Andersen named Do the Right Thing Student of the Year
A Challenger Middle school student received a special surprise Tuesday morning, recognized for taking control and making some positive changes in her life.
Cindy Naumann, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Cape Coral Police Department, entered Kathryn Andersen’s math class with a bouquet of flowers and a balloon with Resource Officer Bob Atkisson, who followed behind with boxes of donuts. They both directed their gifts to Andersen, who was selected as this year’s Cape Coral Police Department’s Do The Right Thing program Student of the Year.
After Naumann announced to the class that Andersen was chosen for Student of the Year, the youngster stood up and began hugging everyone with a smile on her face.
Kathryn’s grandparents, Bill and Gail Andersen, also joined in on the surprise.
Kathryn said she did not expect the surprise, but was glad she was recognized for working her hardest and trying her best.
“All my life I have been disappointed by people … now I’m happy,” she said.
Gail said her granddaughter is a “survivor” and she has been on a “long journey in her short life.”
“We could have lost Kathryn,” she said about the young girl’s circumstances before she was brought to Florida.
Andersen was abused, starved and locked in a room for two years by her parents in Virginia before she was put into foster care for a few months.
Gail said Kathryn weighed only 48 pounds when she was 11 years old.
“She was so broken,” she said.
Her grandmother said Kathryn took care of her four siblings by trying to keep them warm when they had no power, along with sneaking them food when she had the opportunity to do so. Her siblings, who are 6, 5, 3 and 1, are currently scattered at various foster homes.
Her life changed last May when she moved into the area with her grandparents. Gail said she wanted to get Kathryn straight by offering her all the support she needed.
“She feels so much stronger,” she said about the change in her granddaughter’s life. “She is able to be the best she can be.”
Gail credits Challenger Middle for lifting her granddaughter up and providing a positive place for her to strive.
“She is in a really good place now,” she said.
“There is a lot of support here,” Kathryn said. “I’m happy.”
Half of her weekly allowance of $12 is donated to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals because she wants to help provide assistance to animals to help them get better so they can be adopted.
Her love for helping animals stemmed from her own personal experience when she was a couple years younger. Kathryn watched her own dog starve and be beaten while living in Virginia with her mother and step-father.
The 7th grade student already has her future figured out, which includes becoming an animal cop when she grows up.
“I am very proud of her,” Atkisson said. “She is a good person … a good kid who is always happy.”
His relationship has grown with Kathryn since the beginning of the school year due to their continued conversations.
Atkisson said it is nice because the kids have the opportunity to build a relationship with him and he has the chance to build one with them.
Principal Teri Cannady said she really encourages her teachers to recognize students and focus on the positive things the students are doing.
“I am really proud of her,” she shared.
Cannady said this is the second year in a row that Challenger Middle has had a Student of the Year recognized for what they have done.
“We have a lot of great kids,” she said. “It’s nice to find them and recognize them.”
On April 16, a special ceremony will be held at Lakes Park for the Fort Myers Police Department, Cape Coral Police Department, Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office Students of the Year.
“All the winners from all four agencies are invited to the event,” Naumann said.
Kathryn, along with the other students of the year, will receive a $1,000 savings bond, small gifts from various businesses throughout the community, along with a trophy.