It all began with a heart...
In September of 2009 during the annual Principal Planning Meeting at New Smyrna Beach High School, Linda Froman listened as Principal; Dr. Kelley shared her priorities for the 2009-2010 school year. One of her main concerns was the amount of seniors who drop out just short of reaching graduation. As she listened, Linda thought of the already large group of seniors on her case load who were a high risk of dropping out. She began to think of ways to help motivate them to stay in school. She asked Dr. Kelley’s permission to meet with these students weekly during their academic advisement period. Dr. Kelley wholeheartedly gave her approval. Eight days later Linda brought a group of sixteen seniors together and shared her plan for their senior year. It went something like this: “All of you are going to graduate this year! You have come too far to give up now. You are going to celebrate and encourage each other every step of the way. We will meet every Thursday during your academic advisement period. After each grading period we will go out to dinner at a restaurant of your choice to eat. I am not going to pay for it, you are not going to pay for it, I don’t know who is going to pay for it… but we are going! If you cannot afford a year book, to pay for senior dues, Prom, Homecoming, Grad Bash or anything else to make your senior year great, I will find a way for all of these to be paid for. You have to go to your Prom and I would like for you to go to Homecoming also, even if you do not want to go! You will regret it if you don’t. If you need help with your attire, we will figure that out too! I don’t know how yet, but you are not going to have to pay for these things and I have faith we can find a way to do all of this! At the end of the year we are going to celebrate extra big by going somewhere together, and again, you will not have to pay for this either! Your job is to not give up, to work hard in all of your classes, to come to school every day and if you need help with anything that is making it hard to stay focused, to let this group know. You can help each other and I will find tutors if you need extra academic help. You will graduate!” By the end of that first meeting, the students believed Mrs. Froman and got just as excited as she was. One of the students in attendance who had already missed at least as many days as she attended stated “I guess I will go ahead and stick with it and graduate, I wasn’t sure if I would.” The group was at that point already a success. Soon the students gave themselves the name UnHooked Seniors. They would not allow any potentially dangerous hooks take hold of them, they would be Unhooked from all obstacles to graduate! They designed their own T-Shirts and Dr. Kelley made sure they were paid for. They wore them proudly every Thursday.
The News Journal contacted Linda Froman and asked to interview some of the students who did not have a place to live for a story on homeless young people. After speaking with the students, who were 18 or older, they agreed to be interviewed. On October 11, 2009 the News Journal ran an article that featured three of the students. Shawn Lane read this article and asked to meet with Dr. Kelley and Linda Froman.
On October 15 the three met and Mr. Lane asked what these young people needed in order to succeed, and he asked them to think big. It was as a result of Mr. Lane’s caring response to the news article and his determination to ensure these young people every opportunity to succeed that Unhooked Seniors transformed into a miracle called Cudas Unhooked!
By October 24th he had rented a house for the students to live in. This as it turned out had been another vision of Mrs. Froman for many years. She saw the need and had named the home she hoped would one day be available for the young people. The name was and is “The Bridge House”. Mr. Lane and Mrs. Froman immediately began to search for a Bridge Tender, an adult who would be willing to live in the home. The home was fully furnished by several generous people including the People for Drug Free Youth Thrift Store. They allowed Linda and two of her students to pick out everything they needed for the home, free of charge! A contract for students to sign was created and on October 29th the first two students signed the contract and moved into the Bridge House! During the first school year 8 students found respite for varying lengths of time at the Bridge House. Each of them was showered with support from the Cudas Unhooked community.
Mr. Lane was busy spreading the word and an account was set up at the school to pay for the students senior expenses. Breakfast was donated and brought into the high school on two occasions. At the end of the next two grading periods generous members of this newly formed group of caring adults, paid for the students to have a nice meal at the restaurant of their choice. The celebrations were wonderful! With the encouraging leadership of Wayne Wilkinson a marketing team met and the mission was placed in print on rack cards, a logo was made, and new t-shirts created. Christmas was also extra special for our seniors! Thirteen members of Unhooked seniors graduated that first year! Right after Graduation, Tomoka Christian Church paid for the seniors to go on a celebration weekend at a retreat house in Keystone Heights, FL!
We are in our 10th school year and it is almost beyond belief how this now 501(c)3 non-profit organization has grown! Please read all about our growth and the many ways you can get involved and support our future by becoming part of Cudas Unhooked. The Cudas Unhooked community has put their hooks of love into the lives of young people from New Smyrna Beach High School and will never let go!