Feeling helpless from afar, Maddy Wickoren said she worried about her former students.
“It didn’t seem real to me and I was shaking,” Wickoren said, recalling the moment she learned about the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch.
Two shooters walked into the school at South Ridgeline Boulevard and Plaza Drive at around 1:50 p.m. on May 7 and opened fire on their classmates in “two separate locations," according to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
Wickeron now lives and works in North Dakota, but she used to be a program leader at an elementary school close to STEM.
“A lot of those students that we had in our childcare program transferred from that school to STEM, so, unfortunately, a lot of my students were there the day that the shooting happened,” she said.
Her former students are safe thanks to three students she never met.
Kendrick Castillo was killed in the shooting. Classmates say just before he was shot, Castillo lunged at the gunman, allowing others to take cover.
Two other classmates, Joshua Jones and Brendan Bialy are also credited with helping to tackle one of the shooters.
Wickeron's admiration led her to start a petition on Change.org that had garnered more than 40,000 as of Sunday evening. She hopes ESPN takes notice.
“The petition is to honor Brendan Bialy, Josh Jones and Kendrick Castillo with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award,” Wickeron explained.
The annual award given out at the Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly (ESPY) Awards acknowledges "those who possess strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost", according to ESPN.
“That exactly defines what those boys did,” Wickeron said.
Angela Sanders is among the thousands who have signed the petition on Change.org. Sanders’ father, Dave Sanders, was killed in the shooting at Columbine High School.
Sanders posthumously received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2000 for his courageous actions that saved students.
Angela Sanders commented on the online petition to honor the STEM students, writing in part, “I cannot think of two more deserving people of this award than these amazing young men.”
Sanders said she would be honored to present the award to the students if asked.
The ESPYs will be held July 10th in Los Angeles.
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