In 2015, sixth-grade Woodbury Elementary School teacher Hilary Dimitruk (now Hilary Gray) saw a story on the news about a young Seattle-based entrepreneur and CEO that had cut his million-dollar annual salary in order to pay his then 120 employees a minimum annual salary of $70,000 each.
Inspired by his actions, Gray had her class write letters to CEO Dan Price, who was moved by their kind gesture. Price made a surprise visit to the Irvine campus, and asked students to continue writing him letters at the end of every school year until graduation.
And this is where their six-year relationship began.
At the conclusion of his visit, the 33 Irvine students each promised to continue to write to Price. In exchange, when they finished high school and gave him their final letters, he would give each student a $1,000 scholarship.
On Monday, June 7, nearly half a dozen years later, Price made good on that promise by returning to Woodbury to personally hand-deliver more than $50,000 in scholarships to the graduates. As an added bonus, students received $1,500 each — instead of the original $1,000 — accounting for interest over the last six years.
During a special ceremony, students gathered in the courtyard of their former elementary school to accept the checks. During the presentation, Price also surprised Gray with a check in recognition of her hard work as a teacher and the one who initiated this special connection.
According to the Orange County Register, Price read every single letter over the past six years and told students that their words gave him insight into how they view society.
“It’s been wonderful, beautiful to be a part of and it has also caused me to realize that there isn’t anything I’m doing that any one of these kids wouldn’t do,” Price said.
“These students give me hope for change where we could have a better world.”