Westridge fourth-grader honored for helping choking friend

Bryan Reynolds | State Journal

Westridge Elementary fourth-grader Caleb Lefler, 9, was honored last Friday by receiving the Franklin County Schools Champion Medal for helping a school mate while she was choking. When he realized what was going on one morning at breakfast he patted his friend on the back and then told a teacher what was happening. The girl was taken to the school nurse and was fine, said Westridge Principal Tracey Cline.

A Westridge Elementary fourth-grader with aspirations of being a firefighter has been awarded the Franklin County Schools Champion Medal for helping a choking classmate.

“So we were in breakfast one day and the next thing I know my friend and I were about to go to leave to go to class and I heard a choking noise,” said 9-year-old Caleb Lefler. “I saw she was choking and I patted her on the back and then I got a teacher.”

The teacher took the girl to the school nurse and everything was fine, said Principal Tracey Cline.

“Even though we have several adults on staff in the cafeteria in the morning, it’s still very helpful when a student notices something and can report it quickly and calmly,” Cline said.

Caleb said he knew what to do because of YouTube videos. He said he’s the kind of person who likes to be prepared for all eventualities. He not only watched videos on how to respond to choking but also what to do if he awoke in the night and discovered the house he and his father, Joshua Lefler, live in was on fire.

“I watch videos on surviving the zombie apocalypse and I know that wouldn’t happen, but it could,” he said.

Caleb said he wants to be prepared not only to help and protect himself and his family but other people too.

Cline said Westridge students choose leaders from their classrooms monthly to be recognized, but Caleb’s actions went so far above and beyond that they wanted to do something special for him. FCS Superintendent Mark Kopp presented Caleb with the Champion Medal before the student body and three members of the boy’s family on Friday.

“To have someone choke in our cafeteria is pretty rare,” Cline said. “It’s not something kids see regularly. For him to stay calm and notify someone definitely warranted a bigger award.”

Kopp said the Champion Medal is only given to students who achieve things far beyond what is required of FCS students.

“It’s the highest honor that we can give our kids,” he said, “because it’s something that they get recognized by either their peers, their teachers or staff members. They make a recommendation to me and I come and present the medal to them.”

Caleb had no idea he was being honored. His father, and other family members were in attendance, but he was still shocked when his name was called, he said.

“I was smiling and just ran up there,” Caleb said. “It was a really good moment for me.”

He said he got a taste of what it was like to be on Broadway with the flashes of cameras from people taking photographs all around him. It was both fun and nerve-wracking, he said.

“What an incredible thing this fine young man did,” Kopp said. “What an amazing act of good citizenship. Seeing that someone was struggling, had an issue and he knew exactly what to do and did it.”

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