In Your Community
ABC7 Pay It Forward: Music aide for special needs children gets $500
ALTA LOMA, Calif. (KABC) -- Georgie Hamad was an adorable little boy. But growing up, he's always had trouble communicating.
"Georgie was diagnosed with autism, so it's been an issue for him," said his mother, Tracy Hawkins.
Hawkins says one man recently changed her son's life. His name is Steven James, a teacher's aide who uses his love of music and dancing to help kids with special needs open up.
"I've seen many, many changes within Georgie. He sits up a little straighter, and has a smile on his face, he always talks about the wonderful things Mr. James teaches him," said Hawkins.
Hawkins decided to say thank you by paying it forward to her son's teacher with $500 from ABC7.
The surprise was set up at Alta Loma Junior High School inside the Buddy Club, a group where James helps special needs kids learn to make better friends.
"Mr. Steven, you know how important you are to me and my son, and I want to let you know that you have touched my life and my son's life," said Hawkins. "I have watched my son grow and he's happy and he looks forward to going to school because of someone like you, it means everything in the world. I'm just so grateful."
Georgie handed his teacher the $500 bill by bill, and James was stunned.
"A thank you would have been great, this is 500 times better!" James said.
James writes most of his own songs. They're filled with inspiring lyrics designed to give voice to those who struggle to speak.
"We wonder how can they not speak otherwise but they can sing words that they hear songs that touch their feelings," he said.
The kids' teachers say the music has improved their academic performance in all subjects.
"If they feel confident, especially in seventh and eighth grade, they are going to want to do well," said Shannon Gordon, a special education teacher for seventh and eighth graders.
The students also know firsthand how much James has helped them.
"He specifically made me a better person. His music, I listen to it all the time, it calms me down when I'm in a hard place," said student Nathan Williams.
James trained the students to perform for the first time at the school's talent show. He wants to use the $500 to start a similar program at his daughter's school.
"Learning how to speak what's in your heart, that's what music does!" he said.
If you'd like to get in touch with Steven James or learn more about his approach, visit his website.
in your community, elex michaelson
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