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Car Show & Anti-Bullying Rally Kick Off - Riverside Park, Aztec-PHOTO-P. Stuart-TALON

On Saturday June 9th, anti-bullying supporters including car enthusiasts and motorcycle clubs gathered together at the Aztec High School Student Parking Lot in a birthday memorial dedicated to "Paco" Fernandez Jr. "Paco" Jr. was one of the students victims of last December's Aztec High School Shooting. Because of this tragedy, Francisco "Paco" Fernandez Sr. made a decision to do what he can to make our community safer for our students. In a brief interview with Mr. Fernandez, he sensibly and courageously shared a different approach to combating the problem that he and many others truly believe caused his son's tragic death. "Acting like a fool won't bring my son back." he said. "I did my own investigation, that boy (who shot my son) was bullied." He went on to say that bullying is a major problem. "We send our kids to school to learn, not worry about if they're going to come back home. This is going to make a change in our community! I'm gonna fight for you kids and make sure this bullying stops!" With the help of Mike Patch at the Boys and Girl's Club and other supporters proactively including our children in the problem solving, he is taking on a refreshingly different approach.

Shannon "Red" Brown of Four Corner's Harley Davidson, a supporter of the campaign told the TALON, "These are everybody's kids. When someone does something like this, we want to get behind it."

The cruz led by Mr. Fernandez, driving the SUV that would've been "Paco" Jr.'s birthday present, pulled out of AHS around 10:45am. Followed by dozens of supporters in all kinds of vehicles, they cruzed through Aztec, down to Bloomfield, over to Farmington, and past Memorial Gardens where "Paco" Jr. was laid to rest. As the the parade of cars travelled the route, police directed traffic and drivers who were not in the procession were courteous and respectful of the event. At approximately, 1:00pm the cruzers finished arriving at Riverside Park in Aztec where the Anti-Bullying Awareness and Scholarship Rally sported a Car and Motorcycle Show with vendors and a full stage. Joker's Wild, a locally known band that plays New Mexico Music, Country, Rock and Roll and Oldies also dedicated their time and talent to this afternoon event at no charge for the cause.

Mr. Fernandez took the stage to announce his plans for a change for the betterment of our community. After thanking all of the sponsors and everyone who showed up in support, he started off with the heartfelt message. "This Anti-Bullying Awareness is dedicated to my son, Francisco Isaiah Fernandez Jr. known as 'Paco.' He's my hero." Had "Paco" not surprised the shooter by innocently walking into the school bathroom, many more lives were likely to have been lost. Emotionally, this father then introduced Aztec Feed Store owner, Mike Waybourn who also lost his son Ty. Ty was killed in a drunk driving accident in 2003. Mr. Waybourn raised approximately $150,000 in scholarships through Memorial Rodeos dedicated to his son. With the money left from the rodeos, Mr. Waybourn decided to help with the Anti-Bullying and Scholarship Fund in memory of "Paco" Jr. The aim of the scholarship fund is to help kids who are not cut out to be athletic and academic stars but have other strengths to give back to the community. T-shirts were also made up with "Paco's" picture on the front and the familiar orange ribbon on the back with an acronym spelling out PACO, Positive-Attitude-Changes-Others in blue.

"The shirts are basically a gift from my son to his son." Waybourn said. In addition, a granite bench in memory of Casey Jordon and "Paco" Fernandez will be installed on the sidewalk in front of the downtown Aztec Feed Store on December 7th, 2018. This is the main turn off to Aztec High School.

"People from different worlds can come together and they are going to make a difference" said Ms. Brown of the odd pair who have bonded with the strength of comraderie through their tragedies to help the community. A country cowboy can see something more than a hispanic's love for lowriders and a chicano who's proud of his heritage can see into the heart of a rodeo man. A picture of these two genuinely embracing with brotherly love on stage was worth more than a thousand words could ever describe.

Fernandez Sr. came to Ms. Brown of Four Corner's Harley Davidson a few months ago horribly frustrated with concern that "kids are being desensitized and are dying in our schools. They are there for an education and it's not working." He also questioned, "How can we help the kids? How can we give them the tools to keep themselves safe? Those teachers are busy, everybody's busy..."

Francisco Fernandez & Mike Waybourn Unite For Kids.

"We have seen it here in our community, a place where no one ever thought we'd be touched by a tragedy like this." Ms. Brown stated. "We can either sweep it under the carpet and pretend it never happened and continue on, or... we can prevent this from happening in our community." She communicated that a lot of these kids who are bullied are afraid to be seen talking to anybody or meeting in a group on school grounds to discuss these issues. "That's what bullies do. Bullies make you hide, make you not want to be seen. You don't want to be their next target." Fernandez will be working with the Boy's and Girl's Club to create and implement a platform where kids can discuss what can proactively be done to safely prevent and deal with bullying. Learning how to handle these situations are tools are on their belts to be used at any time. Being a part of a positive and proactive group, kids don't have to be afraid to walk up to someone at school they don't recognize and introduce themselves while finding out if that person is supposed to be on that campus. Ms. Brown hammered home, "because it doesn't happen right now!"


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