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Students orchestrate heartwarming surprise for math teacher who commuted four hours every day

'I always told them: When life doesn't go your way, don't cry about it. Just be grateful for what you already have. One day, good things will happen.'

Cover Image Source: TikTok/losangelespatch
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Math teacher Julio Castro received the surprise of a lifetime last week when his students at Yula High School Boys Division in Los Angeles orchestrated an elaborate scheme to gift him a car. Castro, a math teacher who lives in Santa Clarita, commutes about four hours a day by scooter and bus to get to the Westside school. Speaking to Los Angeles Times, the father-of-three revealed that he typically wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to get to work and returns home as late as 9:30 p.m., by which time his young children are usually asleep. "It is roughly two hours [one way]. It depends, if I miss my bus, I wait another half hour or an hour," he told KABC.

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From his apartment, Castro travels about seven miles to the Metro stop on a scooter before riding about 90 minutes on Bus 797 to get to Century City. From there, he travels roughly another mile to the modern Orthodox Jewish campus. Despite the time-consuming and tiring commute, the teacher "still makes sure to devote all this time to students," said Joshua Gerendash, who one day saw Castro wistfully looking at cars online, hoping to find an affordable ride for about $1,500. "He'll skip his lunch break to help a student and stay after school. He also helps students who aren't in his classes. He's really, really, really devoted to our futures."

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Wanting to give back to their devoted teacher, Castro's students launched a months-long fundraising campaign and raised $30,000 for the car and one year of donated insurance and gas. They gifted him the vehicle on the second day of the school year through an elaborate mock event that Castro was led to believe was a faculty-appreciation assembly. He was left stunned when it was soon revealed to be a ruse to surprise him with a certified pre-owned dark blue 2019 Mazda 3 hatchback with a 2.4-liter engine, inline front-wheel drive, leather seats, Bose stereo, sunroof and only 30,000 miles.

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Castro shared that although he knew his students were aware of his commute, he'd never expected them to take action. "I made the best out of it," he said. "I always told them: When life doesn't go your way, what do you do? Don't cry about it. Don't whine about it. Just be grateful for what you already have, and then move on. And one day some good things will happen." The 31-year-old added that one should never do things in hopes of being rewarded. "Don't do it because you're waiting for a prize. Do it because it comes from your heart."

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Meanwhile, Castro's students are confident their teacher will find some way to pay forward their generosity. "No matter what happens with him, he is gonna find some way to pay it forward," said senior Charlie Leeds. "We've been taught certain values like empathy [and to] treat your fellow person as you'd want to be treated. Mr. Castro is the embodiment of that. With this car, with this new opportunity, he's only going to find more and more ways to help other people around him." Castro already has plans for all the time he will save in commuting from now on. "Now that I have a car, I get to drop off my kids every morning. And then coming here with time to spare, I can use it on my lesson plans. Then on my way back, traffic is still bad, but I'll be able to make it for dinner," he said.

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