Nine-year-old Ryan Ledee was all smiles when he was announced Friday as the Student of the Year winner for the Do The Right Thing Program of Greater St. Louis.
Ryan, a fourth-grader at Smithton School, was honored for rescuing a 3-year-old girl from drowning while camping with his family at Carlyle Lake last summer.
"She was going under water," Ryan said of the girl. "I was scared for her."
The girl had wandered into the deep end of the pool they were swimming in at Carlyle Lake, and Ryan saw the girl go under. He was able to pull her to safety.
Ryan's mother Nancy Ledee said he's a good swimmer -- something he learned being a Boy Scout.
"You expect him to do the right thing," Nancy Ledee said, "but you don't know if they will when it comes down to it. We are very proud."
Ryan was nominated for the award by his third-grade teacher Sue Juncker, who attended the ceremony Friday along with other staff members from Smithton School and his entire family including father Gilbert and his two sisters.
"We couldn't be prouder," Nancy Ledee said. "There's no other word to describe how we feel. It's such an honor."
This marks the second year in a row that a Smithton student received the Student of the Year award.
Last year, Jordan Fritz, a former student at Smithton School, was recognized for intervening when a fellow classmate was experiencing serious depression issues that may have led to taking desperate actions. Jordan talked to his classmate about his home life and notified the school social worker.
Ryan received the Candy Green Student of the Year award for the 2013-14 school year during a kick-off breakfast for the Do The Right Thing Program on Friday at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. Candy Green was the longtime director of the Do The Right Thing program. She retired from the position in December.
Along with a certificate, plaque and banner for his school, Ryan received various gifts fitting of his age, including Transformers, a LEGO set and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle masks. He also got a $100 check and gift cards.
"I'm rich," Ryan declared while clutching envelopes filled with his prizes.
Smithton School District 130 Superintendent Susan Homes said she's proud of her staff and school for the supporting the program and nominating students. "We embrace old-fashioned values," she said.
The Illinois School of the Year award for 2013-14 also was announced Friday. It went to Union Elementary School in Belleville School District 118.
The Missouri School of the Year award for 2013-14 went to Hillsboro Junior High in Hillsboro R-3 School District.
The Do The Right Thing program was started in the St. Louis area in 1994. The mission of the program is to recognize youth for good things they do. For more information about the program, visit http://www.dotherightthingstl.com.