Jersey Proud: Man raises students spirits with daily high-fives
There is a wonderful thing that happens most school mornings in West New York. A longtime resident has started a tradition that he hopes catches on everywhere.
Eddie Pabon stations himself at 56th Street and Hudson Avenue most school mornings to greet students on their way to school. He called it a “high-five for a beautiful school day.”
Pabon rushes from corner to corner to greet the kids – even sometimes hopping onto school buses in an effort to greet each one.
"I strongly believe when you do this…you put your positive energy into them, you give them that boost,” Pabon says. “Take this energy with you into the school, make it through your school day. Bada bing, bada boom."
The effort started over a year ago. Pabon started to live stream his actions on Facebook. Friend Rolando Fevles has been with him all along.
"In the grand scheme of things, it's something small. But I see how it transforms their day. Even for just that moment, they're smiling,” Fevles says.
It seems to be true. News 12 crews noticed that the kids seemed to walk away in a better mood after getting the high-five.
"I've had two teachers come up and tell me like, ‘I love what you do. When I see my students, they’re literally still full of energy since they saw you.’ When I hear that, that's ballgame,” Pabon says.
It could have easily been a game over for Pabon years ago. At the age of 52, he spent a third of his life behind bars. He stole cars, sold drugs and then the drugs got to him.
"Fentanyl. Heroin. I had no willpower. I had hopes out the window. I thought I was going to die an active addict,” Pabon says.
He says he spoke to such an addict four years ago.
“He says, ‘I’m just waiting to die,’” Pabon says, adding that this man did die soon after. "It changed my whole life. I finally got willpower. Now, instead of being addicted to garbage, I find an addiction in looking at them smiling. That's a beautiful high."
Pabon says that he is now giving back to the world.
“Affect a life in a good way is sort of like compensation for the damage I did to my life and my surroundings,” Pabon says.
Pabon high-fived about 200 kids while News 12 was with him. He says he is serious about expanding the effort elsewhere. He says that if social media challenges like the “Ice Bucket Challenge” can go viral, boosting kids' self-esteem each morning should be an easy one.