Rialto School Board recognizes Destinee Hart for bravery, Maryjoy Duncan for State Golden Quill Award

IECN photo RUSD: 3rd grade Werner Elementary student Destinee Hart was recognized for her bravery when she demonstrated extreme calm and self control while calling for help during her father’s heart attack, essentially saving his life. From left: RUSD Board President Edgar Montes, Werner Elementary Principal Dr. Ayanna Balogun, Rachel Garvin (Destinee’s teacher), Destinee Hart, Board Clerk Dina Walker, Board Member Joseph Ayala, Board Vice President Nancy G. O’Kelley, Barbara Collor (Destinee’s mother), Board Member Joseph Martinez, Werner Librarian Barbara McDonald, and RUSD Superintendent Dr. Cuauhtémoc Avila.

The Rialto Unified School District Board of Education presented Werner Elementary School 3rd-grade student Destinee Hart with the “Bridge Builders Award,” and recognized Rialto Record Managing Editor Maryjoy (Paxton) Duncan for earning the California School Boards Association’s (CSBA) Golden Quill journalism award during the regularly scheduled board meeting on Wednesday, Mar. 13.

IECN photo RUSD: RUSD board members, IECN publisher and San Bernardino Community College District Trustee Gloria Macías Harrison, front center, IECN Managing Editor Maryjoy Duncan joined by her three children, and husband, Justin S. Duncan, back row third from right.

Over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Destinee, 9, showed immense courage when she sprang into action after realizing her father was suffering a heart attack, and her quick response ultimately saved his life.

“She was cool, calm and collected as she gave the 911 dispatchers vital information, knowing that her mom needed sleep after a week of commuting to LA for work, she waited until after EMS officials were at the front door before waking her,” RUSD Board Vice President Nancy G. O’Kelley informed the crowd gathered in the board room. 

According to Destinee’s teacher Rachel Garvin, her story has been shared with her classmates and has led to classroom visits by the Rialto Fire Captain, dispatchers, EMTs and Rialto police to commend her for her incredible bravery.

“Her classroom family is very proud of her and we have all learned the importance of remaining calm during an emergency, knowing your address, and being brave.” Garvin said.

RUSD Superintendent Dr. Cuauhtémoc Avila recently paid Destinee a surprise visit.

“When I visited her in the classroom, a couple weeks ago, Destinee was shy, soft-spoken and very respectful,” stated Dr. Avila. “We chatted very briefly because activities were going on but I wanted to stop by and tell her in person that I was proud of her. It’s a life experience she will carry with her forever.”

Destinee, the youngest of parents Barbara Collor and Karl Hart, enjoys math and science, and described herself as kind, intelligent, incredible and hard working.

“Tonight, Destinee, we honor you. At such a young age, you displayed great signs of leadership,” O’Kelley said. “For following your father’s direction, and for being conscientious in observing that your mother was – after all – tired, you became the leader in your family and went into crisis-mode. What a hero.”

The Board of Education recognized Maryjoy Duncan for earning the state’s Golden Quill Award that recognizes outstanding education journalism and highlights the essential role journalists play in increasing the understanding of the objectives, operations, accomplishments, challenges and opportunities related to public schools. Duncan is one of 25 recipients from over 1,000 school districts in the state.

The RUSD Board of Education presented Duncan with her CSBA certificate and a District plaque. Rialto Record publisher Gloria Macías Harrison also accepted the recognition.

According to a RUSD press release, “Since August 2017, under the editorial helm of Duncan, the Rialto Record has positively highlighted RUSD in over 60 news articles, ranging from District focused, to school and individual achievements. Duncan’s emphasis on positive reporting successfully parallels the District’s Strategic Plan, which celebrates ‘Bridge Builders.’”

“The District is grateful to have this consummate journalistic professional be recognized for her tireless work,” stated Syeda Jafri, Agent of Communications/Media Services. “Mrs. Duncan approaches her reporting with integrity and a kind-hearted focus for her subjects. True to community journalism format, her positive values are always featured through her style of writing. Her articles emphasize RUSD educational achievements, which create much joy in the lives of our students, staff members and parents. The free press is a fundamental core piece of democracy in America. Presently, reporters and the profession of journalism are under tremendous scrutiny, so it is refreshing to observe reputable State educational agencies, such as CSBA, championing the work of those in this credible profession.”

School district and county boards of education nominate journalists for the Golden Quill Award, identifying stories where the nominee demonstrated a holistic understanding of the local educational agency and its stakeholders. Nominees must also have developed relationships with the school board and relevant district and site-level staff, in addition to understanding the district or county office of education’s missions, goals and/or strategic vision during the reporting process.

“I am deeply honored to be recognized for the Golden Quill Award. I believe that the efforts, achievements and triumphs of the academic community deserve to be highlighted in the news. Journalism can be a platform to acknowledge the endeavors of students and educators. It is important to remember that the future of our community depends on the success of our students,” replied Duncan.

“Journalists who accurately and fairly explore the issues that districts and county offices of education face perform an essential public service by providing meaningful insight into public schools, one of our country’s core civic institutions,” said CSBA President Mike Walsh. “The Golden Quill Awards celebrate strong reporting that informs audiences and illuminates the critical issues facing local schools and California’s 6.2 million public school students.”

The Rialto Record is part of Inland Empire Community Newspapers (IECN)