NORTH MIAMI DADE (CBSMiami) – Everyone remembers a favorite teacher, someone who made a real impact. Wendell Exclusa is one of those educators whose students are now rallying around him in his time of need.
Current and former students fill the room at Turner Tech High School in North Miami-Dade. Each of them took Wendell Exclusa’s health science or emergency medical responder courses.
He is a proud teacher who keeps close track of his students in and beyond the classroom, for 26 years now. He shows off a book he put together that features many of his students who now have careers in their field.
He addresses the group, slightly reluctantly, with a personal update. It is no secret what he’s been battling for more than two years.
“In the summer of 2017 I had just a few vague symptoms and then one test result after another that came back poorly until I was finally told I had what they call glycinate metastatic stage four prostate cancer, which there is no cure for,” said Exclusa.
He has been undergoing treatment, chemotherapy, radiation, fighting the disease however possible, for these students, for his wife and two daughters. He didn’t expect work to be easy, much less didn’t expect the reaction he got when he went to Mr. Uwezo Frazier, the principal.
“He said ‘what can we do to accommodate you?’ And I thought I was going into that meeting losing the ability to care for my family. But my principal has been amazing.”
The response was a huge show of support and love: teachers donating their sick days, administration supporting him, and students raising money through a Go Fund Me page. All coming together, for this man they all admire.
“He’s extremely selfless, you talk about strength not physical strength, he’s an inspiration,” says Frazier.
Speaking to the students in the room he adds “the love and the respect and the appreciation is authentic, and it shows the man that he is and it shows the students that you are.”
Students Chiara Pana and Laura Cordoba are leading the fundraising efforts through social media platforms. They have gotten support from a friend of Mr. Exclusa as well.
“We are all reaching out for the same goal and that is catapulting our success,” said Pana.
Cordoba adds, “He taught us how to carry ourselves with dignity and respect, he has been giving to us and now it’s our time to give back.”
The lesson in compassion has come full circle.
“It’s overwhelming to think that with all the things that they need to be doing that they do that. Even in class they’ll give me a hug and ask me how I’m doing sit with me for a little while, and that’s not what the average teenager does,” said Exclusa.