Fort Mill freshman honored for her compassion

thackhamd@mytjnow.comJune 6, 2013 

— As a ninth grade honors student taking a full course load, balancing her piano recitals with her homework schedule could have been the only worry on Gabrielle Hoang’s mind this spring. When a friend of hers needed help in the hour of need, however, Hoang was quick to spring to the occasion, an instinct that earned her recognition in the “Do The Right Thing” awards program.

Hoang, 15, along with other local students, was honored May 30 at Fort Mill Town Hall. It was the final DTRT ceremony of the 2012-13 school year.

The program singled Hoang out as the main honoree because she stayed nights at a nearby hospital until midnight or 1 a.m. to help a friend of hers keep up with schoolwork while the friend cared for her ill father. Hoang would contact the guidance department, the friend’s teachers and others to see if there were any venues in order to help the family. Even when her friend’s father died, Hoang went the extra mile, designing cards for visitation and funeral arrangements to send to her friend’s family as well as create a scrapbook with over 100 notes of support from friends to help the family through the difficult time.

“I did what I did to help her get through her loss,” Hoang said. “It was definitely a tough time.”

Her mother, Rosalynn, was surprised to see her daughter was nominated for the top prize – each month secondary award winners are selected as well – simply because she expects Gabrielle to act the way she did.

“It’s kind of expected,” Rosalynn said, smiling. “She did this all from the heart. We’re proud of her for taking the initiative and going out of her way.”

This is the third straight year that the Fort Mill Police Department coordinated the “Do The Right Thing” awards, which honors students throughout the Fort Mill School District, from middle school through high school. The ceremony is held four different times in the school year and is supported by the fire department, the town, school district and local businesses and individuals. Winners receive gift certificates and other valuable prizes donated by area businesses.

“It gives us a good chance to reward good behavior we hear about,” said Lt. Ray Dixon of the FMPD. “Most of our time, we have to punish bad behavior. This is the best part of my job.”

Dixon, who spearheaded DTRT in Fort Mill, and other officials also took time to recognize other worthy acts of kindness and bravery around the area. Cheree Stauffer, an eighth grader from Fort Mill Middle School, was recognized for volunteering at a local homeless shelter, while an 11th grader from Nation Ford High School was honored for helping break up a scuffle between two other students.

Another Nation Ford student, freshman Daniel White, donated almost $200 of his savings to the charity Operation Gratitude.

“As Fort Mill police officers, we want students to run to us for help, not run from us,” Dixon said. “This program really reinforces that, I feel.”

Hoang’s mother knows her daughter, a freshman at Fort Mill High, likely has more honors in her future.

“It’s only freshman year,” Rosalynn said, “We will take it one year at a time.”

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