Elyse Mae Dean | Young Hero Award from Alabama Public Television

Elyse Mae Dean

Pickens Academy

Reform, Alabama

Elyse Mae Dean is a senior at Pickens Academy in Carrollton, Alabama. She maintains a 4.0 GPA and is ranked in the Top 2 Honor Seniors. In addition to her high school studies, she has already completed 22 hours of study at Bevill State Community College, with a college GPA of 4.0.

Elyse is a member of the Pickens Academy Math Team and the Scholars Bowl Team. She has been inducted in the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta (the National Math Honor Society), and Pi Alpha Epsilon (the National English Honor Society.) She currently serves as the Secretary for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Elyse is a varsity cheerleader, a varsity majorette, and a member of the band. She served as vice-president of her junior class and is currently serving as vice-president of her senior class.

In her “spare” time, Elyse sponsors the Pee-Wee Majorette Squad, consisting of eight girls ranging from 3rd to 6th grade. Once a week, “Miss Elyse” teaches the girls twirling basics, tosses, a choreographed routine, and confidence in their abilities.

For years, Elyse has tutored her classmates and young students. If there is a project due or a test the next day, there is usually a group of students gathered at the Dean house while Elyse holds class.

When Elyse was eleven, she began suffering from extreme headaches and nausea. After many tests, Elyse was diagnosed with a Chiari malformation with a syrinx. Chiari malformations are associated with the formation of a syrinx, a fluid-filled pocket or cyst, in the spinal cord. She underwent dangerous surgery to correct the problem. Her parents were told that she would no longer be able to participate in band, majorettes or basketball. Paralysis, bladder control, and brain damage were possibilities, and no promise of a full recovery was made.

Elyse, never one to be told what she could not do, returned to school five days later. With her prodding, her doctor slowly released Elyse to participate in non-collision sports, band and majorettes. Even though things seemed to be back to normal, Elyse still deals with memory gaps, fatigue, headaches, and hand tremors.

Today, Elyse is both a Varsity Cheerleader and a Majorette. Other than Homecoming (when Elyse was selected as Homecoming Queen), Fridays meant cheering on the sideline and changing at half-time to twirl with the Marching Pirates.

Elyse is a young person who refused to let her health battles hold back her dreams. The more obstacles in her path, the harder she worked. For her courage and determination, Alabama Public Television is proud to present Elyse Mae Dean as one of the five Young Heroes of Alabama for 2023.

Young Hero Sponsors

The Young Heroes Program is made possible through the support of:

Derek Chen

Harris Trust


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These educational programs and services of Alabama Public Television made possible by the generous support of the following contributors:

Community Events & Engagement
  • Books-A-Million, Young Heroes
  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama, Be My Neighbor Day/Young Heroes
  • Brookmont Capital Management, Young Heroes
  • C. W. Daniel Charitable Trust, Young Heroes
  • Medical Properties Trust, Young Heroes
  • Fred Rogers Productions/PNC, Be My Neighbor Day
  • WNET-CPB, Sesame Street in Communities
General Support
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)
  • Public Broadcasting Services (PBS)
Learning Adventures
  • Alabama Bicentennial Commission
  • Alabama Humanities Foundation
    a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Alabama State Council on the Arts
    a state program of the National Endowment for the Arts
  • American Graduate
    a program of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • Daniel Foundation of Alabama
  • Malone Family Foundation
  • Robert Meyer Foundation
  • Sybil Smith Foundation
  • Troy Univiersity
  • U.S. Space & Rocket Center
  • Wells Fargo Foundation
Media Library
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting, American Graduate
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting, American Graduate, Getting To Work
PBS Kids Programs
  • Alabama Department of Human Resources
  • Alabama Power Company
  • Books-A-Million
  • Children’s of Alabama
  • HEAL Alabama
  • Medical Properties Trust
  • U.S. Space & Rocket Center
Professional Development for Educators
  • Community Foundation of South Alabama, PBS KIDS EdCamp
  • Sybil Smith Foundation, PBS KIDS EdCamp
Workforce Development
  • CAWACO, Career Forward
  • Southeast Alabama Works, Career Forward

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