SPRINGDALE, Ark. — Thursday at Walter Turnbow Elementary School in Springdale, students gave their classmate who happens to be blind the gift of a lifetime...a way to remember them before they go their separate ways in middle school next year.
For 6 years, 5th grader Mario Pacheco has walked through the school's halls with friends and teachers, not even knowing what they looked like but thanks to a thoughtful gift that has now changed.
“It’s exciting to get my own yearbook,” said Pacheco.
Mario was born blind, and while that’s never held him back from school, he has always missed out on one thing, a yearbook of his own.
“I can’t believe my friends are in here,” said Pacheco.
And not only are his friends in the book, but they also came up with the idea.
“Everybody was going to get their yearbooks, and I just thought it’d be great for Mario actually to have a yearbook,” said Levi Robertson.
But it’s not just any yearbook. EAST teacher Tracy Whelan, who helped oversee the project, says it took over 500 hours to make and the help of 18 students.
“Even if Mario is visually impaired, it doesn’t matter. He is one of their friends, a classmate, and they take good care of each other here,” said Whelan.
Students made a braille yearbook and mini-busts of each of Mario’s classmates and teachers so he would be able to feel what they looked like.
“It made me start to cry. Just the fact these kids care so much about their fellow students and the fact they wanted to make an impact for someone besides themselves gives me faith they’re going to do great things in this world,” said Whelan.
And not only did it touch Ms. Whelan to see the book and mini-busts in the hands of Mario, but his mom also says she couldn’t keep a dry eye the entire presentation.
“Knowing the fact all these kids put in so many hours and dedication just to make him feel included part of the school snd class, it’s awesome, really awesome,” said Marithza Ocampo.
Leaving Mario with a gift he will never forget as he closes this chapter of his life.
“I’m glad I got the yearbook so I can see who my friends are and so I can remember them because next year I’m moving,” said Pacheco.
And while Mario is sad to leave his friends and teachers here at Turnbow, he plans to try out for the basketball team next year and hopes they too will make him a yearbook in middle school.
The EAST program just received their 3-d printers in January, so it took them all semester to make this happen. They didn’t finish printing and painting until 8:30 a.m. the morning before presenting it to Mario.