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Students Win $15,000 in Prizes for Discovering Unsung Heroes Who Changed the World

Grand prize goes to Jericho, New York Student for "Caroline Ferriday and the Ravensbruck Lapins"

See All the 2019 Winners


September 16, 2019

FORT SCOTT, KS, – New York high school student Michelle Dong has won the $6,000 Grand Prize in the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes' 2019 Discovery Award competition. Through research and a compelling website, Dong's entry, "Caroline Ferriday and the Ravensbruck Lapins" reveals the incredible story of philanthropist Caroline Ferriday. In 1958, Ferriday rallied American support to bring a group of Polish survivors from the notorious Ravensbruck concentration camp to America for rehabilitation. Dong is a ninth grader at Jericho High School in Jericho.

The Discovery Award is an international student competition sponsored by the Kansas-based Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes (LMC) to encourage creative research projects that uncover the stories of positive role models, or Unsung Heroes, whose impact on history remains largely unknown.

Using primary and secondary research techniques, Dong explored how the Nazis had used women prisoners of Ravensbruck as test subjects to perform inhumane medical experiments, leaving them crippled and causing them to hop around the camp. As a result, the Nazis began referring to the women as "lapins" or rabbits. Ferriday's efforts not only uncovered these tragedies, but she also helped to obtain financial compensation for the Lapins from the West German Government. Dong’s website adds contemporary relevance to the story by raising issues related to genetic testing around the world.

Norm Conard, LMC's Executive Director, presented Dong with the $6,000 grand prize during a special assembly at Jericho High School. "Michelle told Caroline Ferriday's fascinating story by using in-depth research skills and multi-media resources, then presented it in a very thorough and organized website," said Conard. "Each Discovery Award recipient uncovered an Unsung Hero whose contributions deserve to be recognized. We congratulate these wonderful students and their teachers." Michelle was advised by her social studies teacher, Konstantine Kovoros.

In all, LMC awarded six prizes to elementary, middle school and high school students in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to Ferriday, the Unsung Heroes revealed by the winners' research include war heroes, a missionary, and civil rights advocates.

The $3,000 Second Place Prize goes to Priscilla Sanchez, Jacqueline Vega, Kevin Jackoby, and Charles Brooks from New Technology High School in Napa, California. Their project, "Eileen Nearne: An Unsung Hero," is a documentary about 23 year-old Nearne, a S.O.E. British Intelligence Officer who managed to transmit 105 messages, revealing Germany's plans back to Great Britain, before being captured. Eileen's work as a spy took significant courage, as she endured many hardships and poor treatment by her male counterparts in the S.O.E. Her bravery pushed her to continue her heroic activism. The students involved in this project incorporated a tremendous amount of research and used excellent multi-media skills to develop this documentary. They were advised by Nancy Hale, who teaches American Literature and Film at New Technology High School.

The Outstanding International Project came from 4th graders at Garapan Elementary School in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Saipan. Edward Becina, Aiden Camacho, Cody Gamboa, Jed Gilboy, and Shane Manicad earned $1,000 for their documentary, "Guy Gabaldon: The Pied Piper of Saipan." Guy Gabaldon was a U.S. soldier stationed in Saipan during World War II. He used his ability to speak Japanese to help the U.S. capture Japanese soldiers by convincing them that they were surrounded. He also used his linguistic skills to stop many Japanese people from jumping off Bonzai Cliff. His actions led to the capture of 1,500 Japanese soldiers and saved countless lives. The students gathered information from primary resources and used strong multimedia skills to create this documentary. They were advised by their fourth grade teacher and LMC Fellow, Peter Loken.

Additional winners include:

Outstanding High School Project ($2,000)
Student: Taegan Loy and Trent Powell
Teachers: Susan Sittenauer and Nathan McAlister
School: Seaman High School (Topeka, Kansas)
Project: "William D. Matthews: A Cure for Rebellion," a documentary about African-American Hero, abolitionist, and Civil War veteran who assisted African-Americans escaping slavery using the Underground Railroad. He also was the first African-American officer in the Civil War and helped fight for equality after his service in the military.

Outstanding Middle School Project ($2,000)
Students: Megan Christensen and Meredith Kucera
Teacher: Lindsey Dowell & Alice Bertels
School: Washburn Rural Middle School (Topeka, Kansas)
Project: "The One That Stayed," a documentary, tells the story of American missionary, Carl Wilkens, who during the 1994 genocide of 70% of the Tutsi population in Rwanda, stayed behind in an effort to protect the people he was there to serve. Among his many humanitarian acts, he managed to evacuate 400 people from an orphanage before it was massacred by the Hutus. 

Outstanding Elementary School Project ($1,000)
Students: Issah Pereira, Whitney Monterio Cabral, and Oscar Charlesworth
Teacher: Emily Calderelli
School: Paul Cuffee School (Providence, RI)
Project: "Standing Up Against Discrimination," a website explaining how Dion Diamond, who at a very young age, protested for equal rights for African-Americans during the 1960's and inspired others to do the same.

LMC's Discovery Award provides U.S. and international students in grades 4 through 12 a unique opportunity to use their creative talents to develop projects that feature Unsung Heroes from history, demonstrating one person's power to make positive change in the world. Projects can take the form of documentary/multimedia, performance, or website. Projects require robust research, an annotated bibliography and a process paper. The Unsung Heroes' stories must show potential for life beyond the development of the project and an ability to inspire students and others to take sustainable actions that carry out the legacies of their subjects.

"Real heroes tower and guide," said LMC Founder Lowell Milken. "But their stories need to be discovered and heard. And when we do, we have the opportunity to motivate new generations to aspire to values that are essential during the challenging times we face individually, as a nation and as a world community."

VIEW ALL THE WINNING PROJECTS

Established in 2007, the Lowell Milken Center (LMC) for Unsung Heroes discovers, develops and communicates the stories of Unsung Heroes who have made a profound and positive impact on history, but are largely unrecognized by contemporary generations. Now in its twelfth year, LMC has reached over 2,000,000 students and 11,000 schools in all 50 states and countries around the world. Learn more about LMC and the Discovery Award at www.LowellMilkenCenter.org. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Lynne Russo, (818) 903-6079 | lynneerusso@gmail.com