SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Leonardo Aguilar may only be in the second grade, but he’s already learning about the highs and lows of social media.
Last week, a photo tweeted out of Aguilar joining a nearby high school’s gun violence rally went viral. The tweet was seen by more than 3.5 million people and re-tweeted more than 18,000 times.
In a matter of hours, Aguilar had become one of the more recognizable faces of the nationwide student walkout.
“It’s pretty cool for a little kid to go viral,” he told KPIX 5.
Many praised him, called him a hero. But others trolled the youngster, calling him names.
“It was crazy,” said his mother, Jennifer Flores. “When I got home, (I signed up for twitter) and then I saw everything. It was insane. I couldn’t believe it.”
Flores said she “ignored” the social media attacks, but did answer some of the criticism while talking with KPIX 5.
“People out there saying that we’re liberals, we’re not liberals,” Flores said. “Saying that we coached him. We didn’t. He dragged me out there.”
She said she went to the school and signed her son out of class.
“I didn’t just want him to walk out on his own and get in trouble because of course, he would get in trouble,” Flores said.
Little Leonardo says he’s learned — “it’s hard to be a celebrity.”
Flores said it was awkward when the walkout — timed to be coordinated with demonstrations at schools across the country — first started. She stood with Leonardo outside Trace Elementary, but “nobody came out at all.”
She saw that students at nearby Lincoln High were walking out so she and Leonardo walked over there.
While the older kids made speeches and cheered, Leo stood there holding his homemade sign. But being an activist isn’t new for the second grader.
“What most people don’t know that Leonardo didn’t just wake up on Wednesday and decide to become active in his community,” Flores said. “In fact, he’s been doing it for years showing courage, intelligence and compassion.”
Leonardo is the youngest board member of a group called ‘The Spirit Of ’45’ — which honors World War II vets. On Veteran’s Day, he dresses up in military uniforms and rides in San Jose’s parade holding portraits of fallen American war heroes.
“They fought and sacrificed their lives for us,” Leonardo said. “And they helped us.”
Leonardo says in the future he wants to be either a journalist or a politician. He likely do well as both.