Recent grads who died in Peru remembered for expansion of toy donation program

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Two Bradenton high school graduates, who died in an accident in Peru Friday, are being remembered for their budding genius.

Albert Ales and Zachary Morris died just hours after arriving for a post-graduation trip.

They were standouts at Southeast High School's engineering programs, even expanding an existing program that makes wooden toy cars and gives them out in the community.

"It was about getting something that they could give back that made the world better," said teacher Richard Platt.

For years, Platt has been helping students learn to make the toy cars from 2x4s, but it was Morris and Ales who saw the potential for mass production.

"If you felt strong about something you are going to fight to make sure your belief, theory, or premise is going to work," said Platt. "They were no different."

Their idea was to equip the 101st Airborne with hundreds of toy cars to give to village kids in Afghanistan.

"It was about, 'How can we change the lives of a child?'" Platt said of the students' thinking.

Last year, the Florida Holocaust Museum honored them for the idea and for building new machines to crank them out faster.

Even a VP at Google wrote a check to pay for a teaching assistant so they could get more done.

"That is the kind of stuff that they did," said Platt. "They pushed the envelope."

Morris was enrolled at Yale and in the Navy ROTC, and Albert at the University of Central Florida to get a degree in mechanical engineering.

Their energy led the 18-year-olds to Peru after they graduated May 18. But only three hours into their trip, they were on motorbikes when they collided with a bus.

With senior year and graduation not far behind them, former classmates say the loss cannot be measured.

"Both of them are the reason I molded into the person I am today," said friend Anthony Sevarino.

The cars they molded haven't yet made it to Afghanistan, but they are being given out to local foster kids, nursery schoolers, and senior citizen groups.

"That is the thing that was so important about what they did," said Platt. "This vision is something that will live past them."

The toy car program was already going to continue next year, but it is going to have added meaning for the students who are following Ales and Morris' lead.