Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - The White House asked the Syracuse City School District to find a special student to introduce President Obama to the crowd at Henninger High School on Thursday.
Emilio Ortiz, a Corcoran High School senior got the call a few days ago that school administrators wanted to chat.
“They went through my grades and my attendance and my behavioral problems and everything seemed to check out, so I was their guy,” said Emilio Ortiz.
Superintendent Sharon Contreras says she was inspired to learn that Emilio's mother worked her way through college with the help of Pell grants.
Friends in the crowd at Henninger High School on Thursday didn't know that Emilio was secretly waiting backstage, where he met face to face with the commander in chief.
"Before my speech, he came up to me and we took a picture and he asked me my major, what I was majoring in, what I was studying. He shook my hand, he autographed my speech and then he said, 'Go get 'em tiger',” Ortiz recalled.
Cool and calm on the outside, the otherwise quiet senior admits he was a bit overwhelmed by the call to duty.
"I've always been very shy, always. Even as I was standing up there, my legs were shaking. They were quivering. I was a nervous wreck,” Ortiz admitted.
The president offered a personal nod of approval for the speech and for Emilio's parents, suggesting he should run for office.
"I'm honored to be his dad. I'm very proud of him and it is a testament to his hard work, said Edward Ortiz, Emilio's father. "I'm glad something like this happened to him so he can see, instead of just hear, that hard work pays off."
"My parents pushing me to do well in school, it all pays off now,” Emilio added.
With help from the Say Yes to Education Program, Emilio hopes to study physical therapy.