His friends at South Broward High School are over it, but when you meet Franklin Mejias for the first time, you can't help but stare. You can't help but notice the missing parts, that this young man with the big smile has stubs where hands once were, and prosthetic legs from the knees down. Franklin knows what everyone sees, and wants you to know that does not define him.
"I do everything normal. I run, play soccer, I come to school, with a smile, always," Franklin said.
That smile might be Franklin's best feature.
"He's always smiling, very positive, very eager," said Sydene Dixon, his guidance counselor. "He's excited about school, he's excited about everything that's going to come, he's excited about what's next."
Franklin had a devastating, nearly fatal bacterial infection five years ago, when he was 11. Doctors had to amputate his hands and feet to save his life. Now this sophomore from Venezuela is making great strides in learning English. He’s already adapted his physical limitations, mastering all the skills other kids take for granted, like using a computer keyboard and mouse, writing with a pencil, and texting on a smart phone.
"It's difficult but, like, you have to say yeah, 'I want to go, I wanna be in school, I'm gonna have friends, I wanna go out and you need to take action, you know?" Franklin said.
Life dealt Franklin an unfair hand. He was faced with a choice, to wallow in self-pity or embrace the challenge. It's obvious which path Franklin has chosen.
"He really is an amazing young man and very, very motivational and very inspiring," Dixon said.
His classmates see Franklin as the walking personification of perseverance, an inspiring presence.
"A lot, because when you look at him like this, and you have everything, he push you to do better, like if he can do it, you can do it, too," said fellow 10th grader Milourie Gauda.
Franklin plays table tennis so well, he aspires to play in the Paralympics one day. He's doing well academically, all A's and B's, and his friends have no doubt he will succeed. They call him a warrior.
"If he can reach his goals, why any other person wouldn't be able to, you know?" said Joel Bonilla, one of Franklin's classmates.
That's music to Franklin's ears.
"When the people say thanks, you motivate me, that is when I feel proud of myself," Franklin said.
This boy who's proud of being a role model also raises money to supply prosthetics for poor kids in Latin America. You can visit Franklin's charitable foundation at www.agusaf.org.
No feet, no hands, all heart. That describes Franklin, and here's his advice for anyone facing adversity.
"Nothing is impossible, and always focus on what you want," Franklin said.
Franklin wants to go on to college, he wants to keep up with his classmates, and maybe, lead them all to accomplish great things.