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I had just come out of a meeting with a family regarding the development of a success plan for their son who was transitioning to a new school in the district. There were  concerns about how he would fit in and how he would make connections in this new learning community. I ended-up back in my office and my eye was caught by a news headline about a student athlete being singled-out for a very positive action.

It was a jarring first line  –  “For one day, a mother says, she didn’t have to worry about her autistic son eating lunch by himself.”

Clearly the writer had been listening in his English/Journalism classes when the teacher/professor challenged students to hook the reader with an engaging opening sentence. I was taking line like a blue fin.

It was a simple gesture of kindness by Florida State University wide receiver Travis Rudolph — captured in the photo above and shared on Facebook; however, it resulted in tears streaming down the face of the sixth-grader’s mother, Leah Paske (and my own as I shared the story with my colleague).

“I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes.”

Travis Rudolph was among several FSU players visiting a middle school in Tallahassee when he saw Bo Paske sitting alone in the cafeteria. Without a moment’s hesitation, the student athlete grabbed a slice of pizza and asked the isolated teen if he could join him.

“We just had a great conversation. He started off telling me his name was Bo and then telling me how much he loves Florida State. We went from there. It was real easy … you’d never think anything was wrong with him. He had a nice smile on his face. Just a really warm person. You can make someone’s day by being yourself and understanding the impact you have,” he said.

I have to remind myself that for every Ryan Lochte, there are nine Travis Rudolph’s out there quietly doing the right thing.

Rollie Koop

Superintendent of Schools