Bridgeport 7th-grader works to ‘make it better’
Updated 7:34 pm, Tuesday, December 26, 2017
BRIDGEPORT — Jason Levine did not get all of his questions answered about kidney disease on a recent visit to St. Vincent’s Medical Center.
The 13-year-old, seventh-grader has a lot more to ask.
And there is time.
The power-point presentation he is putting together for a Talented and Gifted class he takes on Fridays at Cesar Batalla School is not due for another month.
“The interview was interesting,” Jason said of his visit to St. Vincent’s. “I made a few new contacts at the hospital. That is always good.”
Jason has no shortage of contacts.
“He was like a little leader, even making recommendations to our staff,” said Lucinda Ames, mission services coordinator at St. Vincent’s, of her interaction with Jason when the hospital ran a program at Batalla in November. “Everyone was talking about him.”
Principal Hector Sanchez said Jason has grown into a natural leader.
Known to some as the “Mayor of Batalla,” Jason has been at the Pre-K-through-8th-grade school since the fourth grade.
“I do a lot of stuff around here,” he said during a break from class. “With recycling and other stuff.”
Jason has been working on recycling for some time.
“We are supposed to recycle but no one actually does,” he said.
When the school switched from solid to foam lunch trays, the first thing Jason did was write a letter of opposition to the superintendent.
On a recent visit to the school, Schools Superintendent Aresta Johnson was directed Jason’s way.
Recycling is just one way Jason and Desmond Padilla, the school’s head custodian, have bonded.
Early on, Jason had a difficult transition to the school.
“He was running around the hallways, frustrated,” Padilla recalled. “I calmed him down.”
Jason calls Padilla a close friend.
“I just recently found out he’s been sick,” Jason said. “I didn’t know.”
No one did.
It was only last year, at the urging of his wife, that Padilla started telling people about his need for a new kidney. He has been on dialysis for four years, and spends eight hours each night strapped to a dialysis machine at home.
Padilla is on a kidney transplant list.
Jason took to fundraising for his friend. He helped bring the Kidney Foundation to school, organize a Kidney Walk that raised over $1000, a blood drive, and has a table about kidney awareness at every school event, said Ana Batista, his TAG teacher.
“His greatest strength is his community involvement,” Batista said.
Jason hopes his Talented and Gifted project will also draw awareness to the need for donor donations. When the TAG program assigned a unit on body organs, Jason picked the kidney.
After interview Dialysis Unit Nurse Jessica Seigel, and Toni Berri, an RN and clinical leader on that floor at St. Vincent’s, Jason has learned what a dialysis machine does. He now knows how kidney’s function.
What surprised him most is that people have two, but really need just one — that will be one of the required “fun facts” put into his presentation.
“I am not done yet,” Jason said. “ There is a lot more I need to do.”
He likes many subjects. Math because it’s easy. Science because he likes chemistry and space and planting.
Jason also works on Batalla’s school garden
“If there is something that needs to get done or something that can be improved, I do everything I can to make it happen,” he said. “Like, I go through a lot of different things to get it fixed or make it better.”
For a long while, Jason wanted to be an emergency medical technician so he could help make life-saving decisions. Lately, he has been torn between that and being a farmer.
Jason has one more year at Batalla before he goes off to high school. He is weighing his options, and Trumbull’s Agriscience School his high on that list.
Batalla will still have a Klein, however. Jason’s sister, Miranda, is in first grade.