On what seemed to be a normal school day, Scarlet Oaks Career Campus/Reading students Alexus Connelly and Haylee Woebkenberg drove home toward Reading on May 12 when they noticed a man standing on a bridge outside the railing with his arms raised. They pulled their car off the road at the first available spot, got out and approached the man.
Alexus and Haylee, both law enforcement students and Naval JROTC cadets at Scarlet Oaks, began talking to the man and quickly learned that he was despondent and planned to jump from the bridge. They were joined by Alyssa Carrier, a friend and fellow Scarlet Oaks student who was with them.
During the conversation, he said “You don’t know me. Why do you care?” Woebkenberg and Connelly told him, “This was a sign–that we came along at this very moment to talk with you.”
The man agreed to climb over the railing and on to the bridge. At that moment, a local police cruiser drove by and the two flagged the officer down. The policeman spoke with the man, reaffirming everything the cadets had said and accomplished. The officer called EMS to transport him to a hospital.
“We stopped and approached him because we could see he was in major distress, and I wanted him to know that we were here to help him through it,” said Woebkenberg, who plans to major in criminal justice in college.
For their actions, Alexus Connelly and Haylee Woebkenberg were presented this week with the Meritorious Achievement Award, the highest award given by the Naval JROTC.
The award was given during a ceremony at Scarlet Oaks. “Cadets Woebkenberg and Connelly were terrified when they saw a man about to commit suicide, yet they had the courage to stop their vehicle and come to the man’s assistance,” said NJROTC Commander Mike Brown. “They faced many of their inner fears when talking to a despondent man about to commit an irrational act, yet had the presence of mind and composure to say the right things and give him hope to go on living.”
“We teach crisis intervention in our program,” added law enforcement instructor Jen Frith. “Haylee and Alexus took what they learned and saved a man’s life.”
Also honored at the ceremony for her assistance was Alyssa Carrier; Scarlet Oaks student Anthony Ballard also assisted. The four are all juniors and are originally from Reading High School.
“The U.S. Navy’s core values are honor, courage, and commitment, and Great Oaks has similar values—honesty, trust, respect, quality and equity,” said Commander Brown. “For some, these may just be words on a wall to be memorized. But for these students, those values have real meaning that inspires action.”