T.C. Williams High School student Ana Humphrey wanted to make a difference, and now she’s heralded as a hero.
The 16-year-old from Alexandria, VA, is one of 25 young people across North America recently named as a winner of the 2017 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, a distinction founded in 2001 by author T.A. Barron in honor of his mother.
“Nothing is more inspiring than stories about heroic people who have truly made a difference to the world,” Barron told The Connection. “That is the purpose of the Gloria Barron Prize: to shine the spotlight on these amazing young people so that their stories will inspire others.”
Humphrey’s story grew out of a hands-on life science class in 7th grade that involved work to restore a local wetland. It was a rewarding opportunity she wanted other students to experience, which compelled Humphrey to launch the Watershed Warriors Club.
The nonprofit pairs high schoolers with local 5th graders to promote environmental awareness through similar hands-on activities that incorporate science, technology, engineering, and math. Humphrey partnered with the National Park Service and the local Four Mile Run Conservancy, crafted lesson plans, and reached out to area elementary schools. Within three years, the group engaged nearly 300 mostly low-income, minority students at four elementary schools, and is now working to expand the program to other high schools.
“I now know, given the tools and experience, that students of all ages can become drivers of change in their community,” said Humphrey as she received the Barron Prize.
Without people like Humphrey who embody virtues, it's almost impossible to embody them yourself. We can't just say "work harder, be nicer." We are inspired by people who have done good things despite great adversity.
"Character reflects the affirmation of our commitments to a larger community, the embrace of an ideal that attracts us, draws us, animates us, inspires us," wrote James Davison Hunter in The Death of Character. Heroes demonstrate what can happen when a person lives for something beyond the self. Almost always we see that true heroism comes from a long obedience in the same direction.
Character is formed intentionally when students are led to think about their life's purpose and goals through an exercise like this one from the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues.