Four times a year, youth in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area are recognized for heroic acts, charitable assistance, or exemplary behavior as part of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s “Do The Right Thing” program.
Nine students, ranging from elementary to high school, received the “Do The Right Thing” award Oct. 23 in Bank of America Stadium. Students are nominated by teachers, firefighters, police officers and the public. This fall’s winners were selected from about 300 nominations, said Captain Robert Brisley with the Charlotte Fire Department.
CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe, Charlotte Fire Chief Jon Hannan and representatives from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools helped present awards, and several Panthers players and cheerleaders, along with three mascots, joined the celebration. One student chose to remain anonymous.
“This is an opportunity for us to say to our young people, ‘Thank you,’ ” Monroe said at the event. “Young people are some of the most powerful ... forthcoming people we have in our communities.”
Alex Wille4th grade, Elon Park Elementary
Alex Wille climbs trees, invents games and plays with friends most weekends.
Several of Alex’s friends were playing at his house Aug. 25 when they decided to make a homemade zipline, from a tree to a trampoline.
Jake Amendola volunteered to test the contraption first. Soon after Jake started along the zipline, Alex says, a branch snapped. Jake fell and landed on a wrought-iron fence. One of the fence’s sharp posts lodged deep into the back of his thigh, tearing his muscle.
Jake, bleeding heavily, couldn’t get off the fence. Several of his friends, scared, ran away. Alex stayed and managed to hoist Jake off of the chest-high post. Then, Alex, who weighs 62 pounds, carried Jake – who said he weighs about 92 – to Alex’s parents for help.
Jake was taken by ambulance to Carolinas MC Children’s hospital where he underwent surgery. During the ambulance ride, Jake told the medic what Alex had done. “I was scared,” Jake said. “If I would have been left there, I would have bled to death.”
After Jake’s surgery, Alex called to wish him well and visited him in the hospital.
“I think when you’re scared, you have more strength,” Alex said. “I just had to do what I had to do.”
Amari Upshaw 9th grade, Mallard Creek High
Amari said she noticed students bullying and teasing a friend.
The friend confided in her and mentioned contemplating suicide because of the harassment. Amari asked her mother for advice, then told her guidance counselor. The counselor alerted the student’s parents so the student could receive help.
“I feel very grateful for receiving this award. ... But going to my counselor was not a hard thing to do,” Amari said. “It’s very important to do the best thing.”
Amari’s mother, Tiffany Austin, said she is proud of her daughter because her actions may have saved her friend’s life.
“We’re just so proud of her for being so courageous,” Austin said. “Continue to do what’s right. You’ll feel it in your gut.”
Andrew Walker12th grade, Olympic High: Math, Engineering, Technology & Science
Near the end of a September school day, two vehicles crashed in front of Olympic High. There were no injuries, but a lot of property damage. The two drivers were telling police very different versions of how the wreck occurred.
Most students who saw the crash drove away, student Andrew Walker said.
While investigating, the Olympic High student resource officer noticed Andrew parked on the roadside. The officer asked Andrew if he had been involved in the accident.
Andrew said he wasn’t involved in the accident, but he wanted to make sure everyone was OK. He had seen the accident and said he did not want to leave without telling police what he saw.
He gave a detailed account, noting one driver had been on a cellphone at the time, which helped the officer reconstruct the scene.
Andrew said he hopes to become a firefighter and now serves as a volunteer firefighter, lifeguard at a local pool and swim coach and is working toward an Eagle Scout rank.
“It happened right in front of me,” Andrew said. “I wanted to make sure everybody was OK.”
Ashleigh Grandfield8th grade, Northeast Middle
Ashleigh Grandfield decided to choose honesty as her policy.
She found a $100 bill in a school hallway. Her first reaction: Take the lost money to the school’s front office right away.
Ashleigh said she assumed someone brought in the large bill to pay for fees or sports registration and had lost it. A school secretary took the bill and gave it to the school’s student resource officer, T.M. Kiser.
“It makes us so proud of her,” said Christine Grandfield, Ashleigh’s mother. “We hope she remembers her actions always have consequences.”
“This is only the second time in six years someone has turned in money. Especially cash,” Kiser said. “(Ashleigh’s) character sets her apart from other students.”
Jillian Morgan4th grade, Sharon Elementary
For a summer project, Jillian Morgan decided she wanted to aid children overseas.
That’s when she found The Lunch Project, a nonprofit started by three Charlotte moms, aimed at providing long-term financial support to Tanzanian mothers. The aid enables mothers to cook and serve nutritional meals to school children in Tanzanian primary schools.
To come up with fundraising ideas, Jillian said she brainstormed with her family. That’s when she came up with the idea of a kid version of the Olympics.
At the games, Jillian divided 24 participants into three teams, each representing African countries. During the challenges, contestants competed in events such as soccer, basketball and running races.
Through the event, Jillian raised $706, which supplied about 12 days worth of meals for a school of 950 students in Tanzania.
“Some people don’t have as much as us, and I wanted to help,” Jillian said.
Jonathan Traverso9th grade, Ardrey Kell High
Two days a week after school, Jonathan Traverso cares for his young sister, Isabella Traverso.
It is his responsibility to watch over his sister for about three hours on those days while his mother is at work.
On April 20, Jonathan said, he heard loud noises coming from outside his family’s townhome and saw strange shadows dancing on the windows.
When he opened the back door to investigate, Jonathan recalls, smoke and intense heat billowed out. His neighbor’s townhome was on fire.
Jonathan said he quickly closed the back door and found his sister. The two escaped through the front door, and Jonathan called 911.
The fire spread rapidly and ultimately displaced the Traverso family, but no injuries were reported. Jonathan’s mother, Katrina Traverso, credits her children’s safety that day to her son’s quick thinking.
“My mom always told us to have a safe meeting place if there was a fire,” Jonathan said.
Joy Smith12th grade, Hopewell High
Joy Smith said her iPhone was stolen recently “so I know how it feels to lose something.”
So when she found a wallet with more than $180 in cash and a credit card in a restroom at school, she decided to turn it in immediately to the office.
“If you do the wrong thing, it could become a habit,” Joy said. After high school, she said, she hopes to study criminal law at High Point University.
Michael Martin11th grade, Providence High
While hosting a bowling-and-lunch event for the Autism Society of North Carolina, Michael found a bag a customer had left behind in the restaurant. He waited an hour, but no one returned looking for it.
He said the place was busy, and he didn’t want to leave the bag there, so he took it with him.
When Michael got home that night, he went through it, looking for identification. He found a Mac laptop, cash, keys, a passport, job identification badges, paperwork – and a phone number. He called and left a message when there was no answer. He also tried to reach the owner through Facebook.
Finally, he called the restaurant to see if someone had come looking. Someone had and had filled out a police report. So Michael called the Matthews Police Department to tell them he had the bag.
Michael said his family could have used the contents; their finances were tight.
“Doing the right thing means people will look up to you and look to you for guidance,” he said.
The owner of the bag thanked Michael, through Facebook.