ESS 2021: Student steps up to make late grandfather proud of him
August 23, 2021
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Zayne Higuera
Grade: 12
School: Mountain Empire High School District: Mountain Empire USD ACSA region: 18 Zayne Higuera never knew his father, but his grandfather was always there as a caretaker. Zayne and his younger brother were cared for by their grandfather until illness made him unable to look after them, to a degree that Zayne’s high school counselor became concerned at his slipping attendance and grades. It became worse when his grandfather was hospitalized and passed away, leaving Zayne at 14 in charge of his younger brother.
Under CPS oversight, a longtime family friend agreed to take in both boys and provide them with a stable home. Though at first the transition was difficult and caused Zayne to act out, he soon started to thrive. With the assistance of his guardian, Zayne’s low reading level was identified, allowing him to gain confidence and skills as well as participate in football and wrestling.
Between living up to his grandfather’s example, and being there for his younger brother, Zayne has committed to working toward a successful future.
When you found out you won the award, what was your reaction? What went through your mind? I didn’t really know what was going on at the time. I thought people were messing with me to be honest.
What would you like to share about your late grandfather? He was a really good guy. He was in the service for a long time. And then he retired out of it. In his life, he told me the stories of how he had kids but never really liked it until my brother and I came along. And something just clicked for him to keep us. He really impacted my brother and me in a large way by not giving us up and not leaving and loving us as long as he could.
When he passed away, what type of toll did that take on you? It took a really big toll because I lost a really big thing in my life because I always looked up to him from the young age when my mom left. And that was really the only person I had by my side besides my brother. It felt just empty.
At what point did you realize that for as much grieving as there was, you still had to make sure to follow the path your grandfather set up for you? When I realized it, it was probably the middle part of my sophomore year when my grades were not good. I couldn’t play the sports I loved. Everything was going wrong. I was getting in trouble and I felt like that’s not what my grandfather would want me to do.
What role did your younger brother play in your development and your growth? He played a big role because I feel like I had to step up and be a bigger figure to him than just a bigger brother. I had to be more. He just pushed me to do that. At the same time, that’s when I realized I should just change my life and the way I was going, so I have to thank him as well.
What is your advice for students who are going through a similar situation? My advice would be that it’s always going to hurt. That’s never going to change. But you have to figure out at what point you really want to change your life for the better. It might still hurt no matter how much you try and change. But changing for the better is going to make them proud wherever they go and wherever they are because they’re always going to be looking down on you and knowing that you’ve changed for what they know you can be.
ACSA Region 18 ESS winner Zayne Higuera.
ACSA Region 18 ESS winner Zayne Higuera.
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