Young Heroes


by Trevor Barton from United States

Singing the Unsung Hero:

155041Unsung HeroesTrevor Scott Barton 

I am aware of Paola’s poverty.


Nine out of 10 students at my Title 1 elementary school come from families whose income level meets the federal poverty guidelines. 


Paola, an immigrant from El Salvador, is one of them. 


The first-grader lives in a small apartment with her grandma, mom, sister and uncle. Combined, the adults earn less than $26,170 a year.


While I’m aware of her poverty, I celebrate her riches.


Today I see her as Paola, first-grade hero, with compassionate eyes, an intuitive mind and a big heart.


Her teacher introduces a new student, Nicholas.


“Hi,” Paola whispers to him as he sits down beside her. “I’m glad you’re in our class.”


She doesn’t know the story of the suffering that brings him to our school, but perhaps she recognizes something familiar in his taut face, quivering voice and shaking hands.


“This is your journal. It goes in your desk, like this,” she explains. 


“These are our crayons and markers. You can use them if you want to. Don’t worry. There’s lots to learn. I’ll help you.”


I’m so thankful for her empathy. 


Later that day, I sat down beside Paola in the lunchroom.


“What made you want to help Nicholas?” I asked.


“Oh, I remember when I was the new student,” she said. “And sometimes I feel the way he looked when he sat down beside me. I just wanted to be kind to him. It helps when people are kind. He’s my neighbor.”


I curse her poverty and will fight like hell for things that can help her like nutritional aid for low-income mothers-to-be and young children, quality public schools, aid to low-income college students and universal health care. 


But I’m thankful it hasn’t hardened her heart. 

I’m thankful her heart is soft and sympathetic to the world around her.


And I’ll follow her example and say, “I’ll help you. I just want to be kind to you,” to all of my neighbors.


Thanks for showing me the way, Paola.

Page created on 2/26/2024 1:23:34 AM

Last edited 2/26/2024 6:54:53 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Author Info

Trevor Scott Barton lived in Greenville, SC. He is a public school teacher, street writer, whale nerd and freedom fighter.