KILLEEN, Texas -- A week after his suspension, a Killeen student is receiving accolades for refusing to listen to his teacher in order to help a classmate having an asthma attack.
The attention has been a little overwhelming for Anthony Ruelas, the eighth-grader at Gateway Middle School whose heroic tale has traveled around the U.S.A. and has now made its way to Capitol Hill.
Since KCEN broke the story January 20th, it's been shared on the Facebook pages of 36 TEGNA Media television stations close to 13,000 times, and through KCEN's Facebook page has reached close to 200,000 people.
KCEN showed Ruelas emails the station has been receiving from people around the world including Canada and the Netherlands.
"Dang...that's crazy," said Ruelas. "That's near Narnia," he joked to his mom about the Netherlands.
While this 15-year-old's story is hard to believe, it's far from fiction. According Mandy Cortez, her son got suspended a week ago for leaving class to take a female student having an asthma attack to the nurse's office.
"It makes me feel good, ya know, that I know that he's getting the recognition from these total strangers and support from total strangers from everywhere and he hasn't allowed what happened to hurt his spirit in any way," said Cortes.
Since Ruelas' suspension, the story has been seen across the world, picked up by USA Today, The Washington Post, Yahoo!, and it reached #4 on Reddit's frontpage with more than 6,200 upvotes and 4,800 comments.
Emails and Facebook messages have been flowing in for Ruelas, praising the teen for doing the right thing even though it got him in trouble.
"The boy should get an award for his heartfelt desire to help a fallen classmate," read one email.
And he has. A nursing organization called "The Truth About Nursing" in Baltimore, Maryland has awarded Ruelas with a Citizen Hero Award. Employees with a group called "Ready SF" want to pitch-in so Ruelas can attend a two-day Wilderness First Air Course (one of the topics will cover asthma) in Austin in the spring. And a teacher at Angelica College in Lufkin offered to help teach Ruelas math since his mom has decided to pull him out of the Killeen Independent School District for the rest of the year following the incident.
But for some who heard Ruelas' story, an award wasn't quite enough.
"That story really got my attention, the way he was treated," said Democratic State Representative Henry Cuellar, (TX-28).
Cuellar called Cortes while they were at the home of Tischica Fisher, the 15-year-old classmate Ruelas carried to the school nurse after she fell to the floor during an asthma attack.
"If he'd like to do an internship here in Washington, we'd love to have him here in Washington," Congressman Cuellar said to Cortes over the phone.
"Ya, I'm gonna definitely going to think about it," said Ruelas about the internship.
Cuellar said he has to wait until he's 16-years-old to be eligible to intern, which Ruelas will be come May.
It's the chance of a lifetime for the teen who attends an alternative school, his mom says for being a "class clown." While Ruelas is no stranger to suspensions, his mom hopes this one could be his last.
"See it doesn't matter what your past is, you still have your future, your whole future ahead of you," said Cortes and she high-fived her son.
KCEN contacted the Killeen ISD to explain what its teachers are supposed to do in medical emergencies, and to break-down exactly what Ruelas was suspended for.
KISD Administration coordinated this response:
"The District's Crisis Management Plan directs the teacher to contact the Campus Principal and the Nurse in the case of a Medical Emergency. However, the student was suspended because of an unrelated incident. The district is unable to provide details about individual students due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act."
KCEN also asked how KISD responds to a medical emergency versus a physical fight between students.
"KISD Police Department responds to a multitude of issues that take place at campuses. They will refer the medical action to the campus nurse if the situation permits. If an altercation takes place, the administration and KISD Police will respond."
Ruelas was allowed to return to school Thursday, but never went back. Cortes says she'll be pulling him out of KISD for the rest of the year on Wednesday morning.