Fifth grader Cortlynn Graham was at her safety patrol post—the drop-off loop at Strawberry Knoll Elementary School in Gaithersburg—on Jan. 29, 2020, when she noticed a toddler dash ahead of her mother, who was exiting the building. Just as the little girl was about to run into the road, Cortlynn grabbed her under the arms and pulled her back from oncoming traffic.
“I was shocked,” Cortlynn says. “And at the same time, everything slowed down around me because I thought, if this girl steps off the curb she might get hit by a car.” The whole thing happened so quickly that the mom and toddler were never identified. Janine Howard, a teacher on duty who witnessed the incident, recalls telling Cortlynn, then 11: “Wow—that was close.” Howard sent an email to the safety patrol leader at the school, who then nominated Cortlynn for recognition.
To honor her heroic feat, Cortlynn was presented with the AAA School Safety Patrol Lifesaving Medal—one of just four students in the U.S. to receive the award last year. According to AAA, recipients are “select Patrollers who, while on duty, have saved the life of a person in imminent danger.” Now a sixth grader at Gaithersburg Middle School, Cortlynn accepted the award, along with a $100 Visa gift card, at a socially distanced ceremony at Strawberry Knoll this past fall that was attended by her parents, Royale Cole and Barry Graham, her former principal, Patrick Scott, and eight Montgomery County police officers.
“Cortlynn didn’t think of it as a big deal, she thought it was just part of her job,” Scott says. “She’s one of those girls who is always a help, a peacemaker naturally, and calm in those situations.”