|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||OJP||THURSDAY, APRIL 27, 2000||202/307-0703|
ATTORNEY GENERAL PRESENTS TEN YOUNG PEOPLE WITH AWARDS
FOR BRAVERY AND SERVICE
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Ten young people today received the Young American Medal for Bravery and Service from Attorney General Janet Reno. Reno presented the awards at a Justice Department ceremony. One of the awards was accepted by the parents and brother of a young man who received a posthumous award.
Reno also presented a certificate of commendation to William Thomas Gibbs, whose act of bravery in 1948 inspired then-Congressman Frank Chelf to introduce legislation that created the Young American Medals Program. When he was nine, Mr. Gibbs saved his 5-year-old playmate from being hit by a freight train.
"Many of us are often too busy to take the time to get involved, stick our necks out, or go the extra mile to help one another," said Reno. "These young people have shown us how it's done. They, and the things they have achieved, are an inspiration to us all."
The 1996 Young American Medal for Bravery was awarded to:
-Betty Ruth Hood of Wichita, Kansas. On May 17, 1996, Betty, then 10, risked her life to rescue her siblings from their burning apartment.
The 1995 Young American Medal for Bravery was awarded to:
-Lawrence Champagne III of St. Louis, Missouri. On October 3, 1995, Lawrence, then 10, saved the lives of 20 fellow students when he took control of his school bus when the bus driver suffered a stroke.
-Alexander Wayne Wickenkamp of Oskaloosa, Iowa. In September 1995, Alexander, then 10, rescued his family after an explosion in their home.
The 1994 Young American Medal for Bravery was awarded to:
-Alvin Lee Chapman, of Fort Bridger, Wyoming. During 1994, Alvin, then 14, saved his brother, Adam, from an attacking mother otter.
-Gordon Robert Rudd of Central Square, New York. On April 15, 1994, Gordon, then 12, rescued 4-year-old Kevin Reynolds from a frigid, flood-swollen creek.
The 1996 Young American Medal for Service was presented to:
-Dwight Merrill Alden II of Vienna, Missouri. In 1996, Dwight, then 18, established the Phelps County CareWorks organization, a not-for-profit service organization run solely by youth.
-Shivon Ponice Kershaw of Woodbridge, Virginia. During 1996, Shivon, then 15, organized teenagers to collect, package, and ship relief packages to orphanages and hospitals in Rwanda, in Florida and in other parts of the United States.
The 1995 Young American Medal for Service was awarded posthumously to:
-Domenick Paul Surratt of Cape Coral, Florida. During 1995, Domenick, then 16, touched the lives of many young people through his coaching and tutoring activities. Just short of his nineteenth birthday, Domenick died while he was playing basketball.
The 1994 Young American Medal for Service was awarded to:
-Naba Ayesha Sharif of Wappingers Falls, New York. During 1994, Naba, then 14, worked to alleviate the suffering of victims of war atrocities in Bosnia.
-Adalgiza Alexandra Nunez of Paterson, New Jersey. During 1994, Adalgiza, then 15, served her community through a variety of activities, including working with senior citizens, children, and the needy.
"Some of us give of ourselves, as our service medal winners have done, because we believe that one person can make a difference," said Reno. "These wonderful young people have shown us that one person can truly make a difference."
The Young American Medals Program was established by Congress in 1950 and recognizes young people for acts of bravery and public service. Congress directed the Justice Department to select the medal recipients and administer the program.
Recipients must be younger than 19 years old at the time of their acts of bravery or service. Nominations are submitted to the Justice Department by governors, or in the case of the U.S. territories or the District of Columbia, by the appropriate chief executives.
Louis Freeh, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, chairs the Young American Medals Committee, which selects the medal winners. Other members of the Committee include Mary Lou Leary, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs, who serves as Executive Secretary of the Committee; Donnie Marshall, Acting Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration; and John Marshall, Director, U.S. Marshals Service.
Fort Bridger, WY
Son of Pamala L. and Calvin R. Chapman
On July 17, 1994, 14-year-old Alvin Chapman, his 9-year-old brother Adam, and Alvin's friend Ned Patrick were fishing and exploring along the Green River just below LaBarge, Wyoming. As the older boys fished, 9-year-old Adam waded downstream and spotted a family of otters floating down the river. Adam began to follow the otters downstream. Noticing that Adam was wandering away from them, the older boys called for him to return.
Adam began making his way back to the older boys, but stopped to look into the otters' den. As he was looking at the den, the high bank on which he was standing crumbled beneath his feet and Adam fell into the water. While he was trying to get out of the water and back up the bank, the mother otter attacked him, biting his legs and lower body. Each time Adam tried to escape, the mother otter pulled him back into the water. She jumped onto his back and began biting him on the skull and side of the head. Alvin and Ned heard Adam's cries for help and rushed into the stream to help him.
As Alvin approached, he picked up a rock to throw at the otter, but held back until he got closer so that he would not hit his brother. The otter stood up on Adam's back, spooked by Alvin's approach, and dove into the water. Alvin tried to lift his brother up the 3-foot perpendicular dirt embankment, but was unable to do so. Then Ned arrived and the boys decided to wade the river through about 3 feet of fast water to the opposite shore. As Alvin carried the unconscious Adam across the water to safety, both older boys were repeatedly attacked and bitten by the mother otter.
When the boys finally reached shore, Alvin quickly checked to make sure that his brother was breathing. Alvin then ran back to his grandparents' house for help, while Ned stayed with Adam, who was in shock due to blood loss from his bite wounds. Adam was rushed to the hospital, where he required over 100 stitches.
Gordon Robert Rudd
Central Square, NY
Son of Wendy A. and Gordon P. Rudd
On the afternoon of April 15, 1994, 12-year-old Gordon Rudd and several friends were playing by a creek behind the Deer Run Mobile Home Park, in Hastings, New York. Four-year-old Kevin Reynolds--who is hearing, vision, and speech impaired--followed the older boys to the creek despite repeated warnings from the boys not to follow them.
As the older boys played along the bank, Kevin tried to cross the creek on a fallen log. He slipped and fell into the rushing water, which was cold, higher than normal, and moving rapidly due to recent spring floods.
The other boys watched helplessly as Kevin was swept downstream, but Gordon quickly took action. Gordon ran up the stream bank and tried to grab Kevin as he passed by, but was unable to reach him. Gordon then ran further downstream, waded into the frigid water, and grabbed hold of an overhanging branch to keep from being swept into the water. As Kevin came by, Gordon reached out and pulled him out of the water. After rescuing Kevin from the creek, Gordon examined him to ensure he was unharmed and then escorted him home.
Lawrence Champagne III
St. Louis, MO
Son of Dawn-Marie Little
On the morning of October 3, 1995, 10-year-old Lawrence (Larry) Champagne III and about 20 fellow students were riding the Mayflower bus to Bellerive School in St. Louis, Missouri. But as the bus moved along busy U.S. Highway 40, it suddenly started to swerve out of control as the driver lost consciousness and slid from her seat. Larry--a fifth-grader--rushed forward, grabbed the steering wheel, and applied the brake. Larry knew what to do because his grandfather had given him driving tips and the bus driver had instructed the children in emergency procedures. Before Larry got the bus under control, it hit two guardrails and was hit by a pickup truck, causing minor injuries to five students.
When the bus finally came to a stop, Larry and three other students aided the fallen driver and opened the emergency exits so the terrified children could leave quickly. A passerby stopped, and emergency personnel were called to the scene. Larry was credited for his quick action and courage in saving the lives of his fellow students, including his brother, when the bus driver apparently suffered a stroke.
Alexander Wayne Wickenkamp
Son of Tammra S. and Wayne L. Wickenkamp
On September 22, 1995, around 6:00 a.m., 10-year old Alexander (Alex) was jolted out of bed by an explosion in his home. Alex's father, Wayne, had already left for work and the rest of the family was asleep when a liquid propane gas leak in the garage caused the house to explode and burst into flames.
Rocked out of bed by the explosion, Alex went directly to his sister's room, which was located in the opposite corner of the basement. Thirteen-year-old Jessica was in shock, and Alex had trouble getting her to move. Alex pushed Jessica up the steps to the main floor. Then Alex went to 4-year-old Evan's room, which was the closest to the explosion. Alex saw that his brother was on fire. As Alex ran toward his brother's room to help him, he yelled at Evan to get out of the house and pulled Evan from his burning room.
Alex's mother Tami had been trapped in her room, unable to move, with part of the headboard and other debris from the explosion covering her. But, when she heard Alex and Evan, she was able to push the headboard up and get out. She later said that hearing Alex's voice gave her the strength to lift off the debris.
As the children made their way up the stairs, the furnace and/or water heater in the basement exploded, causing fire to race up the front stairway and making their escape out the front door impossible. Alex led his mother and siblings into the kitchen and out the back of the house where a wall had once stood. They jumped down into the yard and ran around the house to safety. When Tami turned to find the children, she saw Jessica and Evan, but did not see Alex. As Tami frantically searched for Alex and called his name, he appeared across the street in the neighbor's backyard--the exact spot the family had designated as their meeting place in the event of a fire. Miraculously, Evan was the only one injured. He received second and third-degree burns over 30 percent of his body.
Betty Ruth Hood
Daughter of Sonya S. Christensen
Around 1:30 a.m. the morning of May 17, 1996, 10-year-old Betty Hood awoke to find that the foot of her bed was in flames. At the time of the fire, there were 6 occupants in the 3-bedroom apartment: Betty, her two younger brothers, her one-year-old sister, her mother, and her mother's friend.
Betty ran into the hallway and yelled to wake her mother. Then she returned to her bedroom, rescued her sister Hallie from her crib, and carried her down the stairs to safety. Disregarding her own safety, Betty then returned to the burning room and rescued her two-year-old brother James. Both children were burned by the spreading flames. Betty also tried to get six-year-old Clifford to leave with her, but he was too afraid. She took James down the stairs and returned a third time to rescue Clifford, only to find that he was trapped behind the growing wall of flames. Betty was unable to rescue him, and he perished in the fire.
After Sedgewick County firefighters extinguished the blaze in the apartment, they found Clifford huddled in a corner of his sister's bedroom where he often went for comfort when he woke up in the night. Firefighters later determined that the fire was caused by a Barney lamp that Clifford carried into his sister's bedroom when he decided to sleep there. Clifford put the Barney lamp on the floor, but left it too close to the sheets and blankets, which eventually caught fire. Sedgewick County firefighters who responded to the scene credit Betty's heroic actions in preventing more fatalities in the intense blaze.
Adalgiza Alexandra Nunez
Daughter of Ana Nunez
During 1994, Adalgiza Nunez participated in a variety of volunteer activities. As a member of the National Honor Society, she worked with the disabled at the Kessler Institute, visited senior citizens, and tutored children. She worked with the Interact Club to collect food, clothing, and toys for the needy and helped raise funds for scholarships by participating in the Paterson Culinary Arts Festival. As a result of her outstanding service through the Interact Club, Adalgiza received The Rotary Club's Youth Leadership Award. Adalgiza also participated in Clean-Up Paterson Day with the Student Government Association and served as secretary of Los Hijos de Quisqueya, a dance group that exposes children to Hispanic music and culture.
In addition, Adalgiza participated in the Prudential Youth Leadership Institute, where she received training on how to organize community service projects. Adalgiza used the training to organize a mini-Special Olympics for 70 foster children. In recognition of her outstanding leadership, Adalgiza received the Katharine Gibbs School Leadership Award.
Naba Ayesha Sharif
Daughter of Rizwana and Azmat U. Sharif
During 1994, Naba Sharif worked to alleviate the suffering of victims of war atrocities in Bosnia. She wrote letters to her local newspapers and congressman and set up letter-writing days in her youth group. She attended demonstrations against ethnic cleansing locally and in Washington, D.C.
As Bosnians continued to suffer, Naba organized and led a community-wide winter clothes drive for war victims. Naba handled the publicity for the drive by hanging posters throughout her school district and at local supermarkets and malls, and by sending announcements to local radio stations. The drive collected two truckloads of clothes to send to Bosnia--about 1,300 articles of clothing. Naba then took the lead in gathering, transporting, organizing, folding, and shipping the clothes, which took approximately 20 hours a week for 5 months.
In addition to the clothing drive, during 1994 Naba also volunteered at a local nursing home, a veterans' hospital, the county Girl Scout Council, her school as a tutor, peer leader, and counselor, and at a local recycling center. She also participated in the American Diabetes Association Walkfest to raise money for the fight against diabetes and served as vice president of her school's chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving.
Naba was chosen to attend the Hugh O'Brian Youth Foundation Leadership Seminar for eastern New York. The selection is limited to high school sophomores who exhibit leadership, sensitivity, and concern for others, as well as a desire to learn and share their knowledge.
Domenick Paul Surratt (Posthumous Award)
Cape Coral, FL
Son of Teresita A. and Rick H. Surratt
During 1995, while attending school and holding a part-time job, Domenick Surratt spent countless hours working to make a difference in his community through his volunteer activities with young children. He worked with children between the ages of 7 and 9, coaching youth basketball and flag football teams and tutoring students in math as a counselor at Christian Youth Camp in Kearney, Nebraska. Domenick often would drive a hundred miles to tutor or counsel a student. To enable players to see their progress at the end of basketball season, Domenick recruited a team of statisticians to keep track of the team's efforts.
In recognition of his outstanding community service and the example he set for young people, Domenick received the "Do The Right Thing Award" from the Cape Coral, Florida, Police Department. "Do the Right Thing" is a Cape Coral Police Department program designed to reward young people in the community who are good citizens or good role models.
Domenick's life's goal was to become a math teacher and a coach. Unfortunately, just weeks short of his nineteenth birthday, Domenick died while playing basketball.
Dwight Merrill Alden II
Vienna, MO 65582
Son of Karen S. and William M. Alden
When Dwight "Duke" Merrill Alden II was asked what he was going to do during his summer vacation, he decided he wanted to do more than hang around the house. He wanted to do something meaningful for the community. So during the summer of 1996, Duke established CareWorks, a not-for-profit service organization that is run solely by youth. The purpose of the organization is to help as many people in the Phelps County area as possible through youth service. Within a few months, from June 1996 through August 1996, CareWorks performed over 60 individual acts of service for the citizens of Phelps County, such as mowing lawns for elderly citizens, providing transportation, writing cards and letters to the sick, and helping other organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
Duke also directed several CareWorks projects in conjunction with FOCUS--Phelps County's Family Oriented Counseling Service, helped raise over $700 to enable the Phelps County Habitat for Humanity build its first house, aided the Meremac Hospice (an organization whose goal is to ease the suffering of terminally ill individuals), and organized volunteers to assist with a Walk for the Hungry.
Duke was recognized for his outstanding community service through a Special Recognition Resolution from the Missouri House of Representatives. Duke also has received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, the National Association of Secondary School Principal's Award, and the Missouri Bar Association Award for Outstanding Citizenship.
Shivon Ponice Kershaw
Daughter of Evelyn Kershaw and Montsho Oluwa
During 1996, Shivon Kershaw participated in a variety of volunteer activities, working with both children and adults. She organized a group of teens to package shoes at the Christian Relief Center in Springfield, Virginia, to be shipped to orphanages and hospitals in Rwanda, in Florida, and in other parts of the United States. She arranged to borrow the church bus, secured a licensed bus driver, and contacted all the teenagers who participated.
Shivon was also very active in her church, volunteering for dozens of service projects in her church. This included assisting in the kitchen and with the nursery on Sunday mornings.
In addition, Shivon has used her excellent oratorical skills to speak out against violence and to urge fellow teens to solve problems nonviolently. She has spoken to several thousands of teens in over three dozen engagements as part of the "Stop the Violence, Turn Up the Success" Program and the "Teens and the Law" Seminar. Through these speaking engagements, she encouraged teens to strive for success and integrity. Shivon's public speaking earned her placement in over nine oratorical contests from the local level to national level. She also was invited to speak at the White House and met with Virginia Governor George Allen in February 1996.
Shivon received the 1996 Dale City Civic Association Youth Citizen of the Year Award for her services in many church and civic associations in Prince William County. She also received the 1996 NAACP Civic and Community Award from the Prince William County Chapter of the NAACP.
After hours contact: Linda Mansour on 202/616-3534