When second-grader Samuel Yanez came across the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Kiss of Life” photograph, he immediately declared J.D. Thompson a hero and an idol.
The 1967 photo, captured by Rocco Marabito of the Jacksonville Journal, shows Thompson performing CPR on a fellow power lineman who had brushed a high voltage line.
Samuel’s interest sparked the final project for Columbus Signature Academy Fodrea Campus second-graders, who researched their own heroes and organized an open house to honor them.
Firefighters, police officers, police dogs and military veterans were led by students through a path of American flags and to a reception, where punch and snacks awaited them.
All lessons at the project-based learning school are designed around the school’s five core values: Be respectful, responsible, cooperative, kind and safe.
“This really put all five of those together,” facilitator Sherry Hashman said.
Students have spent the past month researching their own heroes.
Dylan Cordes researched Robert O’Malley, a former U.S. Marine who was the first Marine Corps recipient of the Medal of Honor.
Antonia Mendez chose Keno, a police dog.
“Dogs really inspire me,” she said. “They help save good people from bad people.”
The students then invited their heroes to the open house.
Jim Forman, co-founder of Forman Investment Services and a veteran, visited and brought his Purple Heart.
Chester Caffee, a World War II veteran, also visited.
“The event helped the students talk to those from other generations,” facilitator Judy Luns-ford said.
Samuel and his project partner, Emily Simo, invited Thompson to attend. Although he lives in Florida and could not make the trip north, he sent a letter back.
Samuel wants to be a firefighter or a police officer, and he asked for Thompson’s advice on how to be a hero.
“It would be awesome to go in buildings and save people,” Samuel said. “You get to do special stuff.”
Thompson had a word of advice for him: “To become a better citizen, take first aid training very seriously, and if you are involved in a situation where someone needs help, you will be prepared to help.”
“All the heroes said they weren’t a hero,” Lunsford said. “They said they did exactly what anyone else would do.”