MERIDIAN -- It is never easy to start a brand new school. But imagine going to a new school, as a burn survivor.
Meridian High School ninth grader Manny Ortiz is doing just that. And thanks to Shriners Hospital, the transition into a new school with new friends, is already a success.
Manny just started the ninth grade at Meridian High School. While he walks the halls and gets acquainted with his new school, there is a special assembly going on.
"Because it's easier for someone else to explain my story," said Manny Ortiz.
It is not easy for Manny to talk about what happened to him. When he was just 8 years old, he was severely burned in in a gas grill explosion.
He spent three months being treated at Shriners Burn Center in Northern California. It is a hospital funded by donations, that provides treatment free of charge. He made a lot of great friends there.
Margaret Kugler from Shriners held an assembly for Manny at Meridian High School to educate the kids about Manny and what he's been through.
"Just to explain and take the mystery out of it, answer questions so he doesn't have to," explained Margaret Kugler Shriners Hospital of Northern California. "It's okay to look, it's a curiosity, but it's not okay to stare. I think there is a lot of mystery and lack of knowledge that everyone has when they see someone who looks different."
Student Body President Kelsey Weaver is just one of many students that wants Manny to feel welcome.
"You don't meet a lot of people like Manny, and when you do it's an amazing experience," said Weaver.
She says Meridian High School has a great program called the Inclusion Revolution and Manny will be welcomed with open arms.
Principal Geoff Stands says he knows the students will make Manny feel right at home.
"Oh, I know they will," said Principal Stands. "I want him to be able to do, achieve and participate in anything he wants to do."
The Shriners student assembly was a success and Manny is already making new friends.
Little does Manny know, he'll be a big inspiration to others!
Manny still goes back to Shriners for treatments from time to time. He tells us he has plans to be an architect one day. We hear his first week of high school went off without a hitch!