The fifth-grade girl sat in the school's cafeteria Wednesday morning with her classmates at the end of the year assembly. She stood when her name was called out for having a nearly perfect attendance record. Jaelen, 11, didn't know then she was also going to be recognized for heroism.
Principal Kimberly Gilmore reminded students to show pride and leadership in everyday life and spoke about how Jaelen on June 19 got help for a playground supervisor who collapsed outside.
"When a staff member experienced a medical emergency, a fifth-grade student took a leadership role in getting immediate assistance for that staff member," she said. "The student remained calm, cleared the area and found adult assistance for our staff member."
Students applauded as Jaelen was called to the front of the room to be recognized by Snohomish County Fire District 1 for her quick thinking. Capt. Skip Horne presented her with a certificate of commendation.
"It takes a lot of courage to step up and do the right thing, and Jaelen did that," he said.
Jaelen said she ran quickly to get help from a nearby adult who stayed with the playground supervisor while she asked for help at the school office. The woman recovered and returned to school but did not attend the assembly.
"It scared me to know something was wrong with her," Jaelen said. "I was really nervous."
Jaelen's actions didn't surprise her fifth-grade teacher Paul Northrop.
"She is a true leader during class," he said. "She has no problem directing other students and setting an example for other students."
Jaelen plays several positions, including pitcher, on her Sno Co Express Softball team. Everett AquaSox Baseball catcher Carlton Tanabe also attended the assembly to present her with a certificate good for four upper box seats to a game, the opportunity to throw a ceremonial first pitch and to meet players on the team. She also received a jersey signed by Eddy Hernandez, who played for the Everett AquaSox in 2009.
Deanna McCoy said she's excited about the chance to see her granddaughter throw out the first pitch during a game this summer.
"My husband and I go to all her games," she said. "It's wonderful that she had the wherewithal to do the right thing."
Jaelen's parents, Teresa Shepard and Gerald Williams, knew she would be recognized but also kept it a secret. They learned after the assembly that Fire District 1 plans to nominate Jaelen as a Red Cross Real Hero.
Williams said he's proud of his daughter.
"She's just a great person," he said.
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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