The Seat Beside You: Tommy’s Light

“Day by day, year by year, I understood that I was a special mom. Why? Because I needed to have a special child to be able to understand all the children of the world,” said Leonor Alvarez Santos about her son, Tommy Juarez Alvarez.
Tommy is a student at the Lincoln Public Schools Independence Academy and he brings his light and kindness to Lincoln in more ways than one. Through a collaboration with the Lincoln Children’s Zoo and Lincoln Electric System, students at the Independence Academy help set up light displays for the annual ‘Zoo Lights’ event.
“It’s not just a transition from school to life, but it’s working towards those independent skills that students can use when they are in the community,” says Megan Britton, a teacher at the Independence Academy and Tommy’s teacher.
Like many activities at the Independence Academy, setting up for Zoo Lights allows students to work on skills from behavior to fine motor. An added benefit is when students can bring their families to see all the lights at the Children’s Zoo.
“When we went to the zoo to see the lights, we thought, ‘Wow!’” said Leonor.
“Once he started going to the Academy, he communicated more. He is able to express his feelings. Now he tells us jokes and what he did in school or what he talked about with a teacher,” according to Tommy’s father, Tommy Alvarez.
When Tommy and Leonor were setting up the family Christmas tree at home, Tommy’s confidence was on display.  He told Leonor, “Mommy, I can do it. I can help you put up the tree. I did it at the zoo.”


“The Seat Beside You” is a video-series with the premise that behind every student at LPS, there’s a story…there’s a whole world. With a better understanding of the person in the seat beside you, the stronger our schools and community become. More “ The Seat Beside You” videos are coming soon!

Published: December 23, 2022, Updated: December 23, 2022