El Paso, TX (KDBC) — A group of Fort Bliss soldiers volunteered 6,500 hours at Whitaker Elementary School in Northeast El Paso last year as part of the Partners in Education Program in the El Paso Independent School District.
Specialist Milton Torres is one of the eight soldiers who are volunteering this year. He helps the Physical Education coaches.
"It gets them motivated. When you run with them, they're so happy, everybody wants to run with you, do their exercises. They treat you like a hero. You feel like Superman," said Torres.
Torres is married to a teacher and also has children.
"I have kids so I think the education they receive when they're little is very important, so if I have the opportunity to be here and encourage some kids to do better, it's really important for me."
School counselor Patrick Barrill said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
"The students really like it. The soldiers really enjoy it too. They see the kids and the kids give them hugs and smiles and they're really happy to have them," said Barrill.
For Math Coach Benjamin Engels, having the soldiers in the classroom means there's extra help to answer all of the students' questions.
"Once we lighten that load, it's better for them to get that one-on-one help, so it's very beneficial for these soldiers to be here," said Engels.
The program also helps the soldiers begin planning for a career after the Army.
"Some of the volunteers have future aspirations to be teachers," said Barrill, and that is true of Torres.
"I like the education field so maybe I'm going to follow those dreams," said Torres.