“Honor a hero. Become a hero.”
That was the message behind the Super Citizen program that encouraged Dothan’s second-graders recognizing the Houston County Rescue Unit for retrieving a woman’s body in Smith Lake months after her death in a July 4 boating accident.
“We felt like the rescue squad did not receive the recognition that they deserved,” Angel Williams, a Morris Slingluff Elementary student, said. “They were able to bring closure to a grieving family and community.”
Two other students, Kenley Turner and Brayden Kent, recounted the somber details surrounding Kelsey Starling’s death after another boat struck the boat she was on and threw her from the vessel, and the efforts that led to her discovery.
Nine volunteers were a part of the search team that found Kelsey after a 140-foot dive Oct. 5, three months after the crash: Chief Ashton Davis; Caroline Jackson, underwater crime scene investigator; Chris Ball, diver; Dave Wyatt, diver; Chris Lewis, diver; Megan Wyatt, logistics; Robin Kyle, logistics; Tyler Ball, diver; Brad Taylor, diver; Jan Dvorak, diver.
“We are extremely proud of these men and women. They are true helping hand heroes in our eyes,” Williams said.
The students gave pins to all members present at the Super Citizen program on Wednesday, which was hosted by the Liberty Learning Foundation.
Davis said it felt awesome that the children recognized the impact of what the rescue unit does.
“It holds us to a higher standard,” he said. “There are eyes everywhere, including these second-graders, so it makes us want to be the best leaders and best examples that we can be.”
The rescue unit, the only search-and-rescue team in the region, has around 16 active members and operates on limited funding from the Houston County Commission and private donations.
“We just all have a common passion for serving the community, whether it be bringing closure to a family or saving someone’s property or environment,” Davis said.
Students from Hidden Lake Primary, Heard Elementary and Kelly Springs Elementary schools honored other local heroes including custodians, teachers and residents with close association to their schools.
The program marked the end of semester-long lessons integrated into the second- and fifth-grade curriculums focusing on U.S. history, civic duties and historical figures and meant to cultivate students to be “super citizens.”
“I think that second-graders are at that great age to recognize and be grateful for things and recognize people and the people that surround them day to day in the schools,” said Marie Johnson, Dothan City Schools director of curriculum.
The Liberty Learning Foundation has programs in every Dothan City School including the American Character Program on the junior-high level and the Citizen Promise program in high school.