APT Names 2010 Young Heroes Award Winners
Alabama Public Television Education

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Posted Mar 26, 2010

APT Names 2010 Young Heroes Award Winners

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Alabama Public Television (APT) has announced the winners of its annual Young Heroes Awards. Carlissa Brown of Highland Home, Mackenzie Derr of Vestavia Hills, Shawn Dillard of Decatur, Christopher Gray of Birmingham and Stephen Tyree of Berry, Alabama, were selected by a panel of leading Alabama business, civic and education leaders to receive the award. To earn APT’s Young Heroes Award, youngsters must be full time students in a 9th through 12th grade curriculum, have demonstrated academic excellence, be an active participant in their community and have the courage to persevere in the face of adversity. The five winners will be honored in a live “Stars in Education” broadcast on Alabama Public Television on May 12 that combines the announcement and presentation of Alabama’s Teacher of the Year Award by the Alabama Department of Education with the Young Heroes Award. About the Young Heroes Carlissa Brown, a senior at Highland Home High School, will graduate with honors this year as third in her class. While maintaining excellent grades, she works 30 hours a week in a part-time job as well as operating a nail design business out of her home. Her accomplishments have come despite the loss of her mother during Brown’s preschool years and the conviction of her father for the murder. A family friend served as Brown’s legal guardian until her death in an industrial accident during the student’s sophomore year. Brown, who is considering a career in nursing, is now under the guardianship of her adopted grandmother. Mackenzie Derr is a senior at Vestavia Hills High School who is an active member of the National Honor Society, Leo Club, Relay for Life and a student mentor group for elementary school children. In addition to jobs at Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center and Temple Emanu-El’s religious school, she volunteers each summer at HealthSouth’s Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital and Camp Smile-a-Mile events in addition to speaking to physical therapy groups at Childrens Hospital and UAB. A cancer surviver, Derr lost a leg at the age of seven—and later her remaining foot—to the disease. A keen sense of humor and determination to triumph over physical obstacles led to Derr’s selected as “Most Admired” and Homecoming Queen by her classmates. Shawn Dillard was diagnosed at six months of age with kidney disease and has undergone more than 15 surgeries since that time, including two kidney transplants, leg and hip surgeries. Through it all, Dillard has remained an outstanding student, and enrolled as a member of his school’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC). A graduate of the rigorous and challenging JROTC Non-Commissioned Officer Academy, he now holds the rank of Sergeant First Class in the JROTC. Christopher Gray, a senior at Ramsay High School, maintains a 4.0 grade point average. The founder of two nonprofit organizations—one to organize the volunteer activities of teens and the other to raise money for people who are in unfortunate situations—Gray is also chief executive officer of a teen-run recreation business and has put in more than 500 hours of community service by volunteering regularly for nonprofits such as the American Cancer Society, the Ronald McDonald House, Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, the Jimmie Hale Mission, the Community Entrepreneur Institute and the Jefferson County Health Department. To help support his two siblings and a mother who lost her job during the recession, Gray maintains a part-time job. Determined to be his family’s first college graduate, he plans to pursue a career in business. Steven Tyree is an honors student at Berry High School in Berry, Ala. In addition to playing on the school’s varsity football and baseball teams, he serves as president of the student government, is active in numerous school clubs and donates as many hours as possible to the community, reading to preschool children, working on clean-up committees and cutting the grass at a local cemetery. He was one of a select few to attend the 10th Annual Lott Summer Leadership Institute last year. From his many accomplishments, few could guess that this young man underwent brain surgeries as a child and that he and his brothers came from a home where both parents used illegal drugs, sending his father to jail and the boys to live with their aunt and uncle. After college graduation, Tyree plans to return to Berry to serve the community as a physician. In addition to an engraved plaque, the Young Heroes receive a $2,500 scholarship to the college of their choice and a laptop computer with software suitable for a college student. One of the five winners will be selected to receive an additional award—the The Marissa Feigelson Award, which offers an additional $1,000 scholarship. Young Heroes Sponsors The Young Heroes Awards program is made possible by the generous donations of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Books-A-Million, Honda, Publix and Technip USA, Inc. About Alabama Public Television Alabama Public Television (APT) is America’s first statewide public television network. Affiliated with the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), it is a seven-day-a-week educational resource for Alabamians of all ages through online services, digital television programming, documentary production and outreach activities. For information about APT’s educational and broadcast services, visit www.aptv.org.