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Eggie chose leadership and never looked back.

Edgardo, known to everyone as Eggie, is a young man full of surprises and contradictions: he’s four-feet tall, but manager of his basketball team, a fifth-grade leader in an eighth-grade crowd, a fiercely passionate boy with the practiced calm of a monk, a doe-eyed face and a raspy, authoritative voice. In short, he’s an extraordinary boy doing extraordinary things…but it wasn’t always so.

In fourth grade, Eggie was, by his own description, “a little bad.” He had repeated fights with a classmate, and as for his teachers, he says simply, “they got on my nerves.” But last September, Eggie transferred to a Children’s Aid Society community school in the Bronx where he met our counselor Eric Camacho, “Mr. E,” who spotted the potential in Eggie’s eyes. Eric became Eggie’s mentor and when the time was right, Eric put it to him straight: “You have to make a decision, Eggie. Are you going to be a leader or a follower?”

Eggie chose leadership and never looked back.

He joined Children’s Aid’s Bronx Youth Council, a student-run body that addresses how to help other teens and better the community through service. First semester, he was elected Sergeant of Arms, responsible for keeping order in meetings.

“They used to laugh at me ‘cause I’m smaller than them.” Impressed by Eggie’s poise, they chose their young Sergeant to run a “Family Meeting” at a Bronx-wide youth conference for middle and high schoolers, and he discovered the full power of his voice: “I was nervous at first because I was meeting new people, but then it was cool because when I was speaking, they really heard me.” A promotion followed: he’s now Second Vice President with open designs on the Presidency by seventh grade.

Concurrently, Eggie volunteered to help at a college meeting for EXCEL, a Children’s Aid college-prep program for eighth graders, and liked what he saw: “the college kids were mature and when I go to college, I will be more mature than I am now.”

With Eric’s special permission, he began to attend all of the EXCEL workshops, from Economic Empowerment talks on how to save and manage money to career discussions on how to get a job and nail an interview. It doesn’t matter that he’s years away from legally getting a job or that he has little money to manage. He’s proud to be ahead of the game: “When I get to eighth grade, I’ll know everything.”

Eggie’s also busy writing and acting in “NTL” (Never Too Late), a student-produced film about a boy who is picked on at school, a film for which he organized a bake sale that raised $142. Things are still challenging for this four-foot pioneer: on a recent visit to read fables to a fourth-grade class, one towering boy called him ‘shorty,’ and he had to choose restraint over hot-headedness. But it’s easier with his newfound confidence and a little trick Eric taught him: he closes his eyes, rubs his ears and chants a calming mantra, a sound to the effect of “wooosaah,” which Eggie, charismatic and sassy, has changed to his own “oooh child.”