Students at Johnston-Hopkins Elementary in New Iberia had a very warm welcoming despite the cold temperatures. City officials and local agencies rolled out the red carpet to make sure they had a smile on their faces as soon as the day started.
“It was very unexpected for me and I feel very honored to see them,” said 4th grader Kiraly Thonddy. She’s one of many students who was shocked to see local soldiers, law enforcement, coaches and teachers greet them as they got off the school bus and entered the school.
“It makes me feel very excited and nervous at the same time because I didn’t know this was going to happen,” Thonddy said.
This is an initiative launched by ‘Our Kids Matter.’ Founder, Shelbra Thompson explained that this non-profit was initially aimed to get more men involved with kids, but has transformed into a community effort.
“It’s to let them know that we care when you walk through this school. Somebody cares. Because we don’t know how their weekend was,” said Thompson.
Surgant Dashaunte Calligan with the Louisiana Army National Guard was one of many officers shaking hands and lighting-up the kid’s face. “It shows them that we don’t have just negativity going on in the community, but it gives them something positive to remember,” said Calligan.
Organizers said the purpose behind this initiative is to help build confidence and motivation. Principal Mona Atchison said she hopes the high-spirits carries on to the classroom. “Everyone loves to have the spotlight on them and to feel special. I think that we need to bring back the concept that school is really important and you are really special when you excel in school,” said Atchison.
Community Leaders and city officials united, all for the kids, to show that they too can soon fill the shoes of success. “Sometimes, you don’t have to be perfect. Just be the person you want when you grow up,” said Thonddy as she ran off to class.
In 2018, the non-profit went to every school in the parish. This year, they aim to expand to other cities.