Boy Wonder

Freshman, Phoenix Military Academy

Rony Monzon

Among the reports of hundreds of shootings that dominated the news over the summer, one uplifting tale emerged about an act of spontaneous bravery that inspired people around the world. Its hero was Rony Monzon, a 13-year-old from the Brighton Park neighborhood.

A few minutes after 9 p.m. on July 11, Rony and 14-year-old Daneysi Valdovinos, his downstairs neighbor, were eating pizza on their front porch. A gang member came up the grassy walkway alongside the house, intent on targets across the street. Startled by the two kids, he pointed his 9 mm handgun at Daneysi. “It was unexpected,” Rony says. “When he shot, I just reacted. I jumped up and got in the middle. And I never felt anything.” Daneysi was unharmed, but Rony was hit three times. Each bullet entered and, miraculously, exited his body. Today he’s fully recovered from the shooting.

A freshman at Phoenix Military Academy on the Near West Side, Rony is too modest to brag, but Daneysi insists he saved her life. His parents, who came from Guatemala, wanted to move from the neighborhood, but Rony convinced them to stay. “Thank God he’s alive and happy,” says his mother, Diana. “It’s like he is starting all over again. That day I was praying for his life—and now we’re celebrating it.”



Photograph: Taylor Castle