- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 19, 2005

Michelle Grimm is a lifesaver — and at 12 years old, she is not alone in her youthful heroics.

A sixth-grader at Grace E. Metz Middle School in Manassas, Michelle is one of three local students who received a AAA Safety Patrol Life Saver Award this month at a national convention in Jersey City, N.J.

Michelle received her award for her quick action in an incident that occurred last year, when she was a fifth-grade safety patroller at Weems Elementary School in Manassas.

On March 5, 2004, Michelle was at her post on the sidewalk surrounding the school bus circle, keeping an eye on the kindergartners. She turned around to see that one of the youngsters had fallen into the street, was stunned and was struggling to get to his feet. A bus was bearing down on him.

“I really didn’t have time to like think about it,” Michelle said. “I just kinda moved him.”

The safety patroller told the other kindergartners to stay where they were, then ran to the child and pulled him from the street before the bus could hit him.

She said she still does not know the name of the boy who fell but that she would save him again if the opportunity presented itself.

The national automobile club AAA, which started the school safety-patrol movement in 1920, gave lifesaver awards to six elementary or middle school students from across the country during a May 2 ceremony.

Another local winner — Estefan C. (Stephanie) Santos, 10, a fourth-grader at Jackson Road Elementary School in Silver Spring — was scratched and bruised during her valorous efforts last year.

While standing at her post Sept. 10, Stephanie watched as first-grader Jake Wong walked hand in hand with his sister in front of the school. Jake spotted his grandfather’s car across the street and in a rush of excitement broke free from his sister and darted into the street.

Jake didn’t see the oncoming cars, but Stephanie did. She ran over and grabbed him to prevent him from crossing the busy road. Unaware of the danger, Jake responded by kicking, scratching and even biting Stephanie, but the safety patroller held on.

She took her pains in stride, saying, “I always wanted to be a hero.”

Safety patroller Pytrce Avonnia Farmer, who attends Eva Turner Elementary School in Waldorf, Md., was featured recently in Reader’s Digest for her heroism.

On Oct. 4, Pytrce was at her post when she spotted first-grader Gabriel Dickson walking with his two sisters near a crosswalk in front of the school.

She warned the trio to stand back from the curb. But when Gabriel saw his mother’s car approaching, he bolted into the crosswalk and into the path of an oncoming car.

Pytrce reached and grabbed Gabriel, pulling him to safety on the curb as the car missed him by inches.

Her mother, Rennee Bell, said Pytrce is shy but that the school safety-patrol program is bringing her out of her shell. “I like what the program is doing,” the mother said.

Pytrce, who turned 12 yesterday, said her mission is to help fellow classmates “stay out of trouble.”

According to AAA, about 500,000 students in 50,000 schools nationwide participate in the safety-patrol program.

Local AAA groups sponsor the programs and provide training and patrol materials.

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