Scholarship remembers student
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That’s why dozens of people pulled together to preserve the memory of the 15-year-old after he died in 2007.
“He was just one of those kids who had a lot of friends,” Dueñas said. “He didn’t stick to one circle. Everyone knew who Michael was.”
This February, Dueñas and others close to Rutledge will have a fundraiser for a scholarship they’ve created in his memory.
This year’s event will mark the second time they’ve had the auction, which features wooden hearts that have been artistically decorated by members of the community.
“Last year, we had to kind of search people out and say, ‘Could you do this heart?'” Dueñas said. “This year, the word got out. We have people contacting us.”
The event is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Texas Theater in downtown Pharr. Last year, more than 200 people attended and Dueñas said she expects that number to climb this year.
She’s even lined up celebrities to autograph wooden hearts for the auction, including the bands Los Lonely Boys and Def Leppard, members of the Dallas Cowboys and comedian Paul Rodrgiuez.
Rutledge’s friends thought hearts would be an appropriate theme for the fundraiser, since his organs were donated after the 2007 car accident.
“We were overwhelmed by his parents’ strength and their ability to recognize other people could be saved by his accident,” Dueñas said.
Rutledge was a member of PSJA North High School’s dual language program, which seeks to make students proficient in both English and Spanish. The small group of students in the program has grown close over the years and will graduate this spring.
Dueñas taught Rutledge’s English class when he was a sixth-grade student at Liberty Middle School. Her husband Ernesto Dueñas, who is also organizing the fundraiser, taught him Spanish and World History.
Rutledge was a sophomore when he died.
The fundraiser will provide for scholarships for dual language students graduating from the district.
Dueñas said Rutledge was a dedicated student who sacrificed the chance to be a member of the school’s most elite band class so that he could focus on his dual-language studies.
Organizing the fundraiser and painting the hearts has given students a valuable outlet as they still deal with their grief, Dueñas said.
“I’m glad we can show the kids the things they can do constructively with their emotions,” she said.
For more information on the fundraiser, call (956) 884-9776 or e-mail michaelslegacy @yahoo.com
Ryan Holeywell covers McAllen, PSJA, the Mid-Valley and general assignments for The Monitor. He can be reached at (956) 683-4446.