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Lakewood Ranch Prep staff member remembered for his kindness

Students and staff will miss Carlos Paez's ability to make them laugh every day.

Carlos Paez, the director of before- and after-school care at Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy, always wanted to teach his students kindness and hoped they would pay it forward.
Carlos Paez, the director of before- and after-school care at Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy, always wanted to teach his students kindness and hoped they would pay it forward.
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Carlos Paez would do anything he could to put a smile on the face of those around him, especially his mother, Alicia Salas. 

Every school day at 5:30 a.m. when Salas drove them to Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy where they both worked, she said he would crack jokes to start her day. 

They were rarely good jokes, Salas said. 

One day as Salas was starting to make dinner, Paez put on music and performed a dance he created on the spot, just to make her smile.

The smiles and laughter didn’t stop there. 

The director of the charter school’s before- and after-school care, it was his goofiness and kindness that Salas, students and staff will miss most about Paez, who was epileptic and died Feb. 14 from a seizure at 32 years old. 

Cheryl Cendan, the principal of Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy’s upper school, has known Paez and Salas for 18 years. She said it’ll take time to adjust to not seeing the two walking down the halls together. 

Salas, who is a science teacher at Lakewood Ranch Preparatory, said she and Paez moved to Bradenton to help open the charter school in 2021. She wanted to work with Cendan once again but only if there also was a position for Paez as well. 

“We’re always a package of two,” Salas said. 

Paez’s epilepsy didn’t allow him to drive, so although he was responsible for before- and after-care, he remained at the school all day. During the day, he helped anywhere that was needed. 

Cendan said she would give him tasks to accomplish, and no matter how menial, he would do them. 

“Whoever he encountered, he tried to make their jobs and lives easier,” she said. 

In the week before his death, Paez was helping the physical education teachers. He spent the day doing cartwheels with students and playing soccer. 

After being at the school for 12 hours, sometimes Salas admitted that she just wanted to go home. 

But if there was a school or community event, Paez always wanted to stay. 

He thought the community and school events were opportunities to make connections and build relationships with students, staff and parents, Salas said. 

Cendan said Paez saw a student crying in the cafeteria one day. It wasn’t long before the tears turned to laughter as Paez talked to the student and was being silly with food. 

“He just took the time to figure out what was wrong and then made him comfortable, before walking him back to class,” she said. 

Cendan described Paez as a “happy go lucky” person who always wanted to make sure students had whatever they needed to make themselves comfortable. 

Salas and Cendan said the students always were at the forefront of his mind. 

Cendan said if he saw something a specific student would like, he would keep it to give it to them whether it was stickers or a snack. 

Salas said they took weekly trips to Costco to get snacks for students. He used his own money to purchase books and games so children could be entertained before or after school. 

He spent time in before- and after-school care teaching students how to play chess or teaching students etiquette. He also helped students with their homework. 

Cendan said Paez’s red boombox will remain in the multipurpose room of the lower school. He often would put on music to energize students and give them a chance to dance. 

He found a craft to do for almost every holiday including kindness rocks for Thanksgiving, ornaments for Christmas and flower pots for Mother’s Day. Salas said he already purchased the craft for students to do on St. Patrick’s Day. 

“He would give every cell of his body for those kids,” Salas said. “Every time he felt happy for the kids, I felt 1,000 times happier because all I wanted was for him to be happy.”

He focused on teaching the students kindness, especially because he was bullied as a student, Salas said. He wanted to make sure all the students he interacted with knew to be kind to others. 

“It doesn’t take much to be kind,” Salas said. “It only takes a good heart to be kind.”

Services were held Feb. 21 at Robert Toale & Sons Celebration of Life Center. Leave a memory on  



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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