BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Friday in Buffalo, a handful of everyday people received a big surprise for the positive impacts they've made in their community.
Downtown, Lorna C. Hill had no idea what to expect when she was dropped off near Niagara Square.
A block up the street, two crew workers were standing at the top of a covered billboard, waiting to let the drape fall.
When Hill arrived at the right spot and looked up, the drape fell off revealing a larger-than-life picture of her face.
She was delighted.
"I'm hoping that because of this sign...people who know me but don't understand what I'm really about...will call me and say Lorna, what is that sign about?” Hill said. “And then they'll have to listen to my answer."
Hill is being honored as a local hero for the lessons she teaches.
She founded the theater company Ujima 38 years ago.
Hill uses that theater framework to teach kids about the world around them.
"We primarily work in the areas of social justice and all that that implies,” said Hill.
She said that includes climate justice and economic justice.
Thousands have come through Hill's theater, and for that, she is a community role model.
Up Niagara Street, Khadijah Hussein sees her siblings across the street and crosses to meet then.
When she’s surrounded by family, they point to a high-up billboard that rises behind a gas station.
This billboard revealed Hussein’s face.
Hussein is the daughter of an immigrant family from Kenya, and despite the challenges she has faced, Hussein just graduated high school in three years in a city where many struggle to graduate in four.
"When my parents drive by here and they see their daughter in a big billboard in the middle of the city, that means so much,” she said with a big smile.
Hussein has been a social activist in her school by trying to encourage the district to learn more about its students.
"Around June when we take our exams, like there are couple of students like me that we fasting during exam time,” Hussein explained.
She feels that if the administration better understood the diverse cultures that make up its schools, there would be less social barriers and more learning.
Hussein also leads the school’s health and wellness program to bring better foods to their cafeteria and won a “Student of the Year” award for her involvement.
Hussein is an ambassador and translator for international students in buffalo, and she's traveled to Washington to speak on behalf of immigrant and refugee disadvantages.
"Maybe the government needs to educate our immigrant families more because still to this day we've been living here in America for 10 years, and my parents still can't speak enough English,” Hussein said.
She wants immigrants to have an easier time getting educated so that they’re more eligible for better paying jobs.
Also recognized Friday was Aweso Lafayette, a young mentor with the Green Street Neighborhood Center.
Two more local heroes will be surprised with billboard on Monday.
These billboards recognize both Hill and Hussein as local heroes for giving 100 percent of themselves to their community and are sponsored by the “100% Campaign,” which advocates for clean energy and social justice.