Selfless Seniors: Unsung heroes in Albuquerque high schools

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A high school teen spends much of her free time helping others. She’s created a special bond with some of her elderly neighbors.

Now, 17-year-old Xena Gurule, a senior at Del Norte High, is getting recognized by Albuquerque Public Schools as a ‘Selfless Senior,’ for her work in the community.

Her whole life, Gurule has lent a helping hand. But for her, it’s a labor of love.

“It’s something that not everyone can experience, so I feel like it’s special to me,” Gurule told KRQE News 13.

While most high school seniors are out with friends, Gurule spends time after school cleaning neighbors’ houses.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Catherine Blanchfield smiled. Blanchfield, 94, lives alone since her husband died in 2004.

She looks forward to Gurule’s visits, something the teen has been doing for years. “I’ve outlived all my friends, and she’s my friend, she’s my best friend now,” Blanchfield told KRQE News 13.

The 17-year-old is an old soul, and grew up helping her grandmother who has Polio.

Gurule met Blanchfield years ago through another neighbor, and mutual friend, Eunice. Gurule helped Eunice for about five years, until she lost her battle to cancer a couple years ago.

“She helped me out and I helped her out,” said Gurule, with tears in her eyes. She said she still misses Eunice.

The teen’s tears are a testament to the unique friendships she’s built.

“She’s a good kid,” said Blanchfield, of Gurule. “She vacuums and dusts, cleans the kitchen, and when I had my little dog, she took him for a walk and he loved her.”

Now, Gurule’s good deeds are being recognized by Albuquerque Public Schools. She was nominated and named one of 29 ‘Selfless Seniors’ across APS for their generosity of spirit.

“It kind of makes people strive to do better, and try to not just stay inside one little bubble that is high school,” said Gurule.

She said her friends call her ‘Cinderella,’ since she’s always cleaning.

But, dusting off antiques, and swapping stories with her neighbors, are moments the high school senior cherishes.

“Everything in her house has special meaning to her, so like me cleaning it, is kind of like an honor,” Gurule told News 13, about cleaning Blanchfield’s house.

She has a message for other students:

“You’re not alone in this world, so if you help others, they’ll eventually help you back, in more ways than one.”

Blanchfield said her favorite part about their visits is hearing about Gurule’s progress in school. The teen is also an artist, involved in several extracurricular activities.

Gurule recently got accepted into UNM. After she graduates from Del Norte High next spring, Gurule plans to study geology and art.

Her neighbor agrees the teen has a “really bright” future, and hopes to continue their visits when Gurule attends college.

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