Thursday, January 04, 2007

600 students escape burning building, thanks to foster child

Achiever: Lee Bryant
Shawnee senior blazes right path
Smith, Patti. Louisville Courier-Journal, Jan. 1, 2007, pg. B3.

Lee Bryant knows how to react in a crisis

On a recent school day, he kept his cool and his senses when he smelled the distinct odor of an electrical fire near a gymnasium at Shawnee High School, where he's a 17-year-old senior.

A cadet in the Junior ROTC, Lee followed the odor, saw smoke and went straight to the office to report it.

Lee's quick action is being rewarded by the Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps' Area Nine manager with the Meritorious Achievement Award. It's the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a cadet, said Darryl Barrickman, senior naval science instructor in Shawnee's Junior ROTC program."It was textbook, the way he handled it," Barrickman said.

In his award statement to Lee, Navy Cmdr. M.D. Dial, manager of Junior ROTC's Area Nine, cited Lee's poise under pressure, his ability to think clearly and his knowledge of reporting a fire to proper authorities.

Lee trained to be a volunteer firefighter on the Pewee Valley Fire Department's Explorer Team in 2003, and he has studied how to respond in emergencies through his Junior ROTC courses at Shawnee.

"Don't lose your head. Check to see what area it's in and go straight to an adult who can take charge," Lee said of the procedures. "I knew automatically what to do."

The first adult he found in the office was Shirley Gray, a Shawnee High bookkeeper."He was level-headed and calm," Gray said. "He gave us precise directions, which allowed us to get on the radio and get somebody there right away."

Because of Lee's quick action, the fire department was called, more than 600 students and staff were safely evacuated and the damage was minimal.

Lee lives near Algonquin Park with his foster family. He said he plans to major in English at an area college and begin a military career with the Navy after he graduates.

"Our motto is, 'With great power comes great responsibility,'" Lee said of the Junior ROTC. "It's about how to take care of a situation and how you carry yourself."


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