NIXA, Mo. — A Nixa student was recognized today for making a difference not just in his school, but internationally. And while his project was hundreds of miles away, the reason behind it is very close to his heart.
Every month, Espy Elementary recognizes students for a certain characteristic. This month, it was compassion.
Second-grader Cross Potts was named star of the month because he is always there for his classmates when they feel sad or alone. But another big reason was helping to build a school in Guatemala.
Cross traveled to San Martin Jilotepeque in Guatemala with his family in early December.
“[To] build a bottle school for my brother Landon,” he said.
The walls of the three-room school is made out of mostly plastic bottles.
“My brother Landon he loved Coke and he used to drink it a lot,” Cross said.
The Potts family lost Landon in a truck accident just one day before Thanksgiving two years ago.
“How do we respond to that? What do we do?” said Chance Potts, father.
They decided to focus on making a difference in honor of Landon.
“Our kids are watching us and how do we respond to challenges in life?” said Chance. “And we don’t always get to pick what challenges we get, but we’re teaching them how to respond.”
It took them about a year to fundraise $19,000 dollars for the project with their own funds, donations from family and friends, and the sales of Yolo T-shirts.
“Yolo was our son’s favorite saying, you only live once,” said Chance.
And this family is now trying to make the most of it by doing something for others.
“To see these kids down there that have the same dreams as ours do and not much opportunity,” said Chance. “To give them an education, to know that we started from the ground literally; there was nothing there.”
Chance says the impact of a simple recognition here at home can last a lifetime and spread across borders.
“When they can learn compassion and integrity, that’s what’s going to take them through life,” said Chance. “I’m just thankful that we are part of a school that focuses on that.”
But he says the locals in San Martin Jilotepeque are the ones who should get most of the credit. It took 10,000 bottles to build the 3-room school. The bottles are filled with trash and have to 1.5 lbs before they go into the walls.
“It takes them about two hours on each bottle. That’s a total of 20,000 hours they have to put in before we come in and build the school in their community,” he said. “It’s a big deal that they put in the amount of effort that they do and we just get to give a little bit towards it as well.”
Chance and Sherry, his wife, says they thought this was going to be the end of their project. But they say Cross, their 14-year-old son Reid and their nephew loved it so much, they might have to start fundraising and planning for another bottle school.
The organization behind it all is hugitforward.org.