Expecting to celebrate the school’s basketball team, MacArthur High School’s Joshua Camacho Garrido walked into the school’s auditorium on Monday surprised to find it filled with people who have loved and supported him through the highs and lows of his life – the most recent being an eight-month battle against leukemia.

The sophomore returned to school on February 5 – signifying his defeat of the illness and a return to a normal teenage life. 

The school commemorated the milestone with a special celebration complete with a drumline performance, chants and cheers led by the school’s cheer squad and Firetruck Crew spirit squad, a dance performance by the Cardettes drill team as well as special words of encouragement from Principal Natasha Stewart, Joshua’s parents and Joshua himself. 

“He is a great student, and we just wanted him to come back and to know that he is loved and tried to do it through a celebration for him,” says Stewart. “I think it’s important for everybody to know that beyond teaching math, science, social studies and all the reasons that kids come to learn, we are an extension of their immediate families. And when they go through things, unexpected twists and turns that life throws at them, we want them to know that we support them through it all, and that we’re here for them. And that anything we can do to make that experience easier for them, we are willing to do that.”

His proud and emotional mother, Yuli Garrido, sat in the crowd, taking it all in – the accomplishments of her son as well as the incredible support system that has accompanied him every step of the way.

“The truth is that it is very exciting, it gives me a lot of happiness -a lot of joy,” she says. “Why? Because it means two things – that what happened is over and that today he is back in school safe and sound. And I am very grateful for all of this; because it has been a spectacular reception for him and for us as a family it has also been very exciting. We are very happy.”

Joshua’s battle against cancer began 9 months ago when random bruises began appearing on his body. After rounds of testing and consultations, Joshua was diagnosed with leukemia in May of 2023.

“He was not able to finish or start the school year as he wanted,” says his mother. 

Joshua received treatment over the next eight months, and in January he completed treatment and was declared cancer-free. 

“He was always very positive, and he taught me a great lesson,” says his mom. “I saw it as if it was a long time, but he saw that it was a short time. His approach was positive from that moment on.”

While Joshua may have physically returned to school this week, his schooling hasn’t missed a beat, thanks to the Irving ISD Homebound Education program and his teacher, Nathalia Alvarez.

“For Homebound, the students get, at least, four hours of homebound services – either at their home or the hospital, depending on their situation,” says Alvarez. “I kept communication with the teachers, and I made sure that there was enough content, so that the workload was feasible for the student to have and still be successful.”

The family expressed their immense gratitude to the district for allowing him to still attend school through the General Education Homebound program during this tough time in his life. They are happy that Joshua has been able to keep up with his grades especially since he is in honors classes.

“I am thankful that Irving ISD has provided everything for him to succeed,” says Yuli. “The school has always shown the same good attitude and desire to help and collaborate for the Homebound Program with Ms. Alvarez.”

“Shout out to Ms. Alvarez,” adds Joshua. “She is awesome. She would come, like two times a week. We went over the classwork, she would give me all the assignments, and she would help me out with whatever I needed help with. It was smooth sailing.”

For now, Joshua is relishing the opportunity to be back in school and looks forward to continued success – his army of support at his side. 

“I felt really good to be back here with my friends at school, just here in the school environment,” he says. “For the future, I plan to be here with my friends, have fun, enjoy the rest of the school year, and see what happens, like, in the rest of my life… What I will achieve.”