// by Katherine Hobbs
When fast-food company Krystal approached country music singer Jimmy Wayne about being the spokesperson for their new Country Fried menu items, he says his mind went immediately to his sixth grade teacher Ms. Crystal Friday. Wayne was inspired to use the promotion as a platform to honor teachers like Ms. Friday who help students in the foster care system.
“Ms. Friday encouraged me to write journal entries to process everything going on in my life,” he said fondly. “These journal entries evolved into poems, then songs, and then my book Walk to Beautiful.”
Wayne and Krystal, in partnership with Coca Cola, decided that students will have the opportunity to enter art projects made out of the square Krystal burger boxes (Wayne made a guitar). The school with the most creative entry, as judged by Krystal, will win $5,000 in school supplies and a free concert and talk with Wayne.
“At each show, I talk about the four parts of my book: my experience in the foster care system, being taken in by a family who helped me graduate high school and go onto Gaston [College], the music industry, and my journey walking half way across America to raise awareness for children aging out of the foster care system.” Wayne doesn’t sugar-coat his experience. He furrows his brow and says, “I talk to them about some grizzly stuff at concerts. I saw three murders by the time I was eight years old, and I talk to them about that.”
Wayne hopes the teachers in the audience will further understand the experiences common to many foster children.
“If there was a magic word I could say to the kids, I would have said it already. I can tell them to hold on but they’d say ‘hold on to what? I’ve already lost it all.’ It needs to start with the adults in their lives. They need to advocate for these kids.”
Wayne has a new project on the horizon after the Krystal promotion. As a young man, he spent time living in a trailer in North Carolina when he was homeless. He was fourteen years old, and there was no water or electricity. He describes the scene with more enthusiasm that he had spoken with before. “The view was beautiful. It sat in the bowl of two mountains with a river running through the property and lush green grass, and a little white church. I plan on turning the property into a home for children aging out the foster care system.”
Until that is completed, there is one more project on Wayne’s mind. He talks around the subject a bit before saying that he would enjoy somehow surprising Ms. Friday who is retiring this year after 37 years of service.
Perhaps the winning school will be witness to this surprise.