Whenever Baldwin High School senior Malcolm Bell is having a bad day, he can count on his friend Jesse King to help him feel better.
“He’ll just listen to me talk and he’ll be able to calm me down,” Bell told the Herald. “He’s my friend.”
The two have been friends since the sixth grade and are like any other buddies; they talk about school, their plans for prom and their aspirations for college and beyond.
That’s why Bell didn’t think anything of staying with King during the entirety of Baldwin High School’s senior trip to Dorney Park earlier this month.
But his friendly gesture has inspired many who have heard his story.
King is autistic and, as a result, could not go on many of the rides at Dorney Park (he is susceptible to seizures).
“I was worried about him during the trip,” Jessica Rios, King’s mother, said in an interview. “I asked if one of the teachers could stay with him.”
She didn’t know that Bell stuck with her son throughout the trip — making him unable to go on many of the rides his other friends enjoyed — until Jesse came home from the trip.
“I asked him, ‘Who did you hang out with?’” she recalled. “He said, ‘Malcolm.’ I started to cry in the car … He sacrificed his time, he could have gone with the other kids.
“The teachers asked him if he wanted to go for a little bit, but he said no I’ll hang out with Jesse,” she continued.
Kimberly Bell, Malcolm’s mother, said her son’s act reflects the spirit of Baldwin.
“We’re a very diverse community and a very accepting community,” she said. “We celebrate everyone and we learn to love everyone.”
A friend for Jesse
Rios worried how her son would fit in at Baldwin’s schools.
“I prayed to God and I said, ‘Please God, let him be loved and accepted,’” she said.
In the sixth grade, King came home talking a lot about a kid named Malcolm.
“All I kept hearing about was this Malcolm kid and I just had to meet him,” she recalled. “He was the nicest kid ever.”
Bell met King in the cafeteria of Baldwin Middle School.
“He was just there saying hi to me every morning and he was a nice kid.”
During King’s Swag 16, a male version of a Sweet 16 birthday party, he gave Bell a candle indicating he is a special person in his life.
But King also does his best to keep Bell in check. The two families attend Bethlehem Assembly of God church in Valley Stream and on weeks when Bell, who plays sports for Baldwin HS, doesn’t attend he’s sure to hear about it from King.
“He’ll ask me why wasn’t I in church and I’ll tell him, ‘Oh I had a game,’” he said. “And he’ll tell me, ‘Oh no, you can’t miss church for a game.’”
An inspiring story
The story of Bell hanging by King’s side during the senior trip has been told on TV news stations in recent days, broadcasting their friendship to all of Baldwin and elsewhere.
Dr. Shari Camhi, Baldwin school district superintendent, called it a perfect example of “the types of loving and caring young people who fill our hallways every day.
“The Baldwin School District prides itself on educating the whole child and working with our families on this joint effort,” she said in a statement. “We are so proud of our students, not only with respect to what they achieve academically, but also who they are individually and socially.”
Kimberly Bell said it was “nothing out of the ordinary.
“We know Baldwin is a great place but it’s evident when we see it in our kids,” she said.
Bell will be attending the University of Hartford in September, where he hopes to play lacrosse. He also has no plans of falling out of touch with his friend.
“I’m already working on getting a hat for him,” Bell said. “I already told him he has to come up and catch a few games.”
As for King, his dream is to attend Hofstra University and become a DJ for Z100.