Stamford community rallies to support injured high school student
Updated 11:33 am, Sunday, December 31, 2017
STAMFORD — Kind, generous, supportive and hard-working.
These are the words Kristi Larson, head of the English Language Learner program at Stamford High School, used to describe 18-year-old Erwin Hernandez, a senior who was seriously injured last week when a car crashed into the restaurant where he worked.
Hernandez was working in the kitchen at Table 104, a restaurant on Long Ridge Road, when a vehicle crashed through the kitchen wall on Wednesday, causing serious damage to his right leg. The restaurant has been closed indefinitely, according to its website.
Hernandez was taken to the hospital where doctors needed to amputate his leg after unsuccessful efforts to save it with vein grafts. Hernandez is still recovering in the hospital and faces months of extensive physical therapy and counseling.
Michele Malave, adviser for the Stamford High School Gives Back program — a student volunteer organization that focuses on community works — has launched a GoFundMe fund-raising page to help with Hernandez’s mounting medical costs and future needs.
The page, which raised about $15,000 by Sunday morning, has a goal of $150,000.
“He has a long road ahead of him, and we just wanted to make sure that he gets the help he needs to move forward,” Maleve said. “There’s the medical costs, which I’m sure will be a lot, but there’s also the psychological side of his recovery, and we want to make sure he gets the help he needs to get to a place where he believes he can recover from this and move forward, because if he believes it, he can do it.”
Hernandez and his younger sister came here from Guatemala in 2015 and enrolled in Stamford High that same year. Lawson taught both siblings, neither of whom spoke much English, in their first year at the school.
“He’s every teacher’s dream,” Lawson said. “We’ve never before had a young man make so much progress so quickly.”
Smart and motivated, Lawson said Hernandez grasped and mastered English quickly and recently earned recognition as the school’s “first ESL student who was an International Honors Student inductee.”
“He hasn’t had it easy,” Lawson said. “He’s new to this country and his family life has been difficult, but he’s managed to make such great friends and achieve so much in such a short amount of time.”
Whether it was fitness goals or earning his independence, Lawson said Hernandez has overcome the challenges.
“He was a kiddo who came here, who was out of shape, and knew that he needed to do more than the other students to succeed, and he has done that,” she said. “He taught himself to run, he lost 30 pounds, and then he started to help and train other kids to set and achieve their health goals. We’ve never had a kid like this at the school, who organized our students together and was their friend, was their trainer, was their mentor.”
Lawson said Hernandez is also heavily involved in volunteer work, including tutoring students, and participating in the Stamford High School Gives Back program.
“He gives up his study hall every day, and he has quite a significant amount of school work, but he gives it up every day to tutor students that are struggling in geometry,” she said. “He volunteers as a mentor at a local middle school. We have a student whose mother is sick with a brain tumor and (Hernandez) was one of the students who stepped up and helped provide Christmas presents for that family. He’s just a great kid.”
Lawson, who said she is still struggling to process what happened, said the coming months are going to be difficult.
“There’s clearly going to be a lot of challenges going forward,” she said. “There’s the medical needs, he’s going to need a prosthesis, there’s the physical therapy and counseling, and he’s going to need a lot of help and support. But if anyone can overcome this and move forward, it’s him. He’s one of those kids that makes you feel good about the future because he’s in it.”
To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/3fe3t3-keep-the-promise