Poplar Springs -- Poplar Springs High School Principal Farica West was determined she was going to giver her 2020 seniors a send off they would never forget. She had no idea that, what she thought was a small gesture of love to her students, would become a global symbol of hope.
West created 30 giant banners representing each of her seniors class portraits that she then placed on the drive leading up to the school to give her seniors a happy memory after Florida announced they would keep students from being able to return to school for the rest of the school year.
West said the intention was for the seniors and she had no idea of the phenomenon it would become.
"It was a complete surprise," west said. "I certainly did not expect the response."
When people from states like Virginia, California, and others started taking notice, she knew she had something special on her hands. West said within days on posting the banners on the school’s Facebook page it went viral and then she got the biggest surprise of all - national TV and news outlet recognition.
West said this week, she said been interviewed by national magazines including, Parade, Forbes, Business Insider and appeared on TV shows including Live with Kelly and Ryan, and Fox with Friends.
"It feels unbelievable," she said of the recognition. "Almost surreal."
Parade Magazine named her among the "Top 25 Acts of Kindness During COVID-19," which puts her on a list among celebrates like Dolly Parton.
West said she started the entire project after doing something she is very diligent and passionate about, prayer.
"I’d been praying for days on what I could do for the seniors," she said. "I kept asking ’What can I do?’ I wanted to do it right. I just knew God was going to tell me what to do."
West said she had been talking with her husband on ideas and that one night they went to bed and decided to pray. She said that night the idea of the banners came to her, "like a vision."
"It was like I had this vision in my sleep of them." she said. "I woke up the next morning knowing what I was going to do."
From there West said the banners just came into fruition and it was in fact West, her husband, two Poplar Springs staff members and one undergraduate who put the banners up. West said at the time she put them up that she expected it to be just a little community project and nothing more.
"Little did I know that God was going to make this more than it turned out to be," she said.
While this has turned into a momentous memory for her seniors, she said she isn’t done. She said she doesn’t know how but knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that God will continue to show her.
When asked what message West had for the nation, she had only this to say:
"There is a master plan for this group of young people. They aren’t the Class of 2020 by coincidence. These students were born into a nation in the midst of turmoil following 9/11. Now they are ending their high school careers in the midst of unprecedented events, some of the greatest adversity their generation has ever known. I firmly believe they aren’t the Class of 2020 by accident. They have the vision this world needs to shape the future. God has a plan for these young people nationwide, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds."