Paying it forward

Lauryn Latimer

When Lauryn Latimer was in elementary school, she had a smile that said a thousand words but hid the hurt behind it. She was bullied to the point that she did not want to attend school anymore and began to question the life she was so blessed to have.

Lauryn, an African American, attended a predominantly white school and was overweight. This built a bridge for bullying all five years of elementary. The struggle she faced during elementary school now adds beauty to the things she is doing now.

She knew how it was to be young and to struggle and not having people to talk to about it. That is why she is now paying it forward in a way no one else could ever imagine.

Before graduating earlier this month, Lauryn was a student in the Center for Advanced Technologies as well as the Athletic Lifestyle Management Academy at Lakewood High School, which opened many doors and opportunities for her to volunteer.

Her volunteerism began at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, where she painted, played games and often danced with sick children.

“Volunteering here first opened up my heart to help me understand that volunteering is something that I would like to do,” she said. “Once I put my mind to volunteering, nothing was going to be able to stop me, and I mean nothing.”

She began to realize that volunteering was filling the void that was created in elementary school. She craved more. She became a part of the Health Squad, a club that promotes health on her high school campus.

After joining, she saw issues in her school family. She noticed the number of people going without basic necessities and felt a need to fix that.

In a conversation with teacher Erika Miller and another student, Lauryn began a food pantry on her campus, which was sponsored by local charity Feeding Tampa Bay. She even held a drive at school for clothing and school supplies.

“This pantry to me is one of the best things I have ever done,” she said. “If I am grateful enough to have food on my table every night, I feel as if anyone who is a part of my Spartan family should as well.”

The pantry that began with serving three students now serves more than 40.

Lauryn said she finally filled that void by volunteering at Campbell Park Elementary where she was a mentor to a few girls on the campus. She helped them get through various issues that they may be going through.

In college, Lauryn is planning on studying communication sciences and disorders at the University of South Florida or Florida State University to become a speech pathologist specializing children’s issues. She is also planning on taking her dedication to volunteerism along with her to college.

Lauryn “turned her cannots into cans and her dreams into plans,” reminding people that what you were yesterday and the struggles of yesterday will not affect the person you will be tomorrow.

Lauryn is the daughter of Quin Cubby and Craig Latimer.

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