Currituck County, NC – Students Eric Reed and Jessica Etheridge have a bond.
"She has her own personality, and I like that," said Reed.
Reed is a freshman at Currituck County High School. Jessica is a 10-year-old special needs student at Central Elementary. Their friendship may be unlikely to some but was ever so clear in surveillance video captured on the bus they ride to school every day. The video shows Reed singing the "Hokey Pokey" to her in the back of the bus.
"Just to me, it looked like she was having a rough day, kind of down, so I was trying to cheer her up," said Reed. "I haven't known her that long, but I can just tell she really needed a friend because not everybody gives people chances and I'm one that does."
The beginning of the school year wasn't the best for Reed. Teachers and counselors say he was defensive and angry a lot. But through the academic year, he has evolved, showing more compassion.
"She`s just not someone to judge you. And she just is a friend because I have a lot of people judge me all the time. She`s just awesome."
NewsChannel 3 was there as Jessica's mom saw the surveillance video for the very first time.
"Even though he has maybe his issues, he took the time out with my baby and just gave her some joy, and that just means a lot," said Ina Etheridge, Jessica's mom.
Currituck County Schools Transportation Supervisor Amanda Sweet says she came across the surveillance video while searching for something else.
"I watched six days of video of him just interacting with her, singing with her, talking to her, complimenting her hair, her clothes. It was just really awesome to see a student do that," said Sweet.
So, because of Eric taking action to make a difference, NewsChannel 3 awarded him with a People Taking Action Award and Pin.
"This is what we try to instill in kids – that this stuff matters. That little gesture made a huge difference," said Kelsey Seibert, counselor at Currituck County High School.
And when asked about what he thought about receiving the People Taking Action Award, Eric said, "I've seen you on TV a couple of times give some teachers these and never thought I'd get one."