It's not uncommon to find Caledonia high school senior Julia Jones surrounded by her friends.
"She's so caring, she always puts her friends above herself," said classmate and friend Laura Jergenson. "She makes me want to be more of her friend and makes me want to be more to her," said another good friend Abby Wruck.
Julia's caring personality is one that's also touched her teachers. English teacher and Student Council adviser Sue Link said, "Julia is amazing. She gives so much of herself to others and she's very humble, unassuming."
And while it may seem like Julia is just like any of her classmates, once she leaves school, she steps into a very different and new reality.
"It's just different because now I just go home and it's just me," said Julia.
In January, January 16th to be exact, Julia lost the man she's looked up to her entire life. "He was awesome, I mean, that's like the best way to describe him. He always did good for us."
Her dad died just a few days after undergoing cancer surgery. "Things started shutting down again and then he just said he didn't want any more pain, he just wanted to... so he passed away. I still think about him everyday and I wear the bracelet that he wore. It was surprising you know, it came and went quick."
Julia's dad was raising her by himself so now at 18-years-old, she's finding herself on her own. "I do have my friends here, but as soon as you get home, you have to make sure everything's still running, you have to make sure the water heater isn't making that horrible sound it was making the other week."
During the cold weather, Julia's been using a wood stove to heat her home. "The little things that I didn't think were that hard, I'm now realizing that it's a lot to do."
"I just think of, she gets up in the morning, nobody says 'Julia go off to school' or 'Julia, do you have your homework done?' said Mrs. Link.
"It was really hard for me to comprehend, living on my own like that and going through something in high school. I mean, I have my whole family behind me when I go home so I just can't imagine going home all by myself every night," said Laura.
However, Julia quickly found out that, she too, still has a family behind her. "This school is like a family and that's what, the good comes out in people when you find out that there's somebody in need," said Mrs. Link.
The school has helped raise thousands of dollars that will be put into an education fund for Julia, and their efforts have quickly spread beyond the walls of the school. "It was incredible. Right once we started our fundraiser, there was people just reaching out from all over," said Laura.
Julia's friends also put together a touching video explaining her situation and offering words of encouragement and support. "It's been amazing. Everyone has been so nice and just like random people I didn't know before, but now do, have just come up to me and said I know what you're going through or if you ever need anything let me know, even if it's 2 in the morning, call me," said Julia.
At the end of the video, there was even a little surprise. One of Julia's classmates asked her to the prom. Julia said, "All the blood left and I couldn't move at all. It was really nerve-racking and then when he came into the room, I couldn't move. Mr. Link was sooo, 'are you going to say yes?' and I'm like yeah, ok. It was fun though, oh my gosh."
One of the bright spots in an otherwise difficult few months as this tight-knit community comes together to support one of their own. Laura says, "I hope she realizes how much that this community cares about her and that we'll always be there whenever she needs us and I also think the whole situation for her showed her that she can overcome anything."
Everyone's given me so much and I'm so unbelievably thankful for it all, I just feel like the word thank you isn't enough, but thank you, it's amazing," said Julia.
If you would help Julia out and make donation, you can send it to:
Caledonia Area High School, Attn. Student Council.
825 Warrior Ave., Caledonia, MN, 55921.
Checks should be made out to Caledonia High School Student Council.
Julia is planning to attend Winona State University in the fall. She has plans to major in elementary education.
It's important to note that Julia does have her mom who lives in Mauston, but Julia wanted to finish out her senior year at Caledonia.