CHICAGO (CBS) — Six students at Oak Lawn Community High School have raised nearly $20,000 to help finish building a hospital in a struggling corner of Bolivia.
Each deserves congratulations, but CBS 2 Morning Insider Vince Gerasole is going to introduce you to one in particular, 17-year-old senior Jonathan Godinez.
“I never wanted to be that one person that didn’t help another man,” Godinez said. “They’re living on less than $2 a day in Bolivia, which is horrifying.”
Why does he want to be part of something that makes a difference?
“Because I feel that if I know I have a skill set to help someone, why not help that person? It would be just like a wasted tool, you know?” he said.
Godinez’s back story goes beyond academic and athletic success.
“It was just a rough family time, I guess you could say,” he said.
Adults in his life battled demons; from alcoholism to drug abuse.
“It was a realization for me to make sure that I was doing what I had to do, and doing what was right,” he said.
There were times Godinez h ad little to eat.
“There was nothing in the fridge, so I scavenged for sprinkles,” he said.
He still remembers what it was like to go hungry.
“It hurts a lot,” he said.
As a 7th grader, Godinez consoled his two young sisters. He said he kept them positive with “lots of smiles; lots of laughs and hugs.”
His willingness to lead, and be there for others, has his teachers taking note.
“He’s got a certain, I guess if I had to identify it, a moral agency about him,” science teacher Chris Repa said.
That agency includes forgiveness.
“I completely understood what my mom had gone through, and my stepdad had gone through, just to make sure we had a house,” he said.
Godinez said he plans on studying criminal justice at Western Illinois University, not surprisingly a career that’s also about helping others.
“It goes all back to helping the other man,” he said.
For now, there’s that hospital to build in Bolivia. Godinez and five classmates are trying to raise $30,000 for a service trip to Bolivia to work on Bethel Hospital, the only Level 1 trauma center in the country’s rural highlands. The facility is now more than 75 percent complete.