The young man in a hoodie, bundled up against the cold, waiting at the corner for the bus that picks him up before dawn for the long, winding ride across town to the school farthest from his home; a two-hour daily commute.

The little girls huddled together for warmth on the playground as the autumn chill sets in, no mittens cover any of their chapped hands.

The single mom showing up at school conferences, hitching a ride from her neighbor, the only person she knows with a car.

The teenage immigrant walking down a busy street, no sidewalk to be found, trying to get to school in time to practice English before first period.

The student athlete on the court without the right equipment, sneakers leftover from last season, no sparkly bows in her hair, no fancy sports bag to carry her gear. Showing up, doing the drills, trying to compete with others who have been on a travel teams for a decade.

The hungry ones, grabbing a snack at Kwik Star.

The behind ones, staying late for a tutoring session.

The quiet ones, afraid to raise a hand to ask for help on Geometry.

The struggling ones, issues unaddressed for years.

The lonely ones, no friends in sight.

These are the heroes.

The ones with more grit, perseverance, heart or determination than many of us have ever known.

Stand at attention when you see them, ok?

Wave at them as they wait for the bus, smile as they walk through the crosswalk in front of you, cheer for them on the court when they make a good play, assume the best.

For they are carrying more on their young shoulders than we can know.

They deserve our respect, our support, our very best.

These are the heroes in our midst.