When Ardrey Kell senior David Diberardino heard a scream and found a student bleeding in the hallway, he calmly pulled a shirt from his bag and applied pressure.
When First Ward second-grader Jaquavian Abraham spotted a wad of cash lying on the floor, he didn't even think about pocketing it. “I wanted to be a good citizen,” says 7-year-old Jaquavian, who brought the money to his teacher.
Acts of character don't show up on test scores, but Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials think they're worth celebrating. Tuesday night, the district honored 12 students – chosen from more than 400 nominations – in the first of three “Do the Right Thing” ceremonies slated for this school year.
There were young people who remain upbeat about education despite serious illnesses that hit them or their families. There were students who give their time and energy to disabled classmates.
And there were students who might not draw attention until they're put to the kind of test real life brings.
Diberardino enlisted in the National Guard when he turned 17 and spent last summer in basic training. He says that's why he stayed calm when he heard a scream as he left a weight-lifting class in September.
He saw blood pouring from a gash on the lower leg of a female student. She'd been holding the door open for someone who was bringing volleyball nets into the gym, he said, when a pole fell and cut her.
Diberardino noted the bright red blood: That meant she'd cut an artery. Her life was in danger.
He checked the circulation in her foot, propped up her leg and stanched the bleeding. All the while, he talked to keep her from going into shock.
When adults and EMTs arrived, Diberardino made the handoff and went to his next class.
“Everybody else was in a frenzy. There was lots of blood,” recalls Catherine Goodrich, Ardrey Kell High School's testing specialist, who got to the scene after Diberardino had begun first aid. She nominated him for recognition.
Diberardino, an ardent JROTC student, will do another seven weeks of military training between graduation and college. He doesn't have much to say about his skill under pressure, other than hoping it serves as an example for other students.
Jaquavian's test wasn't life-and-death, but it probably felt that way for a classmate whose money for the October book fair fell out of her coat pocket.
Teacher Libby Young was at the front of a line of students returning from music class. Jaquavian was at the back, where she couldn't see him – or the crumpled bills he spotted on the floor.
“He handed me this big old wad of money and said, ‘Here, I found this on the floor,'” says Young. She estimates there were 10 or 15 ones, a fortune to a youngster.
Back in class, Young tried to figure out who lost the money. She was coming up dry, until a girl who had been temporarily pulled away from class walked in, groping at her pockets.
“Her face just about told the story,” Young recalls. She was frantic, saying her father had given her money to buy books.
“It's a very simple thing,” Young says, “but it could have ended very differently.”