and update by the end of this week regarding my goal for purchasing a home and the intensive support I will provide at The Green House.
Thank you to everyone who has been supporting Amonte, our family, and our community in his journey. We are so grateful and truly honored by you love, trust, and support. I am excited to continue this journey with all of you and see what kind of impact, and how many lives we can change, together at The Green House.
Good Morning America
Fox 35 News
Original Story: Five years ago during the 2014-2015 school year, I was teaching 8th grade math at Glenridge Middle School, and had a student in my class named Amonte. At the end of the school year, in May of 2015, Amonte turned 16. Amonte had never had a birthday cake so I baked him his favorite kind of cake, red velvet, and we celebrated his 16th birthday as a class. A few weeks later his mom, a dancer, passed away suddenly. He never knew who his father was but was told he was incarcerated for life. Amonte has not had a parent/guardian or home in 4 years and the stress and trauma of losing his only parent, his mother, has been heartbreaking for him.
He is now 20 years old and did not graduate with his class (2019). On Tuesday night (6/25/19) he stayed at The Salvation Army in downtown Orlando. The following morning I took him to enroll in a 16 week program so that he can finish high school. Wednesday evening he was graciously granted two "emergency night stays" at The Covenant House. On Thursday I purchased him a 30 day bus pass and on Friday he took the bus to his first day in the program. After his two "emergency stays" at The Covenant House my husband and I decided to purchase him 3 nights at an extended stay hotel. We felt Amonte needed relief from the stress of not knowing where, and if, he had a place to stay each evening so that he could focus on getting a job and going to school. He is currently on the wait list for a bed/room at The Faine House, which is a fantastic group home in west Orlando and our goal is to help bridge the gap until space opens up at The Faine House.
Amonte’s priorities are to finish school, get a job, and secure housing. School has been started and he will be attending each week ($25/week) for the next 15 weeks since he has already completed week 1. This week, 6/30 - 7/6 he will be working on securing a job.
Below is a list of the expenses we are trying to provide for this 20 year old to help get him back on track to become a productive contributor to our community. I would be very grateful for any amount you might be able to contribute to help my husband and I support and guide him to a stable and productive life. I have no idea how much time or money it costs to help heal, educate, and stabilize, a young person who has lived through so much trauma but I am willing to find out. Every second, every penny, every everything counts and we would love to take a village of people along with us on this journey.
With heartfelt gratitude,
Sixteen week high school diploma program = $475
￼￼Lynx bus pass for 6 months or Uber/Lyft = $300
Phone service for 6 months = $240
One month housing at extended stay = $1,036
UPDATE: We are so amazed by the. outpour of support and interest in The Green House. The Green House idea was born out of Amonte's circumstances and Craig, Amonte, and I hope to make The Green House a reality. Additional donations, beyond our original goal will be saved and used to continue to support Amonte in becoming an independent, productive adult, and be the foundation for The Green House. We hope that from Amonte's story we are able to help many other young adults feel the love needed to grow beyond their circumstances at The Green House.
- JASON ARIAS