LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Julia Rhoden

Position: School Nurse and Wellness Coordinator
School: Keller Intermediate School
School District: Baker County Schools
City, State: Macclenny, FL

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Julia Rhoden was nominated by Janice Hancock.

"It is my pleasure and honor to nominate one of my clients, Julia Rhoden, for LifeChanger of the Year," explains Hancock. "Julia has been a Registered Nurse for 14 years, spending the last seven years at Keller Intermediate School (fourth and fifth grades only). She is also the Wellness Coordinator for KIS."

Mrs. Rhoden's life tragically changed in 2014 when her four-year-old son, Brayden, died after being bitten by a timber rattler. She struggled to find a way for her heart to heal and to honor her son. One day a teacher sent a student to the school clinic who needed a pair of shoes, knowing that the parents were not financially able to buy him another pair. Mrs. Rhoden had one pair of new shoes to fit the child. The child asked when he needed to return the shoes to the clinic, even though they were a gift. He was amazed that he could keep the shoes. That is when Mrs. Rhoden had the answer she had been searching for to honor Brayden and help her students with basic needs.
Mrs. Rhoden started Shoes From Brayden after she saw how this simple gesture of providing shoes changed this student's life. As a mother, she realized that many other mothers needed help to provide for their children. She saw this initiative as a gift from Brayden, who had a very tender heart and wanted everyone to be happy. 

To initiate Shoes From Brayden, she sent out a district-wide email in October 2018 asking for shoe donations. Her initial goal was to provide shoes for Keller students. However, the response was overwhelming. In just a few months, she had plenty of shoes to meet the needs of students in all six schools in her district. The shoes are stored in the Keller clinic, an accessible location for each school.

The local newspaper, the Baker County Press, featured her story on the front cover in December 2018. The community responded! Local churches, banks, restaurants, and other businesses all donated, and the schools received trunkloads of shoes.

This shoe initiative has positively impacted the lives of many students in this school district. Having a nice pair of shoes is life-changing for many students who very rarely have new shoes. Mrs. Rhoden has witnessed how new shoes build confidence and foster learning.     

The majority of shoes are given to students through teacher requests. Shoes have even been provided for the SR Prom. One teacher of students with Intellectual Disabilities, who calls Mrs. Rhoden an angel, has contacted her many times over the years, not only for shoes, but for socks, jackets, and underclothes. Mrs. Rhoden provided! In addition to helping students, there was an instance when Shoes From Brayden provided shoes for an entire family when their home was destroyed by fire. Through social worker requests, homeless individuals have also received shoes.
"School nurses are the leaders who bridge healthcare and education. Students can fully access their education because of the daily interventions and actions performed by Nurse Julia," said Tina Bradley, the district's Director of Nursing. "Students with chronic and acute health conditions can have their health needs met at school because of Nurse Julia's expert clinical assessment, judgment, and planning skills. She's a comforter, nurturer, educator, mentor, trainer, role model, and a critical school community member."

"Nurse Julia goes above and beyond to make sure all students are loved and cared for," said Mrs. Rhoden's principal, Kelly Horne. "Our students greatly benefit from her loving care. We are most fortunate to have her as our school nurse."

Mrs. Rhoden is a leader. In addition to being a school nurse, she is also the current Wellness Coordinator. Her peers selected her during the 2018-2019 school year as the Non-Instructional Employee of the Year for Keller Intermediate School. Additionally, a new elementary school is currently being built in this district and will open in 2023. Mrs. Rhoden has already been chosen to be the school nurse for this facility, and she is currently involved in providing input for the clinic's design. Her knowledge is highly valued. 

Mrs. Rhoden is married to Chandler Rhoden, who is also a nurse and the current Director of Nursing at the Northeast Florida State Mental Hospital located in Baker County. They have a five-year-old son, Dallas, and a ninth-grade daughter, McKenzie. McKenzie is involved with this shoe initiative by cataloging the shoes after school and keeping a spreadsheet of the available shoe sizes. 

"Nurse Julia makes a positive difference every school day as she sees students in the clinic with many different health needs," said Hancock. "I witnessed firsthand how calm and reassuring Nurse Julia was with each student, whether the need was small (just a bandaid) or great (three insulin injections per day for a diabetic child)."

Comments (26)

Norma Milton Posted 11 months ago

This is such a heartwarming story. I just want to thank Julia for her love and dedication. Having been born in and living in Baker County until I was married, I had heard about Julia’s child. I prayed for her family and am so grateful for the positive actions she took to help herself survive that tragedy. However, I did not know about the shoes. Having taught school in Baker County two different times during my 53 year teaching career, I remember the abject poverty of some of my students. May God bless you, Julia, for your efforts on their behalf.

Laura Finley Posted 11 months ago

Praise God for you and the service you have done in the school system.

Jennifer Posted over a year ago

Nurse Julia has always been a kindhearted care giver. How do I know this? I was Julia’s first patient, being her dare devil little sister I always had cuts, bruises, even broken or sprained limbs that needed her care. She would then give my prognosis to our mom if I needed an er visit which there was many. I didn’t even want my mom tending to my booboos only, Julia! Even back then she would hold my hand while she cleaned up my scrapped elbows and knees and would make me chocolate milk afterwards :) Her bedside manner has not changed over time. In 2018 still being her dare devil little sis, got into a pretty bad motorcycle wreck. She went to the hospital with a care package of snacks treats and coloring books. Julia even checked on my road rash and informed the nurse it hadn’t been cleaned properly. Once released she came every day to check on my broken femur & how my burns were healing. Once I was able she taught me how to use my walker then crutches to get around safely and with a stern voice let me know I was moving too fast. All in all I am so proud of nurse Julia she is a wonderful and dedicated woman to the children in her care at the school & goes above & beyond for them.

Darrell & Nita Crawford Posted over a year ago

Nurse Julia is Our Eldest Daughter. She has turned A Tragedy that No Mother should ever have to go thru into a Positive, Heart felt Blessing to Many Students, & Families in our Community. Julia’s Son, Brayden passed away at 4 years old. Brayden had the Biggest Heart & Always wanted to share with others. When their Church had their Annual Toy Drive, Brayden would always pick out a toy that He Loved and was currently playing with to give to another Child. Therefore came Julia’s idea of ”Shoes from Brayden”. We are so Proud of Julia in Her Love of Nursing & nurturing Others.

Lori Linville Posted over a year ago

#LCOY Nurse Julia is a life changer! Not only does she take care of our students, she takes care of our staff members at Keller Intermediate School as well. She encourages us to participate in the wellness initiatives for the district and makes it easy for us to do so. Her "Shoes from Brayden" program is such a gift, and I have had many students over the years that have benefitted by having access to it. She is kind and caring. She is making a difference each day.

Katherine Platto Posted over a year ago

Nurse Julia is one of the most hard-working school nurses I know. She sees multitudes of students daily, and always with a smile. I appreciate her focus on employee well-being, also. I love participating in her initiatives to keep our campus healthy. Thank you Nurse Julia for all that you do for KIS!

Karlie Hodges Posted over a year ago

Nurse Julia is an all-around incredible person. She has a heart for others and makes the students at KIS feel loved, comforted, and cared for. I have witnessed her in action many times as a school nurse and can attest to her amazing patience and understanding. She has a calm and collected way about her that creates a peaceful and safe environment in her clinic. Nurse Julia is an amazing school nurse, but her impact does not stop there. A few years ago, I had a student in my class who needed a little extra love and encouragement to help him get through each day. Nurse Julia had an interaction with this student in her clinic one time near the beginning of the year and decided that she wanted to help. She became a mentor for this student for the remainder of the school year. She put rewards in place for him if he had positive behavior and out of her own pocket supplied him with lunch every day, bought him clothes, a book from the book fair, a Christmas gift and many other things. She also set up a room in her clinic that he could visit when he needed a break from class. In this room, she put a bean bag, basketball hoop, rug, and other items that she knew the student would enjoy. She often counseled the student and helped him work through some difficulties he was experiencing. She truly took this child under her wing and became his “school mom.” She did this without any need for acknowledgment or recognition, just out of the goodness of her heart, to help a child. I was so impressed with the way Nurse Julia stepped up to help a student who needed what she was able to give, even though it wasn’t her responsibility to do so. She goes the extra mile for so many of the students in our school (and our district) and they are truly blessed by her genuine love for them.

Cary Padgett Posted over a year ago

It is such an honor to be able to work along side and witness the "care" she gives our students day to day here at Keller. She operates from a Mother's and Nurse's heart that shows she "CARES" so much for these children and it doesn't go unnoticed! We ALL appreciate and love her! The students recognize and feel her love and care at school. She is definitely deserving of this award because we believe SHE is a "LIFECHANGER" !!!

Lisa Brookins Posted over a year ago

Nurse Julia is indeed an absolute angel. As the Wellness Coordinator of our campus, she has hunted me down in order to convince me to join the efforts of making my life better for myself, in order that I may continue to serve in areas of need. She is a true friend, will let you know when you're on track or off track. Knowing her tragedy, and watching her in spite of the tragedy, makes me wonder how she is able to power through her heartache. Serving others is such a natural output for her. She will take the often very sour lemons life deals her, and make the most delicious lemonade that benefits the community. Nurse Julia is indeed a life changer, and my life has changed for the better by knowing her. We love you, Nurse Julia.

Leanna Love Witten Kick Posted over a year ago

Nurse Julia is a valuable resource to our school! She is there for students and staff. She attends our extra-curricular events, even if they are after school (like school dances). She is always kind and has a smile on her face. I am grateful for Nurse Julia! #LCOY

Amy Prescott Posted over a year ago

Nurse Julia is a rare person. She has taken a tragedy in her life and turned it into a way to bless the kids in Baker County. I have had the honor to work with her for years. She gives tirelessly to the students. She puts bandaids on nonexistent cuts. She gives ice for injuries that happened last week. She pushes the wheelchair with kids that are double her size. She is the worlds tiniest nurse, but could defeat a giant. She takes great pride in her job. I remember when she posted a sign on the door at the clinic, so she could try to have a lunch. Let me tell you, I saw kids go right on in and she didn’t stop them. She even has her door open for students to share their problems. She will allow them to talk and be a safe space for them. I have had kids ask to see her, just because they had a bad morning getting to school and they knew she cared. She would give them one on one undivided attention. On top of all of the jobs and hats she wears, she organized a way to be charitable. Shoes from Brayden is just another way that she found a way to be a blessing to the community. It means even more because it honors the memory of her son. She is just what our county has always needed. It shows her heart and the person she is. She is a wonderful human and Baker County is honored to have her working with our students. She deserves this honor and so much more.

Allen Peterson Posted over a year ago

I have known Nurse Julia all her life. She has always been very supportive in every way. When Brayden passed away it was a devastating situation. One that no mother should ever have to go through. But from that situation Julia was able to create Shoes from Brayden, a way to be supportive to others as well as carry on Brayden's legacy. Those that knew Brayden knew that little man was a helper, just like his mama. What started out to be something so small, giving a pair of shoes to a needing child, has turned into something that most people couldn't imagine. Without Nurse Julia starting Shoes from Brayden, many kids and families would have not been blessed with the great donations from so many people. She has become a true blessing to those she works with as well as those who really don't even know her at all. She is truly a life changer.

Amy Peterson Posted over a year ago

Julia is a great mom, wife, daughter, sister, cousin and a huge blessing to the Baker county community with her awesome program, “Shoes from Brayden”. She has been able to turn an unfortunate situation (that no mother could imagine) into a blessing for many other kids. I believe Julia deserves the award just for taking this initiative that no one else thought of and making many kids happy for what they truly are in need of. We are so proud of her and we love her.

Tami Teague Posted over a year ago

Nurse Julie goes above and beyond for our students at Keller. She has a true passion for helping others and it shows everyday! The students love her and stop by her clinic not just for medical needs but to get daily hugs and to see her sweet smile. She is such a blessing to our community! We love you Nurse Julia and can’t think of anyone else more deserving then you for this nomination!

Melissa Delp Posted over a year ago

Julia is an amazing person. My son was friends with her son his passing shook our entire community. Her strength and compassion for others even through a tragedy shows her true character. She loves and takes care of every child as if they were her own. What she has done with the shoes from Brayden is amazing. To this day she keeps up with my son she attends baseball games. When he was still at Keller she would bring him his favorite candy from time to time. He would go by her office for his every morning hug. Nurse Julia is the best. The kindest heart from the sweetest lady we love you??

Phyllis&Claudell Rhoden Posted over a year ago

We are so proud of our daughter in law. She has turned an unspeakable tragedy into a way to bless the students of Baker County. Brayden’s memory will forever be honored by her kind heart. #LCOY

Loni Hodges Posted over a year ago

Julia takes care of our students with such love! Anytime I’ve reached out with a need for a student in my class, she responds by going above and beyond. I’ve seen students light up when I’m able to give them a brand new pair of shoes and socks. Julia’s service to the students in our county is truly a blessing!

Cameron Milton Posted over a year ago

Nurse Julia is simply amazing. When my son was at Keller several years ago she took up time with him daily. They formed a very close bond. Julia is so very thoughtful and to this day Matheson still talks about her. Nurse Julia has never forgotten Matheson’s birthday and that leaves a lasting impression on a child. I as a parent will forever be grateful to Nurse Julia. This world definitely needs more people like her.

Debbie Hall Posted over a year ago

Julia is a most deserving candidate for this award. Her Shoes From Brayden project has expanded to not only children, but to all in need. This is a Christian example of being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Miranda Fish Posted over a year ago

Nurse Julia, is an absolute angel. Our twins have been at Keller for the last 2 years, and she has treated them like her own. They know they can go to her for anything, even when their little hearts get hurt from another child being a mean bully. She is a safe place and a sense of security, when mom and dad can’t be there. She has a heart of gold, and after the tragedy she has been through, she continues to bless everyone around her daily! Our world would be a much better place, if we all strived to be the type of person she is.

Addi Coleman Posted over a year ago

Nurse Julia is one of the most inspiring women I have ever met. She took a situation that would have made anyone else crumble, and turned it around to provide for others. She is always thinking of others before herself, always providing the love and care that the children (and staff) of Keller need, and does it all with a smile on her face! She has a servant’s heart and we are blessed to have her as our school nurse.

Amber Crews Posted over a year ago

Julia is a such a wonderful and compassionate person! Her outlet to help her heal from losing sweet Brayden has been helping others and I cannot think of anything he would have wanted more! She is such an asset to our community and we are so thankful for her!

Rebecca Ogletree Posted over a year ago

I’ve known Julia since she was a child, and her kindness and dedication to the community are not a surprise. She has turned her grief into a powerful lesson for all of us. Not only does she supply a child’s needs, she gives that child a sense of belonging, the empowerment that comes from being part of a larger community that cares, and the confidence to be successful. My career has taken me into some of the most impoverished areas of our nation, and I have seen first-hand how the slightest change can produce a difference in a child’s life. Julia may have simply wanted to provide shoes for children in need, a great goal on its own, but she is doing so much more—not only for the children but for the entire community.

Amanda Hodges Posted over a year ago

Nurse Julia’s initiative has been such a blessing to the students and families of our district. We are so thankful to have her as a part of our family and she makes a difference every day. She is helping to meet some very basic needs for some of our students so that they can feel comfortable, run and play with their peers and not have to worry about what is on their feet. These children are able to learn better because of new shoes, but more importantly they feel loved and cherished. It’s not just giving a pair of shoes, it’s truly showing how much each child is loved by Nurse Julia.

Connie Snell Posted over a year ago

Julia is amazing! She truly has a heart for children! Keller is blessed to have her as our school nurse. Not only does she take good care of our children but she takes care of the staff! Love you Nurse Julia!

Sherrie E Raulerson Posted over a year ago

Nurse Julia is such an incredible nurse and friend to everyone in our community. She has such a heart for our children. We are so blessed to have her as one of our nurses. She has inspired us all with her initiative to collect shoes in honor of her son. She has certainly turned her grief into purpose. There are so many children in our community that have benefited from her desire to make a difference in the lives of others. Nurse Julia is the epitome of a LIFE CHANGER. I love her and all she does for others. I am so thankful for her and I hope that she is selected for this award. She certainly deserves it. LOVE YOU NURSE JULIA!!!!