With a median household income of just over $28,000, Dade City, FL, students struggle with unique economic and social/emotional challenges.
To help facilitate learning in this environment, Daniel Vazquez, a counselor and member of the Student Support Team, provides basic needs for Lacoochee Elementary School students. From clothing and transportation to behavioral and emotional support, Vazquez concentrates on giving students the best opportunity to make education a priority.
“All of what we do is to help support our kids inside the classroom as well as outside the classroom. We want to help not just the academic child but the whole child,” says Vazquez.
After the loss of his mentor in the 2001 World Trade Center attack, Vazquez came to understand the importance of resilience. He has dedicated his life to the memory of his cousin and good friend, David Lemange, by offering the positive adult relationship many of his students need.
“My parents worked. We didn’t live in the best house. We didn’t have the same clothes and shoes as other kids. We weren’t focused on the flashy, nice things – just the basic needs. People around me weren’t making the best choices. The big influence was my oldest cousin, David. He played sports and went to college. He eventually supported his mom. He made strides we hoped to be able to. He overcame and was able to stand on his own. It was something we didn’t see in other adult males,” explains Vazquez.
By providing important social and emotional skills through programs like WhyTry, Vazquez helps students see past their challenges.
“Our kids don’t choose their circumstances. They don’t have the same resources and opportunities as others, but they continue to work and thrive the same as anyone else would,” he says. “We are giving them the coping skills they need so they can focus on academics.”
Vazquez’s commitment to student success extends well beyond the classroom. He and his wife recently took in three foster care children from the school.
Fellow counselor, Nancy Montoya, describes Vazquez’s impact on Lacoochee Elementary students. “If Daniel Vazquez is not attending to an individual student, he is working to help develop school wide initiatives, such as elementary college trips, positive behavior systems programs, teaching ‘WhyTry’ lessons, and helping put on the annual talent show. Daniel is a true example of what ‘Why Try’ represents.”
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