Sixteen-year-old Jacob Vela of Donna is a changed young man. He credits his new outlook on life to Donna ISD’s Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP).

Jacob said since he was assigned to DAEP last year, he has learned to care about others and bring joy to them. “I feel DAEP has changed me a lot,” Jacob said. “Before, I wouldn’t care much about anything. If someone needed something, I might help but only if I felt like it. Now, I put others before myself. If I have my last $20 to eat and see someone else who’s hungry, I’ll give it to that person.”

His positive attitude came out in a big way recently and eventually caught the attention of teachers and administrators at DAEP. The young man said he had just been paid for helping with chores around his aunt’s house when his mother offered to take him to the mall.

4“It was a Thursday afternoon when my mom picked me up from school,” Jacob recalled. “She said I had gotten my check and asked if I wanted to go buy some new tennis shoes. ‘I said sure.’ So, we went into a couple of stores and didn’t see the shoes I wanted. Then, we went to Footlocker and that’s when we saw the latest Michael Jordan Retro 13s. They were the ones that I had been waiting for.”

Jacob said the tennis shoes were priced at $140. “ ‘I said to myself, why not. I have the money.’ So, I tried them on. Then, out of nowhere, I started thinking about what my DAEP principal had said about bringing laughter and joy to other people. Then, I thought about the DAEP sergeants who had announced to the campus if anyone was interested in donating to Hurricane Harvey victims. Then, I remembered my teacher who asked the class to pick a topic that was in the news. I chose the Houston floodings and the rough times people were going through.”

Jacob turned to his mother and said he had changed his mind. “ ‘You know what, I don’t want to take the shoes. I want to go to HEB instead and buy a lot of food so I can donate to Houston.’ She asked me if I was sure. I said I was positive.”


While at the store Jacob started filling up the grocery cart. “I wasn’t even checking the prices. I just started putting a lot of shampoos, diapers, baby wipes, food and a lot of bottled water. When I went to pay, the amount didn’t bother me.”

Jacob wound up paying nearly $100 in supplies. He brought them to school the next day. “I felt really good. When I got home my mom told me how proud she was of me for thinking of others rather than myself. She was so proud she offered to give me back some of the money I had used. My brother also gave me some money.”

Jacob eventually returned to the mall and purchased another pair of shoes on sale so that he could have enough to buy a pair for his cousin. His story was so touching, that DAEP administrators and staff pitched in and surprised him with a new pair of Retro 13 tennis shoes. Jacob was overjoyed.

This act of kindness was widespread across DISD. Students and staff from several campuses opened their hearts and made contributions to Hurricane Harvey’s relief efforts.