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Gracie Conrad of Loup County, Nebraska, earns $6,000 grand prize for highlighting
Betty Goudsmit-Oudkerk, who, as a teen, saved hundreds of Jewish children from the Holocaust

September 15, 2022



FORT SCOTT, Kansas, – For the 2021-22 Discovery Award competition, the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes (LMC) in Fort Scott has awarded $15,500 in cash prizes to elementary, middle and high school students. This international competition inspires students to develop primary and secondary research projects which share the stories of Unsung Heroes from history whose accomplishments remain largely unknown to the public. 

During a celebration for LMC's 15th Anniversary and the Grand Opening of its new park, Nebraska's Loup County High School 11th grader Gracie Conrad was announced as the $6,000 Grand Prize winner. Conrad's extensive research led to her compelling entry, Betty Goudsmit-Oudkerk: Teenager, Resistance Member, Unsung Hero. At 18 years old, Goudsmit-Oudkerk worked at the crèche (Dutch for "daycare"), which became part of the Jewish deportation apparatus during the Holocaust. Having built relationships with the children, Goudsmit-Oudkerk was asked to join a group of workers who helped smuggle more than 600 children out of the crèche. Because of her heroic acts, Conrad notes, "hundreds of people are alive today." (Teacher Megan Helberg)

According to LMC Chief Executive Officer Norm Conard, "Conrad's project is exceptional in every way. The Betty Goudsmit-Oudkerk documentary shows a brilliant quality of work, telling of the unique and inspirational bravery of the Unsung Hero. We look forward to sharing this story in an exhibit for our Hall of Unsung Heroes."

LMC's Discovery Award provides a unique opportunity for U.S. and international students in grades 4 through 12 to research primary sources and use their talents to develop projects that showcase the power of one person to make positive change in the world. The actions which define the Unsung Hero's legacy as a role model must have occurred a minimum of 20 years ago, and the project must demonstrate the impact made over time as a result of those actions. Students must create a documentary, performance or website featuring an Unsung Hero, accompanied by an annotated bibliography and process paper. The prize money can be spent at students' discretion.

"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."   

The $2,500 First Runner-Up award has been given to 11th graders Dylan Arie, Gianpaolo Bautista and Isaiah Ochoa-Garcia, from New Tech High School in Napa, California. Their documentary, James Braidwood: A Spark of Smoke, describes the Scottish firefighter's pioneering work in the 1800s to help create the world’s first modern, municipal fire department. What Braidwood calls his most groundbreaking contribution to firefighting – "the aggressive interior attack" – is still used today. The students weave library archives and news sources to piece Braidwood's life together. A personal interview with a local retired fireman and historian fuses the eras then and now, shedding light on the science and art of firefighting. (Teacher Nancy Hale)

There were two $2,000 Outstanding High School Project awards this year. One of the awards has been presented to Emily Kim, a 12th grader at Jericho High School in Jericho, New York. Kim's project, You Don't Have to Ride Jim Crow, combines historical artifacts with modern commentary from documentarians to tell the story of Irene Morgan, who became one of the nation's first freedom riders. In 1944 – 11 years before the Montgomery Bus Boycott – Morgan was arrested under "Jim Crow" laws for refusing to relinquish her seat to a white couple during a trip from Gloucester, Virginia, to her home in Baltimore, Maryland. Kim deftly traces Morgan's two-year legal battle leading up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided that racial segregation laws on interstate transit placed an "undue burden" on interstate commerce. The outcome struck down racial segregation relating to transportation for the first time, marking a pivotal milestone in America's civil rights movement. (Teacher Theresa Cantwell)

The second $2,000 Outstanding High School Project was awarded to A Voice in the Dark: Kim Hak-Sun's Breakthrough Comfort Women Testimony, a website created by Yoojung (Sally) Jang, a 12th grader at Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana, California. Jang gives a voice to the voiceless, exposing the horrors of systematic sexual slavery forced upon South Korean "comfort women" during Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945. It was not until 1991 when Kim Hak-Sun, a victim of this violence, courageously came forward upon hearing denials from the Japanese government. Her actions led to an international condemnation of sexual slavery as a war crime and sparked a lasting movement to bring truth to power.  (Teacher Lana Sawalha) 

The $2,000 Outstanding Middle School Project award has been presented to Emma Manion, who at the time of the project was an eighth grader at Kettle Moraine Middle School and is now a ninth grader at Kettle Moraine High School in Dousman, Wisconsin. Manion created a dynamic performance embodying Lutie Stearns, whose work helped to establish a statewide library system in Wisconsin during the Progressive Era of the 1890s. Through Stearns' legacy, Manion demonstrates the importance of civil discourse, equal access to information and "the power of words to improve conditions for humanity." (Teacher Terry Kaldhusdal) 

The award for the $1,000 Outstanding Elementary School Project has been given to sixth graders Elise Deprez, Stella Murray and Brynlee Roelli, former Northside Elementary students who now attend Monroe Middle School in Monroe, Wisconsin. Their documentary, Cordelia Harvey: Angel in a Black Cape, shines a light on the care the "Wisconsin Angel" displayed toward Civil War soldiers who often received treatment at "makeshift" field hospitals. Mixing history with expert perspectives, the students show how Harvey's support to secure state hospitals for soldiers away from war zones bettered the quality of life for soldiers and their families. (Teacher Sarah Compton) 

Submissions for the next competition season will open February 15, 2023.

About LMC

Established in 2007, the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes (LMC) discovers, develops and communicates the stories of unsung heroes who have made a profound and positive impact on history, yet are largely unrecognized by contemporary generations. LMC has reached over 3,000,000 students and 30,000 schools in all 50 states and countries around the world. Learn more about the LMC and the Discovery Award. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Jana Rausch, (310) 435-9259 (cell),