ATLANTA — Jonny Hickey was excited for his first day of school Monday.
The 10th grader walked into Johns Creek High with his support animal, a bearded dragon named Albert. School can be tough for Jonny — he has autism and has trouble making friends.
But one new friend put a smile on his face Monday morning and made him excited to go back to class. His mom was heartbroken last year when she heard her son was sitting alone at the lunch table.
She said she couldn't stop thinking of him sitting there by himself. However, one day Jonny came home and started talking about Lakira Issac, the custodian at the school, who took it upon herself to make sure Jonny wasn't alone.
Jonny and Issac's friendship is simple for Jonny.
"I love her. And I am doing a 'not alone' handshake," the 10th grader said.
Thanks to Issac, Johnny doesn't have to eat lunch alone.
"At 12:30 p.m. at lunchtime. I would say 'hey' to Miss Lakira," he said.
"Every single day, he would look for me in the cafeteria. So, as the days go by, we built a relationship, a friendship," Isaac said.
She has been a custodian at Johns Creek High for two years and didn't know much about autism before she met Jonny.
"It can be tough sometimes, but I never let it be a bad day. I never let it be a bad day," she said.
Issac started researching autism and how she could help support him every day when she saw him at lunch. Jonny's mom, Linda Hull Hickey, said she was so touched Issac took the time to get to know him.
"She's really special in my heart. Because she took the time to meet Jonny, know Jonny, learn about Jonny, because it's not always that easy to learn about someone like him," said Hull Hickey.
She said Issac learned a lot about Jonny, including his love of Oreos.
"If you know him well, you know it must be double stuffed. So she had it, she nailed it, so I knew they had to be pretty close," Hull Hickey said.
Issac brought Jonny Oreos at lunch and got him an end-of-the-year present last year. She said their friendship is just as special to her as it is to him.
"It's just a pleasure to have a conversation with a student," Issac said.
They stayed in touch over the summer and even got together, with Albert, of course.
Issac said she's excited to see Jonny back in school this year and can't wait to see all he'll accomplish in the 10th grade.
"I'm just like,' awesome Jonny, you go!' It's just a blessing for us to have a relationship," she said.
Thanks to Jonny and Issac's developed kinship, his mom started the "Not Alone Initiative."
It encourages kids who see another kid sitting alone at lunch to go over and sit with them, meet someone new that day, and make them feel less alone.