The Rome Noon Optimist Club has renamed one of its top annual student awards to honor the late Fernando Guzman-Ambriz. The l8-year-old cancer victim died in January a few months after fulfilling his personal goal of walking across the stage to receive his Coosa High School diploma despite the loss of a leg and arm.

For many years the Noon Optimist Club has sponsored an annual banquet to recognize outstanding high school students in several categories, including “Life Hero”. Future honorees will receive the “Fernando Guzman-Ambriz Life Hero” award for not only continuing to succeed but to thrive despite particularly strong adverse challenges.

“Fernando inspired the entire community through his determination to live life to the fullest despite knowing his life was ebbing away,” said Bruce Peace, president of the Optimist Club.

“Just as he did at graduation, Fernando was determined to walk to the podium to receive our club’s award last year, and he did,” commented Priscilla Watkins, chairman of the annual awards program. “There were smiles and tears throughout the room.”

First diagnosed with cancer while in Middle School, Fernando credited his classmates and the entire Coosa community with helping him during his most trying times. “They just won’t let me give up,” he told the Rome News-Tribune when approaching graduation. “It is impossible to show up one day and say, ‘I am depressed,’ they will find a way to make you happy.”

The Optimist Club will hold this year’s Student of the Year banquet April 26 at Coosa Country Club.