South San student pays it forward during holiday season

Michael Sanchez donates bicycle to Neil Armstrong Elementary student

SAN ANTONIO – The holidays is a time of the year when many people pay it forward, including a South San High School student.

For a decade now, South San Independent School District's Neil Armstrong Elementary has given a bicycle to a deserving student this time of the year.

The annual holiday donation comes courtesy of a former student who responded to an act of kindness he once received.

Outside the front office of Armstrong Elementary sits a brand new Huffy Seastar bicycle.

Complete with tassels and a purple and pink color scheme, it's a holiday present for a girl with perfect attendance.

Each year, a donated bike comes courtesy of former student Michael Sanchez and his family.

"We kind of took turns. And then, maybe when I was 14, I started, you know, saving up money. And I started donating myself, maybe every other year," Sanchez said.

Armstrong Elementary school nurse Nicole Martinez has witnessed the act of kindness since the first bike was donated.

Martinez said Sanchez's dedication to his alma mater comes as no surprise.

"These kids are not just our kids from 8 to 7. They're our family, no matter what," she said. "Even when we leave campus, we still, a lot of our teachers take that home with them, worry about them. If there's something going on with them, they make sure to take care of it." 

In 2006, the school donated a bike to the Sanchez family, after they lost everything in a house fire. 

"It's not really something that you forget, really," Sanchez said. "I remember we were eating ribs. And my dad, you know, me and him were just sitting in the bedroom. My mom and sister were somewhere else. I just started smelling smoke. 

"It was pretty hard, we stayed with my cousins next door for a little bit. We slept on the floor. Like they had no room, like their house was already crowded enough. Then, we kept jumping from motel to motel."

The school took notice of the Sanchez's situation and took action.

School staff pooled their money together and bought Sanchez a present -- a bike. It's an act Sanchez and his family don't take for granted.

"I mean, it meant a lot to me, that people, that people just pitched in, for me. And it just felt really nice," Sanchez said. "So we wanted to do that for other children." 

Martinez said she's still in awe at how Sanchez reacted to receiving the gift.

"We didn't ask for him to pay it forward. We didn't ask for him to come back every year. And over 10 years now, he's been doing it. It's just an amazing feeling," she said.

Sanchez, a senior, plans to attend college at the University of Texas in Austin to study political science.

He said he will make sure that the bike donation tradition carries on when he's no longer a student at South San.

"I'd like to carry on the little tradition," he said.

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