Press Releases

2023 2022 2021 2020

Students Uncover the Stories of Unsung Heroes Who Changed the World, Winning Over $20,000 in Lowell Milken Center Discovery Award Prizes

Sasha Allen of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, clinches second grand-prize win for uncovering child spy Agnes Lackovic and her bravery to save hundreds from the Holocaust

September 20, 2023

View the Winning Projects

View Photo Gallery 

FORT SCOTT, Kansas – The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes (LMC) has awarded over $20,000 in cash prizes to elementary, middle and high school students in the 2023 Discovery Award competition. The annual 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.  

Eden Prairie High School 12th grader Sasha Allen was surprised with her $6,000 grand prize award by LMC Chief Executive Officer Norm Conard. Her documentary project entitled "3-6-9 Kid: How Child Spy Agnes Lackovic Saved Hundreds from the Nazis" showcased the brave work of World War II spy Agnes Lackovic. At only 17 years old, Lackovic became a spy for the Allied forces in her home country of Germany. Using her diminutive 4-foot-8-inch stature to go unnoticed, Lackovic delivered strategic communications through small notes and codes embedded in musical street performances. Her clever spy work ultimately led to hundreds of lives saved from Nazi persecution. Allen is now a two-time grand-prize winner, having received the top prize in 2021 for her project on Unsung Hero Gareth Jones. 

"Sasha Allen's project will be the perfect addition to our Hall of Unsung Heroes. Using primary research and interviews with Agnes Lackovic's daughter," said Conard, "Sasha's documentary masterfully relates the powerful impact of this 17-year-old unsung hero, who courageously saved the lives of hundreds of Jews and other endangered people during World War II." 

"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."   

LMC's Discovery Award provides a unique opportunity for U.S. and international students in grades four through 12 to research primary sources and use their talents to develop projects that showcase the power of one person to change the world. The actions which define the Unsung Hero's legacy must have occurred a minimum of 20 years ago, and the project must demonstrate a tangible 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.  

The $2,500 First Prize award was presented by Conard to 11th graders Paige Franzen, Kadence Huck and Callahan Levi of Nashua-Plainfield High School in Nashua, Iowa. Their documentary outlines the life and impact of Dr. Christine Grant, a trailblazer for equity in women's sports programs at the collegiate level and beyond, as well as a legendary women's field hockey coach and first director of women's intercollegiate athletics at the University of Iowa. 

The $2,000 Outstanding High School Project award was presented to 11th grader Madison Glidden of Loup County High School in Loup County, Nebraska. Her documentary honors Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first Indigenous American woman to earn a medical degree. La Flesche Picotte served as a physician to her Omaha tribe, advocated for the humane treatment of Indigenous Americans and built a hospital in 1913 that later became a community health center. Her efforts have positively improved the health and lives of both her own and future generations. 

Two projects tied for the $2,000 Outstanding Middle School Project award. The first was given to Rehan Mathew Koshy of Edison Regional Gifted Center in Chicago, Illinois. His documentary celebrates Andrée De Jongh's instrumental role in establishing and managing the Comet Line, a resistance network and escape route for allied soldiers to flee from Nazi-occupied Belgium.  

The second project winning the $2,000 Outstanding Middle School Project was submitted by Jay Patel, a eighth grader at Jericho Middle School in Jericho, New York. His documentary recognizes Pearl Kendrick, who developed the first effective pertussis (Whooping cough) vaccine in the 1930s. Kendrick's groundbreaking work has saved countless lives and has become a model for vaccine development.  

The $1,000 Outstanding Elementary School Project award went to sixth graders Gabriel Levesque and Noa Mannal Dimarco of Saint Mary Interparochial School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Their project highlights another pioneer in vaccine development, Maurice Hilleman, who created over 40 vaccines, including those for measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), and hepatitis A and B. His work has prevented millions of deaths and significantly reduced incidences of childhood diseases.  

A special $1,000 Founder's Award was also granted by this year's judges to a project about social justice activist and photojournalist Corky Lee. Award recipient Steven Zhang, a 12th grader at St. Mark's High School in Southborough, Massachusetts, created the documentary "Corky Lee: Fighting Asian American Discrimination One Photo at a Time" to highlight Lee's lifelong career capturing Asian American history by photographing protests, cultural events and iconic moments that have given visibility to the Asian American experience.  

Additionally, the judging panel awarded seven high school $500 honorable mention awards and five $250 middle school honorable mention awards to projects of high merit in the 2023 competition. 

Submissions for the next competition season will open February 15, 2024.  

Media Contact: Sydnee Flotron,, (720) 215-6522 cell 

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