The Pratt community is blessed to have wonderful, caring, sharing people, said Sandy Foster, Liberty Middle School English teacher. Her eighth graders nominated more than 50 “everyday heroes,” interviewed others about them, wrote essays, and honored 10 finalists at an assembly Thursday morning, National Pay It Forward Day.
They’re not the people who are in the news because they’re professional athletes, famous musicians or movie stars. They’re not saving the world or curing diseases. They are, Foster said, people who live their lives with integrity, striving to make others’ lives easier and seeking no accolades for themselves.
The students began the eight-week project by reading stories about everyday heroes. Most knew someone locally who fit the definition; if they didn’t they could select from a long list of Pratt people suggested to Foster by members of the community. Students were asked to interview at least three people and compile information to support at least three virtues the person exhibits, and write an essay. Foster’s honors English students selected the 10 finalists and organized the assembly.
Honorees were recognized with a certificate, Chamber bucks, and a Pay it Forward bracelet.
The students used words like optimistic, encouraging, reliable, selfless, committed and inspirational to describe honorees.
As school counselor, it’s Pam Kilgariff’s job to listen to students and provide guidance. She doesn’t have to keep up with them and continue encouraging them once they leave middle school. She doesn’t have to make sure some of them have a Christmas. Going to court in support of students may not be in her job description, but she’s there if necessary.
Everyday heroes are busy people — they don’t do what they do because they have time on their hands.
Denise Humble is a building aide at Southwest Elementary School. On the playground, her job is to supervise — she doesn’t have to get involved in the games, but the students like that she does. She wears many hats at the school and in her church. She is also an owner of Humble Pie restaurant.
Emmanuel Adigun, a paraprofessional and physical education teacher at the Haskins Learning Center and head girls’ basketball coach for Pratt High School, is also a full-time student at Sterling College and a father of young children. He runs a business called KBAF Cares that provides area kids with one-on-one sessions and camps. That company has a program that gives free shoes to children in need.
Susan Teske taught English for 35 years and retired last spring from Liberty Middle School. In the face of trouble, her first question is always, “what can I do to help?”
“You too can be an everyday hero,” Teske told the students. “It doesn’t take anything special. It’s a matter of you being you and being a good citizen.”
Walt Stockwell, praised for helping anyone, no matter the cost, says he’s paying forward for the compassion shown by the community when his daughter was in a serious car accident. He organized Pass It Forward and Bread of Life charities to help local people in need and was recognized as a friend to a homeless man who died in Pratt recently.
Kim Evert, director of the Pratt Teen Center, “puts a smile on everyone’s face,” according to the student’s essay about her. She’s also involved in her church, Sacred Heart School, the Greenback Boosters Club and helped organize state American Legion baseball tournaments in Pratt.
The man in the overalls and conductor’s hat driving the Pilot Express in the summer at Sixth Street Park is an everyday hero. Dwane DeWeese uses the 4-H bucket calf project to teach kids about work ethic, commitment and leadership, generously supports the Optimist Club bicycle giveaway program, and helps with other community projects, such as the annual Thanksgiving dinner.
Ed Fox greets worshipers at Pratt’s First Christian Church with a smile and a firm handshake. His knowledge of cattle, farming skills and techniques make him a valuable asset to this community and he has shared his knowledge as a 4-H livestock leader in Stafford County for many years. His student essayist highlighted the virtues of generosity, strength of character and morality.
Marilyn Stewart wanted to do something more than short-term mission work. Since 2010 she has spent two to three months at a time in Belize, working with schools, single moms and handicapped people through a program called The Word at Work. When she’s not in Belize, she’s collecting shoes, books and other supplies to send there. She also helps with other mission groups, and considers what she does not work, but a learning experience.
No matter what she does, Lu Bitter puts her heart and soul into it. A retired USD 382 teacher and coach, she now works as the district science consultant and coordinator.
“Her dedication to students remains at the highest level as she works far more hours than she would have to because of her passion for educating students about science,” said Martha Wade, a fellow teacher, interviewed for the essay.
Foster said she hopes Thursday’s assembly is the first of many recognitions for Pratt’s everyday heroes.