Students collect more than 800 pledges to ‘Spread the word to end the word’

Rio Rancho, N.M. (KRQE) – Students at one Rio Rancho school went above what they were asked to do when it came to asking their peers to pledge to no longer use the ‘R-word.’

They want others to know the word “retarded” can be offensive.

Students at Cleveland High School got 800 students and faculty, in one day, to promise they would kick the word from their vocabulary.

It was an understanding among friends and peers at the school.

“We weren’t just going up to people and asking them to sign a piece of paper,” Ben Richter said. “We were explaining why we wanted them to pledge and why we’re pushing to ‘spread the word to end the word.’”

Richter is just one of nearly 60 students who are participate in the school’s Best Buddies program. It pairs teens with students who live with a disability. But according to special education teacher, Ben Vigil, the program is much more than a mentor project.

“It’s so refreshing to see,” Vigil said. “You saw it for yourself, they’re friends. That’s how all of us should see them; as friends.”

The program is intended to have teens pass along life and social skills; skills these students will use even after they graduate. Vigil said students have dedicated so much time to the program that it has become personal for them.

“I guess I get spoiled and I’m used to it now, they’re just great with them,” Vigil said. “That’s why we want to make sure we’re spreading the message.”

Vigil said his students are leading the way and feels his program is one other schools can take ideas from.

Around 25 students set out to collect pledges last week and within one day they collected 800 signatures. Next year students want to take their campaign outside of the school and into their neighborhoods. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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