Montgomery County teacher starts $20 Pay it Forward Project with students

HORSHAM, Pa. (WPVI) -- At first glance, this may look like your typical high school English class, but there is a unique and heartfelt lesson being taught to these students at Hatboro-Horsham High School.

Their teacher, Kristina Ulmer, gave them $20 and told them to pay it forward, you can imagine their initial reactions.

"I think we were all kind of like shocked when she pulled out this big wad of cash and she just started handing out $20 to all of us, and we were like, is this really happening," says student Eric Bromberg.

Ulmer says she came up with the idea after the death of her younger sister Katie in 2014. She died in a car accident. Ulmer described her as a giving person that just wanted to help people. When Ulmer found her sister's wallet with about $80 inside, she knew she had to do something special to honor her memory. Over time she added to the money and collected over $400.

That's when the act of kindness started and she kicked off the Pay it Forward Project.

"Just really humbled that this is continuing on and that my sister's death won't be for nothing. I definitely know she is smiling down somewhere saying like, you did it, this what I wish you would have done with my money," said Kristina Ulmer, English teacher at Hatboro-Horsham High School.

Students document how they pay it forward on videos and pictures and share it with the class. They say it's not about the money but about the bigger lesson of charity and just being kind. It's a lesson that will likely last a lifetime.

"I think kids are losing the sense of giving in life and just bringing this back into their life is showing you that just the simple thing can help someone out a lot," said student Maci Lumpkin.

"I'd love to see it as a senior and have it still going and come back and see how things have continued and see what people have continued to do. I love this challenge I am glad she gave us this," said student Sabrina Ibrahim.

"It teaches the students so much about how amazing it is to give," said Bromberg.

School Librarian, Lauren DeSieno was shocked when one the students used their money to pay off fines for classmates.

"We always say now you go pay it forward because we hope it continues, and that I just think it is one of those things that teaches kids how to be great humans, said DeSieno.

Anonymous donors have stepped up to keep the project going, something that Ulmer is overwhelmed by and knows her sister would be beaming with pride about.

"I am glad that this can continue on in her name, and that even though she is not here to be able to do good, that good is still being done in her name," Ulmer said.

That $20 challenge started inside the school and the students and teachers say they want to see it go outside of the walls, out into the community and beyond. And they remind you that if you have not done anything kind lately, you can start today.
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