Students surprise beloved principal, present him with check for National Role Models Day

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CHICAGO — A beloved educator received a well-deserved surprise Sunday.

Nearly 30 years ago, Victor Iturralde found his calling as a teacher for Chicago Public Schools. He went on to become the first principal of Solorio Academy in Gage Park 10 years ago.

Then two years ago,former President Barack Obama visited Solorio to see the good things happening there two  years ago. Iturralde made sure to get a picture of that moment, one of many points of pride.

In recognition of his work, he was surprised by student athletes from the organization Buddy’s Helpers and the Pepsico Challenge to honor him during National Inspirational Role Models month. 

“I’m very honored, and humbled and surprised this morning,” Iturralde said. “I’m so grateful for the love and support I’ve received throughout my career and I just hope that we can continue to make it through these difficult days.”

As one of 10 kids who moved to Chicago when he was five years old, Iturralde comes from an extraordinary family.

Recently, two surgeries forced him to slow down. And this year, as remote learning threw a curveball into the school year, he and the staff at Solorio turned to Facebook to host a virtual back-to-school program.

“I’m so proud to be a Solorian and I’m so grateful you’re in charge and thank you for making a difference in our community,” said lizbeth barajas, a Solorio Academy student.

A check for $500 included with the surprise will go to the Friends of Solorio, which among other things awards scholarships to college bound students.

“I believe in a quality education and the power of sports make a difference in the lives of so many that we do everything in our power to get to that point,” Iturralde said.

It’s a lesson for all of us that those who give back, also occasionally see the love paid back.

“I’m very proud of the work our students have put in and the staff and parents have put in and the entire community and the love,” Iturralde said.

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