Wappingers Student’s Empathy Helps Earn Him “Distinction” Honor

Whenever one of his classmates looks unhappy, Eric Mayerbach is quick to ask if he or she is OK.

That empathy for others, witnessed all the time in his class at Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES’ Walden School, was key to earning Eric the honor of Student of Distinction on April 18. He received the award, with a certificate and medal, in a ceremony at the start of Wappingers Board of Education meeting in Eric’s home district.

“This young man has shown me what true empathy is,” Justin Delgado, Eric’s teacher at The Walden School, said at the ceremony in the Wappingers Junior High School auditorium. “This is a rare skill for a student his age and even more so for someone like Eric. His willingness to help his peers or console staff members when he feels they might be hurt or sad is something we could all learn from.”

Eric is in the school’s Collaborative Language Academic and Social Skills program. While he struggled with the program when he entered it at the beginning of the school year, he has flourished since, Delgado said.

“He has made friends, is an active participant throughout instruction and truly works hard to do his best,” said Delgado. In the classroom, when someone seems upset, “he’ll go up to them and say ‘It’s OK.’ He genuinely tries to console them,” Delgado said after the ceremony.

Eric was excited to receive the honor, especially surrounded by faculty members who work with him at Walden, and relatives.

“I feel happy,” he said. “I feel glad because my friends and my aunt and cousin and my family are here,” he said.

His father, Gene Noone, said the notice that Eric would be granted the honor came the same week Eric received one of his school’s “Caught Being Kind” certificates for helping a teacher’s aide without waiting to be asked. Eric shows his good-heartedness not just to classmates, but to animals as well, caring for five pets – two dogs, two cats and a rabbit, Mr. Noone said.

His parents said he has made great progress.

“To have reached this pinnacle is amazing,” said his mother, Dory Yatsko. “It’s a very exciting time.”