BUFFALO, N.Y. — In the heart of the Old First Ward stands Buffalo Creek Academy, a charter school where students are guided by four core principles.
"Leadership, integrity, focus, and excellence," Dean of Culture Bryant Brown Jr. said in describing the life values that are instilled in students at the grade 5-8 school on South Park Avenue.
In a main corridor of the building, students pass beneath signs extolling those values every day.
Among the student body are two seventh graders, Romello Early and Melvin Anderson, who are the best of friends.
Recently, Melvin had been showing up to school wearing shoes that were falling apart and which, when noticed by other kids, drew ridicule.
"I could tell it was upsetting him," said Romello, despite Melvin's best efforts to mask that. "It just put a real bad ache in my stomach to see somebody have to go through that, and to be to be picked on just based off appearance."
Romello decided to do something about it.
"I had saved up my allowance, and so I asked my mom to take me to the shoe store to get Melvin some shoes, and the next day I came and gave them to him," Romello said.
A friend in need is a friend indeed
"I'm really appreciative of what he did for me," said Melvin, while sporting the new Nike sneakers his friend presented to him. "I'm doing chores at home so I can earn some money to try and pay him back for what what he did for me."
However, Romello says there's no payback required.
"You don't have to pay me back," he said, while turning to his friend. "That's just a gift from me to you."
Putting his arm around Romello, Melvin said, "This is my man ... right here."
"When Romello did this with his allowance money, it touched my heart and I almost came to tears," Mr. Brown said.
As close as the two boys are, they're somewhat of an unlikely pair.
Romello is gregarious and outgoing, while Melvin is more soft spoken and introverted. And despite being roughly the same age, Melvin also stands about a foot taller than his friend.
"At my old school, throughout all the grades I was picked on because of my height," said Romello, who is 4 feet, 6 inches tall. "And that made me think about how nobody else should have to go through how I felt."
Brown says he hopes Romello's act of kindness will catch on within the walls of the school and beyond.
"We've got a good thing here at Buffalo Creek Academy and I think it might be infectious," he said.