When Lynden Simmons was in the eighth grade, his family had to move into a homeless shelter. It was the longest three months of his life.
At school, he smiled like he always did and joked with friends. At the shelter, Lynden kept to himself. He had chores, like the rest of his family, and a curfew. Homework became a refuge.
“I just did what I had to do,’’ he said.
Instead of letting the experience disrupt his life, Lynden called upon it for motivation. That year was among his best, academically.
“It encouraged him to work harder,’’ said the teen’s mom, Linda Jones, a sporadically-employed housekeeper from the Bahamas who battles Lupus and struggles to read and write English. “It pushed him.’’
Lynden went from a high-performing public middle school to Christopher Columbus High School, a prestigious Catholic school with a student roster made up of some of Miami’s wealthiest and most notable families.
He made it there – and has stayed there – due to a tremendous work ethic and a little extra help, including a school choice scholarship from Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog. Now he’s the junior class vice president vying for a coveted spot on the varsity basketball team.
And at just 16, Lynden’s also the president of 305-United, a relatively new nonprofit founded and operated by students predominantly from Catholic schools across South Florida. Their mission: to help less fortunate families by doing good deeds like raising money to buy toys for children in shelters.
For Lynden, the outreach is especially poignant.
“It makes me remember to never forget where I came from,’’ he said. “And I was there.’’