Gay teen breaks down high school barriers by asking football captain to homecoming.

In high school, the captain of the varsity football team usually has an alpha-male status at the school. In teen romance movies, he dates the head cheerleader and they’ve both voted homecoming king and queen.

But at Valley High School in Santa Ana, California, the varsity captain made an important point about male friendship by agreeing to be his gay friend’s date to homecoming.

During lunch hour on National Coming Out Day, Alexander Duarte, a gay student, staged an elaborate proposal.


With hundreds of friends looking on, Duarte stepped out of a door that read “Out of the Closet” and in front of a sigh that read: “I know I’m GAY, but can I take you STRAIGHT 2 HOMECOMING?” and asked his straight friend, quarterback Erick Pineda, to go to the Homecoming dance with him.

Pineda said, “Yes.”

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“It’s very important for me to be going to Homecoming with Alexander because I’m setting an example for not only my school, but also my community,” Pineda said. “I was definitely excited to be asked to homecoming because I knew how important this was for my friend and seeing the support from the staff and students was amazing.”

“I’m very grateful to be the captain of the football team. The team is very supportive and multiple teammates have approached me to congratulate me and have given me ‘RESPECT’ for my actions,” he added.

During freshman year, Pineda treated Duarte in a way he later apologized for, by going as Duarte’s date, he’s showing him the true meaning of friendship. “He [Pineda] also said that he loved me and that he will always be there for me if needed,” Duarte said.

Duarte asked Pineda to the prom to show people that it’s ok to “be themselves,” he told Yahoo. “Because one of the main things that hold people back aren’t others but ourselves.”

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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