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Burges High School sophomore creates safe space for others to be heard

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- "I truly believe that we could stop wars and fights happening in the world with just learning how to listen."

16-year-old Edwin Ortega is on a mission.

He's a sophomore at Burges High school and wants people to put the screens down and connect more with each other. He wants people to actively listen to each other.

"You want sometimes just to be like, I just want to talk about my problems, says Ortega."

Last year, Ortega felt there was a need for a "Listening Table", a place where students on campus can talk about issues free of charge, advice or judgement.

He understands what a big responsibility this is and can reach out to school staff if anyone needs more than a friendly ear.

Every Friday, Ortega sets up shop during lunchtime. He see's up to 10 people every Friday.

Students trust and open up to him.

Burges student Alexis Figueroa says, "It's helped me release, I mean, a lot of stress that I was under."

It all started when Ortega felt unheard. His family says he was shy and introverted.

"And this yearning in my heart, " says Ortega. "To be listened to was always there."

His brother, Kevin Ortega, encouraged him.

Also in his corner was Teacher and Student Activity Leader, Ruth Bohlin.

"Once any young person finds that sort of passion," says Bohlin.  "There's a responsibility as an educator just to just to support him."

She not only sees a change with students, but sees a change in the once quiet Ortega.

Bohlin says, "People gravitate towards him now and it is, in fact, a safe space for a lot of kids."

Edwin makes time to hear everyone out.

Ortega says, "I've had people talk to me about their girlfriends and boyfriends, their family life."

"Providing the service my peers is just amazing," says Ortega. "I feel very innovative. So let's do some little helping around here in the world."

Article Topic Follows: El Paso

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Crista V. Mack

Crista V. Mack is a U.S. Air Force veteran who transitioned to news as a multi-media journalist.


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