Rumari Zalez is an 11-year-old fourth-grader at Eagle Canyon Elementary in Chino Hills, California.
And as a video captured and shared by his teacher showed, Zalez is also unapologetically proud of who he is, autism diagnosis and all.
As Good Morning America reports, Zalez decided to stand up in a room full of his classmates to explain to them what it was like living with autism. The speech was impromptu, raw, and incredibly inspiring.
Zalez said, in part:
“Don’t go by just judging them, go by trying to be their friend. And see all the people who actually have it and make them feel like a somebody. Because for a really long time, you guys had not known I had autism. So you guys thought that I would weird doing this… This is something I like to do and I have autism.”
Watch the video below:
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🧩 Today, a beautiful thing occurred within my classroom. My two most important mottos and lessons I stress every single day with my students is to “Be Kind” and to believe in one’s self through the growth mindset of “Yes I Can”. • • It is #AutismAwareness Month and every classroom on campus has been asked to have each student decorate a paper puzzle piece and hang it on our classroom doors. When I handed out the puzzle pieces, most students were familiar with the idea of Autism and aware of the cause of decorating the puzzle pieces. What my students did not know is that Autism is present within our classroom with one of our fellow classmates, Rumari. With excitement, Rumari rose his hand and said “May I please say something?” I nodded and said “of course”, but never could I have imagined what was to follow. • • Rumari has faced challenges and barriers beyond what any of us will ever be able to fully understand. But today, Rumari stood in front of the classroom with full confidence, enthusiasm, and courage and showed us that there is no challenge or barrier that can stop him. He brought to life the meaning of “Yes I Can” as he explained to his fellow classmates that he was autistic. With full knowledge, he explained the differences that may come when being autistic and how the spectrum is vast. He courageously spoke about his own differences and quirks, while defining what it means to make everyone feel like a someone. • • My other students and I sat quietly and listened, completely engulfed in every word he spoke to us. Because of this, it took me a bit before realizing I needed to capture this moment. Without any of the students knowing, I hit record and captured the final moments of Rumari speaking to us and the raw, authentic reactions of the rest of my students. It is then, that I lost my ability to hold back the tears. It is then, that the daily lessons to “Be Kind” and to remember “Yes I Can” were brought together. • • If I were unable to ever teach again or if there was ever a question to my path into this role as an educator, this moment solidified my purpose. With permission from Rumari’s parents, I wanted to share with you this moment:
Zalez continued to tell his class that some of them would be lucky to have autism because it’s fun.
Following his speech, he asked his classmates if they had any questions for him before they gave him a round of applause.
One student asked Zalez for a hug, which he gladly accepted, while another reassured Zalez that she doesn’t think his autism is “weird,” she thinks it’s “cool.”
And another added:
“I don’t think it matters what a person does, or if it may look weird, or if they might make weird noises sometimes, that’s OK. It’s them and it doesn’t matter, they are good just the way they are, like you are.”
Zalez’s teacher, Lisa Rachel Moe, wrote on Instagram, in part:
Today, a beautiful thing occurred within my classroom. My two most important mottos and lessons I stress every single day with my students is to “Be Kind” and to believe in one’s self through the growth mindset of “Yes I Can”.
She added that it was Zalez’s willingness to share his story and his classmates’ willingness to accept him that “the daily lessons to ‘Be Kind’ and to remember ‘Yes I Can’ were brought together.”