As an educator and advocate, Amy Donofrio often gets the same question: How do we reach our at-risk youth? Her answer: We must start by instead viewing youth as at-HOPE. Authentic hope means believing wildly, unconditionally and (at-times) irrationally in an individual’s value and potential. As adults, we can demonstrate this belief in youth through three key actions: building relationships, investing lavishly, and empowering youth to reimagine even their missteps as platform qualifiers rather than permanent disqualifiers of their significance.
Amy Donofrio is 10-year educator and founder of the EVAC Movement, a crusade of hope co-led by young men she met as students in her leadership class at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, FL. In 2016, realizing their shared experiences with violence, the justice system and loss, they invited officials to class to collaborate for change. In just over one year and with no formal curriculum, training or funding, they testified at Capitol Hill and the White House, were featured on the front-page of The New York Times, contributed to President Obama’s 2016 Youth Justice Proclamation and won the national Harvard KIND Schools Challenge. Donofrio has a B.A. in English education and an M.A. in literacy education. She began her career as an English teacher in rural Appalachia, urban Cleveland and Trujillo, Peru before moving to Jacksonville in 2012. She’s unshakeable in her belief that public schools are ground zero for bringing equity, justice, and empowerment to our most at-hope youth. Her hobbies are running, baking and avoiding thinking about being an empty nester when EVAC graduates in 2018.