Every distinction at 's annual awards ceremony deserves to be celebrated, but teachers and administrators created a special award Wednesday to recognize one sixth grader's "miraculous" achievement.
In January, Berenice de la Torre, 12, was and left her unconcious in the street with severe head and leg injuries. She spent weeks in intensive care and her social studies teacher, Ross Gottstein, said it was a miracle that she survived.
School officials don't know when de la Torre will be able to return to classes at Clifton, but they brought her back Wednesday to give her an award created just for her: the "Certificate of Awesomest Character." She accepted it in an emotional moment on stage Wednesday morning.
"It was really a very 'tearjerker' type of moment," Gottstein said of de la Torre's surprise appearance. "The curtains opened and she was revealed. It was a really cool moment and it was a way of just reminding her that, first of all, she's still one of us."
De la Torre's "Awesomest" award came with a special message drafted by Gottstein and teacher Alyssia Jacques.
Presented to Berenice de la Torre for bravery and courage of unparalleled proportions. In the darkest hour shone the brightest light of undying determination, willpower and tenacity while defying the odds with the same spirit, humor and heart that are undeniably Berenice.
Gottstein said that much of Berenice's recovery is owed to her sisters Miriam and Erika, who have patiently helped her as she relearned basic functions like walking and talking.
"The real unsung heroes of this story are her sisters," he said. "They've been by her side, they've walked with her, they've held her both physically and spiritually."
While Berenice is now walking on her own, she still has a long way to go, Gottstein said. She still needs help and guidance when moving around and it remains unclear if she'll be able to return to Clifton next year for 7th grade. But her progress thus far is enough for those close to her, Gottstein said.
"There's still a long way to go and who knows how long the recovery will take," he said. "To see her walking and talking and smiling and laughing, it's nothing short of miraculous."