Middle school can be some of the toughest of years for students. They step away from the nurturing and protective environment of elementary school, learn to manage their own schedules and deal with peer pressure.
For one student in Mesquite, Frank Perez, life didn’t deal him the best cards. But, his middle school is helping him cope.
"Frank the student is an amazing kid. He loves to participate and is really sweet. Just an overall wonderful child," said teacher Janesa Moore. "Frank the robot is super cool."
She did say robot.
You see, real life Frank is at home, several miles away from campus.
"I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma," Perez said.
His cancer meant the popular student — who loves school and was enrolled in Advanced Placement — couldn’t come back to class.
"It severely compromises his immune system. For this week, he may have the numbers that are great enough that we can go to a football game or we could go to the mall," said his mother, Evonne.
"And then next week, he may not be able to do anything."
Devastated, his mother and his teachers put their heads together searching for some way to keep Frank connected to his home at Vanston Middle School. One his teachers heard about these robots said why not?
Robot Frank changes classes, participates in group activities and even rolls up on Student Frank’s group of friends.
"No one really pays attention to it negatively. They just see it and a lot of people just think, 'oh, it's Frank,'" said one of his friends.
The state covered the cost. Now, homebound Frank is able to go class just like he used to, with Frank the Robot serving as his eyes and ears.
"He’s not even a robot. He doesn’t bump into anybody. Perfect. He is just like another human being in the classroom," said student Dakota Martin.
If Frank is having a hard day after treatment, he can turn off the screen so his friends can’t see him at his worst, and with all Student Frank’s is facing, Robot Frank is well priceless.