BELEN—It was an early morning celebration of diversity and crazy socks last Thursday at Belen High School.
In honor of senior Steven Torres and World Down Syndrome Day, students at BHS donned mismatched and colorful socks and gathered at the campus entrance with signs of yellow and blue.
“He’s really important to us. Everybody knows Steven,” said BHS senior Abigail Brown of Steven. “He is always smiling and just makes you feel better. We can get up early one day for him.”
Dozens of students welcomed Steven to class last week before the sun broke through the clouds.
The charismatic senior, in his own pair of green, red and gray argyles, chatted with Albuquerque television stations and expressed his love and appreciation for all his friends, before leading them in a group “dab” move.
As a mother, Wendy Torres said she was overwhelmed by the support Steven gets from his classmates. This is the second year BHS students have celebrated Steven and World Down Syndrome Day at the campus.
“It helps raise awareness that people with Down Syndrome, they do have a life, dreams and goals,” Torres said.
Last fall, Steven fulfilled a long-held dream of being elected BHS’s Homecoming king.
“It’s so wonderful to see him interacting with other students on campus. They’re just, ‘Hi Steven, bye Steven,’ giving him fist bumps and doing dabs with him,” Torres said.
After graduation, Steven plans go into the district’s BEST Program — Belen Educational Student Transition — which teaches skills such as keeping a budget and learning to be a self advocate. Students can participate in the BEST Program until age 22.
Or go to Hollywood and be a star, his father, Robert said.
“He does like the attention,” his mother says with a laugh.
Isaiah Romero and Serena Rodriguez, both seniors, have known Steven nearly his entire life.
“He’s just an awesome person, kind and loving,” said Romero. “We wanted to show him that everyone cares about him. He’s just a good guy.”
One of Rodriguez’s earliest memories is playing in the sandbox with Steven; she still has the photograph that captured the moment.
“He’s a very special kid,” Rodriguez said. “He sees life really different. Steven reminds us to just loves everybody and not judge.”
BHS student body president, senior Destiny Marquez said the celebration last week was to recognize not only Steven, but all people with Down Syndrome.
“They are not recognized enough for how special they are and the light they shed on the world,” Marquez said.