Beaming with pride and a smile that constantly says, “I can do it,” 12-year-old Bryan enjoys a grand accomplishment for a boy his age.
For the third year in a row, Bryan has earned the distinction of being valedictorian at his grade school in Guatemala, a feat that is even more impressive when you consider only one student gets to have that honor each year.
Excelling at school might be difficult for a lot of students, but not many have faced the sort of obstacles that Bryan has had to overcome.
Bryan has hearing and speech impairments, but he hasn’t let those obstacles get in the way of his studies.
“I always dreamed of going to school,” Bryan said. “I like books and I like playing with other kids.”
Bryan’s teacher has adapted his teaching style to make sure Bryan is able to participate fully in class. His friends and classmates are also supportive.
“My teacher helps me a lot. We can communicate with gestures and signs,” he said. “My friends also help me. They take care of me and they understand me.”
A large part of Bryan’s success is because of the optimism he has about school and his future, but it’s also the result of what his teachers are doing for him. Bryan’s grandmother Lucia is grateful for the care Bryan receives from his teachers.
“I also thank school authorities and teachers for taking Bryan,” Lucia said. “It’s not a special school but they did not close their doors to Bryan.
“Good touched their heart and they accepted this challenge; they are great people. The teachers felt a special connection to Bryan because of his desire to go to school.”
Lucia is helping raise Bryan while his mother works in a different city to send back financial support. Additional support from Bryan’s sponsors, Laurent and Nicole from Virginia, helps with education costs and day-to-day needs.
“My sponsors give us help every month. We get a lot of things like food,” Bryan said.
Though the family still faces hardships, Lucia said that things have improved since Bryan was sponsored.
“It was a lot harder,” she said, referring to the time before sponsorship. “I remember a period of time when he was a baby and we did not have money to buy milk. I had to feed him with ‘atole’ [a drink made from boiled, ground corn diluted in water] because it was the only thing we had.”
Bryan has achieved a lot in his young life, and excelling in academics is a strong start to a bright future. His advice to his fellow students is to “do your homework, study and pray.”
To others who have hearing and speech impairments, Bryan said, “You can do anything.”
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