Some days, with all the bad news floating around, it can be easy to think the world has gone mad and human beings have forgotten the basic tenets of kindness. Thankfully, one incredible teacher from New Jersey is reminding us all that generosity and compassion are alive and well.
Nicolas Ferroni, who teaches social studies at Union High School in New Jersey, noticed a few weeks ago that one of his former students, George Hued (whom he still speaks to daily) seemed to be having a really rough time. When Ferroni approached George about what was going on in his life, the story came spilling out.
George and his family had recently been evicted from their home after his single mother, Melanie Robinson, lost her job. At the time, they were staying with a friend as their mom was trying to put the pieces of their lives back together and find new work.
As Ferroni tells Babble, it broke his heart in two to hear about his student struggling this way.
“As teachers, you don’t see them as your students but as your kids,” Ferroni says.
It is with this warm spirit that Ferroni decided to take it upon himself to help George and his family. He created a GoFundMe in hopes of raising enough money to help them get back on their feet and bridge the gap until his mother finds steady work again. He set it up on his own, independent of his school — and without a moment’s thought.
“Not only as educators, but as people, if you are in a position to help, you help,” Ferroni says.
Ferroni shared his GoFundMe far and wide (though he managed to keep it a secret from George and his family), and says that before he knew it, he had raised over $5,000 from 155 donors — all within 72 hours.
How incredibly amazing is that?
Yes, Ferroni is basically the most amazing teacher and person out there, but he is loathe to take all the credit for this awesome feat he pulled off.
(As an aside, Ferroni was voted People magazine’s Sexiest Teacher Alive in 2014, a title which he is also very quick to dismiss. This man is all about altruism and not his own accolades, or, ummm, strikingly good looks.)
“I may have started it,” Ferroni says of the GoFundMe fundraiser. “But 150 people you’ve never met sharing it — to me, that was the whole purpose.”
Soon after he reached his fundraising goal, he invited George and his mom Melanie into class to give them the generous check. The unsuspecting pair were shocked and awed by the gesture, and the moment they got their gift was captured on video.
Major tissue warning ahead!
Ferroni says that Melanie of course appreciated the monetary gift, and told him that it was just what she needed at this difficult time. She also mentioned that the gesture itself moved her more than anything. It gave her hope for herself, but also for others — and is part of the reason she is happy Ferroni’s video is being shared far and wide.
“This will inspire other people to help out,” Melanie told Ferroni.
Ferroni says that Melanie has a new job now, and that the family also has a nice place to live, but the money he helped raise for them is going to give them the peace of mind to get through the next few months. Rent will be taken care of, and they will be able to breathe easy and get their footing back.
More than anything, Ferroni says that it is the emotional well-being of his students (or “kids” as he likes to refer to them) that is a top focus for him as an educator.
“Teachers are so much than just teachers in many cases,” he says. “We do whatever we can to make sure a child is emotionally stable.”
Well, Ferroni went above and beyond to do that for this family. However, his aim is to take the focus off himself, pointing out that all teachers do this kind of thing on a daily basis for their students.
In my book, that’s truly exceptional.