2016 Discovery Award Winners!

Students in Nate McAlister’s Royal Valley Middle School (Mayetta, Kansas) class have won the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Hero’s 2016 Discovery Award$7,500 grand prize. Their award-winning documentary brings to light the little-known story of Emma Darling Cushman, an American nurse who saved the lives of thousands of Armenian children during the Armenian genocide. Because of their discovery of and robust research on Cushman, the students have been given the honor of inscribing her headstone at the American cemetery in Cairo. Other winners in this international student competition (total prizes = $14,500!) discovered Unsung Heroes whose actions positively changed the course of history and improved the lives of others. Check out these exemplary projects below.

Congratulations to all of the 2016 Discovery Award winners!

  • $7,500 Grand Prize

    $7,500 Grand Prize

    A Light in the Darkness


    Unsung Hero:  Emma Darling Cushman
    Students: Luke Boyden, Colin Everts, and Colin Caviness
    Teacher: Nathan McAlister
    School: Royal Valley Middle School (Mayetta, Kansas)
    Mode:  Documentary

    Emma Darling Cushman was an American nurse who saved the lives of thousands of Armenian children during the Armenian genocide. In addition to caring for countless orphans, Cushman served as Acting Consul of the Allies and Neutral Nations, overseeing millions of dollars in relief funds and prisoner exchanges.

  • $2,000 Second Place Prize

    $2,000 Second Place Prize

    Initiating a Private War on Typhus to Save Thousands


    Unsung Hero: Eugene Lazowski
    Students: Natalie Brodine and Jeremy Wells
    Teacher: Susan Sittenauer
    School: Seaman High School (Topeka, Kansas)
    Mode:  Documentary

    Eugene Lazowski was a doctor who saved the lives of over 8,000 Polish Jews during WWII by injecting them with a phony vaccine that would create a false positive for typhus. By convincing the Nazis that the typhus epidemic was spreading across 12 different villages, Dr. Lazowski’s ruse caused the Nazis to sanction off the “infected” Polish ghettos and stopped the transport of these Polish Jews to death camps.

  • $1,000 Third Place Prize

    $1,000 Third Place Prize

    A Kristallnacht Survivor Courageously Standing Up to Discrimination


    Unsung Hero: Walter Sommers
    Students: Mya Hagerty and Kate Clarke
    Teacher: Jeffrey Rudkin
    School: Batchelor Middle School (Bloomington, Indiana)
    Mode:  Documentary

    Walter Sommers was a World War II veteran whose actions helped de-segregate lunch counters across Southern Indiana at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

  • $1,000 Outstanding International Project

    $1,000 Outstanding International Project

    Martyr of an Occupied Nation

    Unsung Hero:  Jan Opletal
    Students: Jemelkova Eva, Muzikar Martin, Rysavy Tomas, Tichy Martin, and Valecky David
    Teacher: Olga Myslikova
    School: SSTE Brno, Olomoucka, prispevkova organizace, Czech Republic
    Mode:  Website

    Jan Opletal was a brave activist whose premature death in 1939 from injuries sustained during an anti-Nazi demonstration catalyzed widespread student activism and served as a model for Nazi defiance across the Czech Republic.

    Visit the Award-Winning Student Website

  • $1,000 Outstanding Elementary School Project

    $1,000 Outstanding Elementary School Project

    The Florence Nightingale of the Bayou Country


    Unsung Hero:  Katherine Buckner Avery
    Students: Adam Perez, Addison Theriot, Allison Leach, and Suzette Medina
    Teacher: Beth de Mahy
    School: Iberia Parish 6th Grade Gifted Program (Iberia Parish, Louisiana)
    Mode:  Documentary

    Katherine Buckner Avery was a nurse who broke social boundaries to improve rural health care in Louisiana, particularly for African-Americans, during a time of intense racial segregation. Avery took charge of a refugee camp following the 1927 Mississippi River flood, and later established the New Iberia Crippled Children’s Association to treat children afflicted with polio and other spinal injuries.

  • $1,000 Outstanding Middle School Project

    $1,000 Outstanding Middle School Project

    Heroes Don’t Always Wear Capes: Dr. Frances Kelsey’s Exploration and Determination


    Unsung Hero:  Frances Kelsey
    Students: Molli Christensen and Rachel Osborn
    Teacher: Alice Bertels
    School: Washburn Rural Middle School (Topeka, Kansas)
    Mode:  Documentary

    Frances Kelsey was a Canadian pharmacologist and physician who, as a reviewer for the FDA, refused to authorize thalidomide, a drug later shown to cause serious birth defects. Through a long career with the FDA in decades following, Kelsey continued to have a significant impact on strengthening the agency’s oversight of pharmaceuticals.

  • $1,000 Outstanding High School Project

    $1,000 Outstanding High School Project

    Ex Parte Endo: A Journey Toward Justice for Japanese Americans


    Unsung Hero: Mitsuye Endo
    Students: Avery Munns
    Teacher: Lindsey Dowell
    School: Washburn Rural High School (Topeka, Kansas)
    Mode: Documentary

    Mitsuye Endo was a woman who challenged Japanese-American internment all the way up to the United States Supreme Court and won.

2016 Discovery Award Press Release