Meeting all challenges

HARLINGEN — He was king for the day.

And still is.

Actually, Reynaldo Lopez Jr. has been the ruler of his destiny his entire life. It hasn’t always been easy.

But Reynaldo has some priceless talents that can take him many places regardless of life’s challenges. Those talents include intelligence, drive and the ability to win people’s hearts and minds.

So strongly has the Harlingen High School senior endeared himself to his classmates they elected him Homecoming King a week ago Saturday. Serena Garcia was named Homecoming Queen.

“I feel very happy and honored to be Homecoming King,” said the affable Reynaldo, 18, who was taking a break from an intimidating class schedule of astronomy, Advanced Placement English, AP calculus, AP macro economics, statistics and aquatic science.

Reynaldo moved frequently in his chair as he spoke. He was quick to deflect any questions about his having autism. His ability to perform well in class, his fluid communication skills and his numerous friendships clearly indicated he has the higher functioning form of autistic spectrum disorder. Nothing else needed to be said about it.

One of his favorite classes is astronomy.

“It’s really interesting learning about space,” he said.

Just that day he’d enjoyed a class activity in which students learned about craters.

“We made craters by dropping a rock into flour,” he said.

One of his more challenging courses is Advanced Placement macro economics.

“I don’t understand some of the concepts,” he said with frustration. “I tend to be lost in that.”

He’s near the top 10 percent of his class and hopes to study computer science after high school. The computer science gig feeds right into his love for video games.

“I like to play Nintendo,” he said. “That has always been a big part of my life. I would like a career in video game design. I want to work for Nintendo.”

A huge smile spread across his face as he recalled the moment he heard his name called at the dance that Saturday night.

“It was a surprise,” he said. “I didn’t expect it.”

Reynaldo was nominated by the senior class and ran against several other students — but he won.

Why?

“I’m really happy and positive,” he said, again with a quick smile.

That’s not to say the days leading up to the homecoming dance weren’t a little troublesome.

“I was a little nervous,” he said.

The moment he heard his name called, everyone in the cafeteria where the dance was held erupted into thunderous applause.

“Everybody was excited,” he said, remembering again the moment as if it were happening again.

“People who didn’t know me voted for me,” he said. “Everybody cheered for me. I would like to thank everybody who voted for me as king.”

He remembers the dance with Serena to the song “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran.

“I felt excited,” he said with a grin.

He’s impressed teachers as much as his classmates, even those who don’t have him as a student.

“Everybody knows who Reynaldo is, they know he is nice and kind,” said Veronica Hunt, sponsor of the student council.

His teachers appreciate his work ethic.

“He’s a very hard worker and he never gives up,” said Edith Saldivar, Reynaldo’s calculus teacher.

“He tries and he’s very smart,” she added.

His AP English teacher, Anthony Hughes, said much the same thing.

“His biggest challenge is his own expectation of himself,” Hughes said. “He’ll throw his arms up in the air and say, ‘I don’t get it.’”

His classmates will turn and say, “Reynaldo, come on.”

And true to his fashion, Reynaldo proceeds to the challenge.

And the next, and the next, and the next …

The Reynaldo Lopez Jr. File

AGE: 18

SCHOOL: Harlingen High School

GRADE: Senior

PARENTS: Stella Garza and Reynaldo Lopez Sr.

BROTHERS: Adrian and Andrew

MUSIC: Enjoys “EDM” – Electronic Dance Music, Pop music on the radio

FAVORITE ACTION HEROES: Superman and Batman

REGULAR CLASSES: Astronomy and Aquatics Science

ELECTIVES: Theater Production and Business Management

ADVANCED PLACEMENT CLASSES:

Stats

English

Calculus

Macro Economics