EL PASO, Texas -- An El Paso Independent School District middle school student is being recognized for his service and selflessness. Enrique de Jesus Garcia is a seventh-grader at Armendariz Middle School.
Last year he noticed that the special needs students would sit in the corner of the lunchroom and no one would interact with them.
"I saw them left out and I thought everyone should be a part of our school and no one should be left out because I know how it feels to be left out and it feels very bad," he said. So Enrique began to sit with them at lunch, play with them during recess, visit their classroom and bring them snacks. "I saw a lot of people calling them names and making fun of them and they were making them look bad and some of them stopped eating in the lunchroom and some didn't even want to go outside to play. So I felt really bad and I wanted to interact with them more." Enrique has been sitting with the special needs students ever since. Last Tuesday, Enrique was given the "I am EPISD" award for his selflessness. District administrators say he embodies the spirit of EPISD and that is why he was chosen for the award. But Enrique didn't do it for the attention. He said he knows what it feels like to be left out. "I don't really have any friends," he said. That truth's something that made his parents feel helpless. Norma Avina Garcia said she noticed her son was losing weight and having trouble making friends. When she discovered that he had been skipping lunch because no one wanted to sit with him, she suggested that he try to befriend the special needs students. "He was very nervous. He's a ery shy boy but I convinced him and that day he was invited to play with them and it truly changed his life and ours," she said.
Norma Garcia said her son is now more outgoing and is getting as much from the special needs students as he is giving to them.
"One of the most beautiful things that he's ever told me is, 'Mother, I realize that I thought they needed me but in reality I needed them more.' They are the ones teaching him how to be a better person and he now knows that it is in service that you truly find happiness," she said. Enrique has big plans for the future; he wants to run for student council president and launch a nationwide campaign called "We All Have Special Needs" to encourage others to become more involved with special education programs and students. He also wants to become a neurosurgeon when he grows up to look for a cure for things like autism or, at the very least, continue working with special needs children. It is that spirit that EPISD administrators recognized and rewarded.