Utah 5th grader receives special award for saving schoolmate's life

Hector Lara near South Kearns Elementary School on Monday, where he is a patroller. He was awarded the AAA School Safety Patrol Lifesaving Medal for select patrollers who, while on duty, have saved the life of a person in imminent danger.

Hector Lara near South Kearns Elementary School on Monday, where he is a patroller. He was awarded the AAA School Safety Patrol Lifesaving Medal for select patrollers who, while on duty, have saved the life of a person in imminent danger. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)


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KEARNS — It happened in a matter of seconds, and Hector Lara's response was likely more instinct than practiced protocol.

Earlier this school year, a pickup truck was barreling toward a crosswalk outside South Kearns Elementary School where a third grader was crossing the street.

Hector, a fifth grader on the school's safety patrol, launched into action.

"So I grabbed the girl's backpack and pulled her back, and then I yelled 'Stop!' because the girl was resistant a little bit, you could say," said Hector in an interview this week.

"She was like, 'Why am I getting pulled back?' She probably thought, 'I'm getting kidnapped or something,'" he said.

Once the girl was safely onto the sidewalk, Hector checked to see if she was OK, offered her water and then escorted her across the street once the traffic was stopped.

Little did Hector know, the girl's grandmother, who was picking her up from school that day, watched him take the action that spared her granddaughter from serious injury or possibly loss of life.

"So her granddaughter almost got hit right in front of her eyes. She was like, 'Thank God you're there. And then she was like, 'That's why we need more of you' or something like that," he said.

Hector, 10, took the events in stride. He didn't even tell anyone at school. Principal Kim Babka and paraprofessional Erica Timothy, who oversees the school's safety patrol/leadership program, didn't find out about it until the following school day when the girl's grandmother stopped by the school office to tell them what had happened.

"And the next thing you know, I have this award," Hector said.

Timothy nominated Hector for the AAA School Safety Patrol Lifesaving Medal, which is the highest honor awarded by the association's California affiliate to a patroller. Recipients are honored for saving the life of a person in imminent danger.

Hector received the award during South Kearns Elementary School 's fifth-grade promotion assembly at the end of the school year.

Each of the school's safety patrol members were recognized, but Babka asked Hector to remain at her side as the other students returned to their seats.

"I told all of the parents there how proud I was of him because we all look out for each other in our community. We're grateful for all of our safety patrol kids that stand out there in all sorts of weather, but that one day, he just went above and beyond the call of duty and saved a little girl's life," Babka said.

Hector said the recognition was nice, but "I didn't even care if I got the award. I'm like, 'I saved someone's life. That's what matters,'" he said.

Hector said he was interested in serving on the school's safety patrol to help and take care of other people. It was also an opportunity to learn leadership skills and to spend time with friends also on the patrol while doing important service to enhance safety and a sense of belonging at the Granite District school.

"Some people really need that help, and if they're looking down, I try to cheer people up. I say 'hi' to every kid. I say, 'How's your day going?' to make sure it's going great. If they're feeling down, I'll make them feel happy," he said.

Hector is bilingual, so he is also able to assist students whose first language is Spanish.

When Hector was presented the award, which has been awarded to less than 500 lifesaving student safety patrollers since 1949, he quickly stowed it away in his backpack.

"I didn't want to pull it out or anything. Why show it off? Like, that's not right," he said.

Hector said the possibility of winning an award wasn't why he wanted to serve on his school's safety patrol, and it certainly didn't enter his mind the day he saved a schoolmate from danger. It was simply about doing the right thing.

"If you see someone who needs help, just help them," he said.

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