On one Thursday morning, Julio Castro rose, as he always did, at 4:30 a.m. to start his commute.
Julio is a math teacher who lives in the Santa Clarita Valley in California. He works at YULA Boys High School, a private Orthodox Jewish school located in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles. Unable to afford a car, Julio uses a scooter and the bus to get to and from school, which takes him about four hours each day.
The brutal commute steals time Julio would normally spend with his girlfriend and three children. Some days, he doesn’t even get to see his kids because he doesn’t get home until 9:30 p.m.
At school, Julio is a dynamic and well-liked teacher. He is always willing spend time assisting students who need extra help, and he never complains about the lengths he has to go to just to travel to and from his job.
“He made sure I understood all of the material by sitting down with me during his lunch breaks and sacrificing his time after school where he could be getting to the bus stop going back home,” said senior Joshua Gerendash.
One day, Josh happened to see the teacher scrolling through cars for sale online, hoping to find a ride for less than $1,500. Josh wanted to help, so the following summer, he led a group of students including Ben Ziv, Josh Pachter, Shimmy Jotkowitz, Charlie Leeds, and David Gerendesh to raise money to buy Julio a car of his own!
The students used a variety of fundraising methods to bring in the much-needed cash. They held raffles and sold donated food at a basketball tournament and a movie night, both events they organized themselves. They worked with nonprofit The Change Reaction to set up a donation platform that pulled in $13,000. Local auto dealer Galpin Motors also offered a $5,000 discount on a used car.
Over the course of a few months, the YULA students raised $30,000! They used it to purchase a pre-owned Mazda 3 hatchback. They also purchased one year of auto insurance and multiple gas cards for him. The only thing left to do was surprise him!
On that fateful Thursday, Julio arrived at what he thought was a faculty-appreciation assembly, only to find out the event was a ruse. The assembly was all in his honor! After video testimonials about how dedicated he is as a teacher, Julio received the keys to his new car. Students made a tunnel with their arms for Julio to walk through, shooting off confetti cannons and cheering as he went outside to see his gift. The teacher was visibly humbled by the overwhelmingly kind gesture.
“I feel surprised,” he said. “I feel special. So thank you to my students. They are like my kids as well.”
Julio was blown away by this generous gift! He says the car will give him freedom he’s never had before and will help him spend more time with his kids at home. He’s looking forward to finally making it home for dinner, and it’s all thanks to these kind teenagers and their desire to help others.
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