LOWER MANHATTAN -- A slain Bronx teen became known worldwide because of the tragedy that befell him but on Wednesday afternoon Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz's name became permanently associated with triumph and support for an organization in which he'd been involved in his young life.
At the graduation for the Police Explorers program, the Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz Scholarship was unveiled and awarded. Guzman-Feliz's parents were on hand to congratulate the first recipients of the scholarship.
"Ever since Junior's death, he has been on my mind," said NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker, the second in command at the NYPD and the keynote speaker for the ceremony at police headquarters.
On June 20, the Guzman-Feliz was attacked by a group of alleged gang members in an apparent case of mistaken identity. He'd been chased into a Bronx bodega then dragged out and set upon with knives and a machete. He suffered a fatal slash wound to his neck and died while running to the hospital.
The 15-year-old was active in his Explorers group in the Bronx's 45th Precinct and had been eligible for the specialized Explorers Academy program from which 250 young people graduated Wednesday afternoon. The graduates' names were on their diplomas, but Guzman-Feliz's name was on the two $5,000 college scholarships and four $1,000 scholarships handed out by his parents, Leandra Feliz and Lissandro Guzman. The New York City Police Foundation funds the scholarships.
"As his mother, I know, he would be so happy in here now," Feliz said about her son and the ceremony that was dedicated to his memory. "He would be happy, happy, happy. One hundred percent sure."
The two recipients, Malachi Nelson and Nahomi Zambrano, said they'll use the money to advance their educations and thereby continue Guzman-Feliz's legacy.
"It's actually helping me to do what I want to do and it's something Junior wanted to do," said Zambrano, who's headed to City College next year to major in mechanical engineering, and, she hopes, to eventually become an NYPD detective, which was also Guzman-Feliz's goal.
"So I want to accomplish this for Junior and myself."
After the ceremony, Feliz and Guzman stayed in the auditorium to give hugs and pose for pictures with dozens of new graduates and their families who'd requested time with them. It was a pairing of Guzman-Feliz's law enforcement family with his actual family.
"This is a making a change with the new graduates [who are] going to be our new future," Feliz told PIX11 News. "And this is good."
The Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz Scholarship will be awarded every year, permanently, according to the New York City Police Foundation.