MANHASSET, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island teen who was diagnosed with cancer has been unable to attend school. But through the kindness of his community, his peers and the innovation of technology, his “return” has been almost like he never left.
Their 17-year-old classmate, William Reccoppa, was diagnosed with leukemia last May. Despite undergoing cancer treatments, he is able to return to St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset in a whole new way.
“It’s really unique to have him as a robot. Everyone thinks it’s really cool. Everything thinks it’s really freaky. It gets the whole student body excited,” Maria Reccoppa, William’s twin sister, told CBSN New York’s Jennifer McLogan recently.
Maria can again walk her brother to class. The $6,000 robot was donated by the Don Monti Foundation.
“We all get to be together again, even if it is our virtual way,” Maria said.
“Being in the hospital five months getting treatment, it’s great to finally have an almost normal school life,” William said.
“We’ve been praying and guess what? He’s getting better,” Principal Gerard Buckley said. “William will be back, but in the meantime he’s here with us virtually, and the students went into an uproar when the robot came rolling out.”
William operates the school robot remotely from the family’s Bayside, Queens apartment. It acts as his eyes, ears, voice and hands.
The teen’s parents, Joseph and Masae Reccoppa, couldn’t help but get emotional.
“It has lifted his spirits, as well as ours,” Joseph said.
“Back then, I couldn’t imagine this day is going to come, so I am really happy,” Masae said.
For William. it was a lonely time. He spent months in the hospital and then was isolated at home. Interacting with classmates just six miles away seemed like an impossibility.
“You don’t expect your life to kind of change that quickly,” William said.
His outlook is stellar. He still feeling side effects of chemo, but said he plans to graduate on time, and then head to NYU.
“It’s amazing because before this I knew my classmates and faculty were always supportive and loving, but I never really expected this much and am so grateful,” William said.
He received a life-altering answer to a life-changing diagnosis.
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