The sixth-grade girls were at science camp in January when one of them confided in the other.
It was a terrible secret the 12-year-old had been keeping to herself.
That night in the cabin in the mountains, Scarlett Smith listened to her friend unspool an unimaginably painful story — one that had been giving her regular nightmares.
The girl told Scarlett that for several years, her older sister’s boyfriend had been sexually abusing her.
Scarlett comforted her friend and did the right thing: She provided her friendship and support, which emboldened the girl enough to come forward, with Scarlett’s help, and tell school authorities what has happening.
That disclosure led to an investigation and, mercifully, an end to the ongoing sexual abuse.
“Some of my friends didn’t want me to come forward because they thought I would be doing so against (the abused girl’s) will,” Scarlett said. “But that wasn’t true, and I ended up doing the right thing.”
Scarlett, 12, was one of 12 outstanding youth from Anaheim and the surrounding area who were honored Wednesday by the Anaheim Police Department at the agency’s second-annual “Do the Right Thing” awards ceremony.
An awards committee sifted through more than 100 nominations and picked 12 youth in kindergarten through 12th grade whose actions have established them as role models for their peers.
The “Do the Right Thing” program has been around since 1990, when the Miami PD launched it, but the Anaheim PD became the first law enforcement agency in California to adopt the program last year.
The Anaheim chapter was initiated by Aviella Winder, who at the time was a 17-year-old senior at Esperanza High School and transplant from New York who was shocked to learn that the program didn’t exist when she moved to Orange County a few years ago.
Aviella was 11 when she received a “Do the Right Thing” award in Rochester, N.Y., in 2009 for volunteering throughout the state to raise money for soldiers, hospitals and nursing homes.
Aviella approached leaders of the Anaheim PD’s Cops 4 Kids program about starting a “Do the Right Thing” Chapter in Anaheim, and a tradition was born.
Aviella, an aspiring musician, sang and played an acoustic version of “God Bless America” at the start of Wednesday’s ceremony, which was hosted by Sgt. Jacob Gallacher of the Anaheim PD’s Cops 4 Kids program.
“My team and I are dedicated to developing the foundational qualities of respect, responsibility and discipline through structured programs that foster a positive relationship between police and youth,” Gallacher said.
“In doing so, we strive to engage youth and help guide them in making good choices that will set them on a course to achieve their dreams later on in life.”
Anaheim PD Capt. Mark Cyprien, commander of the agency’s Operations Division, thanked parents of the honorees for “raising such nice youth” and also thanked their teachers.
Cyprien encouraged the honorees to “continue doing the right thing and to challenge your brothers and sisters and friends” to do the same.
A third APD “Do the Right Thing” awards ceremony is planned for Nov. 19.
In addition to certificates and plaques, the 12 honorees Wednesday received a $100 gift certificate to Target.
Scarlett’s father, Leroy Crouch, and grandparents, David And Valerie Ramey, attended Wednesday’s ceremony.
“I’m proud she knows right from wrong,” Crouch said.
Scarlett said she wants to become a K-9 police officer.
Alexa Lewis, a fourth-grader at Stoddard Elementary, was honored for rising above a difficult home situation. Her father figure has been incarcerated since November 2014 for drugs and theft.
Alexa, 10, is an Anaheim PD Junior Cadet, a GATE student and a member of Stoddard Elementary’s Philanthropy Club.
“She is so kind to everyone and is an excellent role model,” said her teacher, Laura Castrejon, who along with Stoddard Elementary Principal Dale Hillyer was on hand to watch Alexa receive her “Do the Right Thing” award.
“She’s an amazing kid – a real sparkplug in the classroom for positive behavior,” Hillyer said.
The complete list of honorees and descriptions of why they honored, courtesy of the Anaheim PD:
Logan Abrams, Travis Ranch Elementary, first grade
Logan has always been the kind of kid who puts others first.
For example, on Thanksgiving and Christmas, he begs his parents to go feed the homeless — or, when he is given money for his bank, he always makes sure to put a portion in a charity donation box before saving any money for himself.
In March 2015 Logan, who is only 7, went above and beyond when he saved his 5- year-old sister Reagan’s life. On that day, Logan’s mother had momentarily stepped in the house to get a baby bottle, leaving Logan and Reagan outside alone.
In that instant — Reagan, who was riding her bicycle — hit a crack in the cement, which caused both Regan and her bike to fly into a nearby pool.
Reagan can’t swim.
Upon seeing this, Logan immediately ran into the house frantically yelling for his mother and grandmother. Knowing he is not pool safe, Logan stood beside the pool encouraging Reagan to keep calm and assuring her help was on the way and she would be OK.
In response to Logan’s cries for help, the children’s grandmother quickly jumped in the pool and pulled Regan to safety. If Logan hadn’t been watching his sister, hadn’t thought quickly, and hadn’t kept calm, Regan most likely would have drowned.
Logan is a true hero.
Alberto Acevedo, Schweitzer Elementary, first grade
I, Mrs. Cowan, have the honor of having this young man in my first-grade class. I have been teaching for 27 years and I can honestly say that I have never had a student like Alberto. He is academically very strong in all subject areas and is able to use his knowledge in order to think outside the box to solve problems across the curriculum.
He hangs on every word I say in class and responds enthusiastically. As if this is not enough, Alberto also possesses character traits that are far beyond his years. He is the most caring student I have ever had. He watches out for all of the students in the class.
If he notices that a student is having a bad day, he will do whatever he can to give him or her a boost. If a student is struggling, he will sit with him or her and help him or her without complaining for as long as it takes. He has more patience than most adults. He notices the “underdog” and gives him or her encouragement.
The most remarkable thing about Alberto is that he performs all these acts of kindness with humility. He is truly a one in a million.
Anthony Bahena, Walter Elementary, third grade
Anthony is a special education student in a self-contained special ed classroom of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders with mild to moderate disabilities. He is an excellent example to all special ed students as well as all Walter Elementary students.
Anthony is always on task, working hard, striving to do his best, and is the perfect example of someone who will always “Do the Right Thing.” He is prepared, he is in line, he keeps his hands to himself, and he is kind to everyone.
He is sensitive, caring and shows compassion towards others. He is always ready to work diligently and thoughtfully throughout the day.
Enrique Mendez, Lincoln Elementary, third grade
Enrique is a bright young boy. He loves helping out anyone he possibly can. Whenever he sees someone who could use a helping hand, he takes the initiative and goes along doing whatever he needs to help.
Apart from being attentive, he is always mindful of the community. He participates with Operation Save Our Heroes. OSOH, along with the Anaheim community, was able to send over 35 care packages for a military unit stationed in Afghanistan during the holiday season.
Enrique was able to motivate his classmates to write and make amazing cards for the troops. He dedicates his time to help others and portrays himself as a role model to his classmates and friends.
Alexa Lewis, Stoddard Elementary, fourth grade
Alexa is an Anaheim Police Department Junior Cadet. She works hard in school and is well behaved. Alexa’s father figure has been incarcerated since November 2014 for drugs and theft. Alexa has proven that she is rising above her difficult home circumstances. She is a true fighter and serves as a positive role model to her peers.
She follows directions, is a good listener, and always treats others with kindness and respect. She intrinsically knows where she wants to be and knows what path she does not want to take. She is also a GATE student and proudly wears her junior cadet shirt with the motto “Respect Given is Respect Earned” every Monday.
Blake “Bosco” Sanchez and Daimean Carrillo, Salk Elementary, fifth grade
Blake and Daimean exhibited outstanding citizenship and leadership qualities during a recent lockdown at school. They both happened to be in the primary wing of campus when the lockdown occurred because they are part of a leadership group that works with kindergarteners during lunch.
Together they directed students to the nearest classroom and stayed with them for the duration of the emergency situation. The students in the classroom remained calm because Blake and Daimean took the initiative to distract them from the real situation.
Their awareness of the situation and quick thinking makes them great leaders and worthy of this award. I am very proud of their ability to work together with each other and with other students. They clearly have respect for others and act responsibly. This allows them to soar to success.
Scarlett Smith, Salk Elementary, sixth grade
Scarlett supported a girl at her school that was being sexually abused. Due to Scarlett’s friendship, the girl came forward and reported the abuse that had been occurring for several years. If not for Scarlett, still girl would most likely still be suffering from this abuse today.
Marisa Maldonado, Salk Elementary, sixth grade
Marisa learned of a student in her sixth-grade class who was depressed and mentioned hurting himself. Worried about her peer, Marisa courageously brought the situation to the attention of her parents who in turn contacted their teacher.
Their teacher reached out to the boy, and discovered he was experiencing some personal challenges. Their teacher was able to enroll the student in counseling, and fortunately he is doing much better. Had it not been for Marisa bringing this situation to the attention of her parents, this event may have had a tragic end.
Erica Rivera, Savanna High, 11th grade
Erica is an outstanding youth. She is an integral part of making her community better. Each year Erica takes charge in an event called “Navidad en Savanna,” in which she organizes the collection of toys for kids around her school. Navidad en Savanna provides not only gifts, but also food and entertainment.
In organizing this event, Erica takes the lead in making sure there are enough donations and that the event runs smoothly.
Erica also serves as a cabinet member for the City of Anaheim’s youth program Project SAY (Support Anaheim’s Youth). As a Project SAY cabinet member, she is responsible for the biweekly meetings and the support of the group.
Erica has volunteered with the Child Abuse Prevention Center, and for several events such as Dia de los Muertos, Back to School at the Zoo, beach cleanups, and many more. Erica leads by example, is heavily involved with other school groups, and still finds time to tutor at the homework center.
Currently Erica is ranked No. 2 in her class. What truly makes her outstanding is that she always does the right thing and is both academically strong and shows a true commitment to making her community better.
Isabel Cruz, Villa Park High, 11th grade
Isabel’s junior year has been a tough one, but she still managed to volunteer more than 10 hours a week as a cheer coach for The Pop Warner Midget Cheer Squad in Garden Grove. These girls are 12 to 15 years old, and Isabel is a great girl who leads by example and takes her volunteer position seriously.
Not only does she spend countless hours choreographing, she also monitors the girls and teaches them to be role models for other girls. She shares the importance of always being a lady, the importance of social media, and being an advocate in one’s society.
Isabel is creating permanent memories and instilling life skills with her squad.
Instead of spending time with her own friends, she is dedicated to teaching life skills and making a difference in the lives of the teenagers on her Cheer Squad.
Isabel spent 10 years as a cheerleader/participant in Anaheim Pop Warner and now she is paying it forward.
Kristina Marusic, Katella High, 12th grade
Kristina deserves this award because she has taken time out of her busy schedule to help Cops 4 Kids on numerous occasions and during numerous events. She volunteers with the program every week to help kids with their homework, to supervise them during play time, and to get them excited about physical fitness.
Every week, the kids look forward to when Kristina will return to come run with them again. At her school, she is captain of the cross-country team and has a 4.0 GPA. She also recently joined the Anaheim Police Explorer program to further volunteer her time to the community on her career path to become a police officer.
The kids and staff of Cops 4 Kids love having her around and appreciate everything she has done. Her smile and positive attitude are contagious and she is truly an inspiration to the kids and everyone she meets.