Teen helping others with newfound viral success

Jhaqueil Reagan is distributing donations meant to help him to help others.
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What started out as a new job for an Indianapolis teenager has turned into an international inspiration to hire other young people.

Eighteen-year-old Jhaqueil Reagan's story really struck a chord with people, even those who live as far away as China.

People were impressed with Jhaqueil's determination to find a job. Others were moved by the generosity of the business owner who gave him one.

For a little less than two weeks, Jhaqueil has been washing dishes and bussing tables at Papa Roux, a Cajun Creole restaurant on the city's east side.

It's not been glamorous, but it's been a job.

"Everyday that I come into work, I'm just going to work my hardest to do everything possible I can," said Jhaqueil of the opportunity to work for a little more than minimum wage.

Papa Roux restaurant owner Art Bouvier hired Jhaqueil after seeing him walking miles in the snow for a job interview.

Art gave Jhaqueil a ride without the teen even asking and learned Jhaqueil was walking more than 10 miles in the bad weather just to try and get a job at a secondhand store. Art was so impressed with the teen's determination, he hired Jhaqueil instead.

"This kid has the tools he'll need to fall upright, land on his feet and do good things," said Art.

Others have thought so, too.

After Art posted the story of about his chance meeting with Jhaqueil on Facebook, the story went viral and was shared by thousands. Within a few days, it thrust Jhaqueil and Art into the national and international spotlight.

"I've had calls from all over America," explained Jhaqueil. "California, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, a bunch of different places."

"Good Morning America, Glenn Beck, Today Show," Art said of just a few of the national shows the pair have been on in the past week. "By Tuesday, it was the London Times and the BBC and people are sending me links to the article in languages I didn't know existed.

"It was clear that it had redefined viral."

What started out as a good deed to give one unemployed man a job has grown into something much bigger that could end up helping other Jhaqueils out there land their first break.

"This is no longer about Jhaqueil," explained Art. "This is about a viral story being used to create a local change and maybe bigger."

Thousands of dollars have poured in to help Jhaqueil. Well wishers, who were impressed by his work ethic.

"I'm going to pay it forward," said Jhaqueil of the generosity and kindness that have come his way in recent weeks.

Jhaqueil and Art will be using half the money to creating a foundation to help others looking for work. The foundation is called, "The Jhaqueil Reagan Foundation. Do Good, While Treating People Well."

"Supplying things that they need to find jobs, like clothes, shoes, um, you know, anything that they need," explained Jhaqueil of how the foundation would help unemployed people.

"If they have transportation needs, if they have clothing needs, if they have life skills needs such as resumes, this foundation should help them as appropriate," continued Art.

Art and Jhaqueil already have volunteers helping them set the foundation up and obtain non-profit status. They said they are working on bylaws and creating a board of directors.

"What if this becomes a national foundation?" Art asked. "Why wouldn't we want to help people have their employment needs met?"

Jhaqueil will use 25 percent of the donations to help secure a future for himself. With Art's help, he's opened up a savings account.

The rest, he's giving back to other Papa Roux employees who have been overrun with customers since the original story broke.

Even without the foundation, though, Jhaqueil's story has already helped at least one person.

"I got an email from a businessman in Beijing, China telling me that he was so my moved by the story, that he was going to create a new position in his small business and go and find someone in Beijing that needed employment and fit him in that role," Art explained. "Somebody in China got a job today, because Jhaqueil got a job on Friday.

"I'm touched, honored and thrilled to be part of something that much bigger than anything I could imagine."

For Jhaqueil, it's been a lot to take in, too. After all, just two weeks ago, the teen didn't even have money to take the bus to a job interview. Now, he's got a job, a foundation and a future.

"I have myself to believe in now, you know?" said Jhaqueil. "Cause I know what I'm capable of. I know how I am and who I am."

Despite all the attention, Jhaqueil said he's not letting it all go to his head. He's still got a job to do and plans to do it.

"I don't want to let anybody down. I don't want to let, you know, the world down," said Jhaqueil. "I don't want to let Indianapolis down."