Posted: Jul 18, 2012 8:19 PM
Updated: Jul 18, 2012 10:04 PM
RIO HONDO - Residents in the small community of Rio Hondo speak of Jessica Cavazos' caring nature.
The Rio Hondo Elementary School kindergarten teacher strives to make sure her students' needs are met, even if it means taking money out of her own pocket.
"They do not have school supplies," said Cavazos of some the 700 students that attend the school.
Cavazos said that need for school supplies compels her to dig into her own finances.
"It comes naturally. Everyone is used to it ... my husband is used to it," she said.
"(When) it's time to go shopping, we shop for our kiddos and we shop for my kiddos at the school," said Cavazos, a mother of three children.
Cavazos rarely takes a break during her summer vacation. She spends a lot of time making sure her classroom is in tip-top shape and getting ready for the upcoming school year.
On a recent summer day she spent time taking inventory to find out what her students will need to start the school year.
"We need crayons, glue sticks, pencils, markers, paper, construction paper, supply boxes ... pretty much, everything," she said.
Cavazos' students are grateful for her kindness. She proudly displays a humble gift with the words: "Teachers are a gift. They touch our hearts forever."
"It's awesome. It's the best thing you can ever have," she said of her altruistic work. "Everyone wants to have new crayons at the beginning of the school year - no one wants to have broken crayons - and sometimes they bring them and they're proud. But when you give them that brand new package of crayons or markers, they are ecstatic. It's like you gave them the best thing in the world."
"Our babies are little sponges and they are going to absorb everything that you give them," she said. "The more you give them, the more you feed them the more they are going to give you back."
Cavazos said that each student needs at least $30 in school supplies. She spends more than $300 a year to furnish supplies for about half of her 22 students.
But school supplies are not the only thing her students need. Many of the residents in the small town of about 2,000 people live in poverty, and children often go without
"They will come in with shoes that are wide open ... no socks ... no undies," she said. "Sometimes their shirts, you know, some of them have big old holes ... It's a rag, not a shirt."
Some students even show up without a jacket on cold days, she said. She keeps extra jackets in her classroom for those students and the children get to keep them. She also provides backpacks and shoes for her students.
Cavazos will often goes to students' homes to give them school supplies. She recently visited the Vasquez. Three of the family's children were her students, and they are grateful for everything she has done for them.
"(We've gotten) supplies, like pencils, paper and the last day of school they came with prizes - toys," Jose Vasquez said. "She has given us shoes from her kids ... boots, pants and all that."
Flor Vasquez, the children's mother, said she is grateful for everything Cavazos has done.
"In my sister's birthday, she gave her $40 and a birthday cake," she said.
Cavazos' generosity has given Candy Vasquez a huge goal in life - the desire to become a teacher.
Luis Manuel Cavazos said his mother is a very caring person.
"At work, she cares about everything that she does. And at home, she does the same thing with me and my other two brothers," he said.
"Everyone is special in their own way," Jessica Cavazos said. "Everyone has their own quality. Everyone has their own need, so we just meet them."
The Vasquez children said it's important to teach the children and to give to Teach The Children, a charity that provides needy students in the Rio Grande Valley with school supplies.
KRGV's Teach The Children Telethon is scheduled for Saturday, starting at 6:30 p.m. The station has been conducting the school supply collection campaign for almost 30 years.