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Gates student awarded grand prize in ‘The Great Escape’ contest, gets a ride on ladder truck

One third-grader got a unique opportunity on Monday.

Madison Graybill, a Gates Elementary student, was the grand prize winner for “The Great Escape Contest,” which is put on by the American Red Cross and the Grand Island Fire Department. One winner from each Grand Island Public Schools elementary school was announced, and one grand prize was awarded.

The contest challenged third-graders to come up with a safe escape plan should there ever be a fire at home.

Madison went above and beyond, first writing a whole report on the subject. She then realized she could be more creative and make a poster instead.

“Our family had all the fire alarms and fire extinguishers, but we didn’t ever really make an escape plan,” Madison said. “Through the contest, I learned how to safely get out of my house, because we didn’t ever talk about that before.”

Gates principal Julie Martin and third-grader Madison Graybill take an aerial ride in a fire truck ladder.

Each winner from the schools got a ride to school in the fire truck. However, Madison was the only third-grader who got an aerial ride in the ladder. Principal Julie Martin and Madison’s teacher Jenna Engle also took a ride with the grand prize winner.

The whole student body got to watch and celebrate with Madison, something the fire department has never done before when awarding the grand prize. The students did a fire drill and were shocked and excited when they were surprised with a huge fire truck on their playground.

“It’s really exciting to be able to celebrate in front of the whole school,” Martin said. She said it was special to share the celebration with all of the students.

When she got off the ladder, Madison’s three words describing the ride were “Fun, exciting, and terrifying.”

Madison’s dad and grandma were there watching, sharing in her excitement.

Martin said the contest teaches students important lessons.

“This is such a an important piece for third-graders, to really make a plan,” Martin said. “If you’re in the heat of the moment, you’re not going to know what to do if you don’t practice it.”

Madison said the contest and the lessons it helps teach students are important because “if you ever do have a fire, you could get really hurt if you don’t have a plan to get out.”

The other winners include:

  • West Lawn: Samuel Velasquez
  • Newell: Lorelia Smith
  • Jefferson: Temo Aranda
  • Dodge: Isaac Aguilar
  • Lincoln: Jocelyn Garcia
  • Knickrehm: Abram Morales
  • Seedling Mile: Maya Romero
  • Shoemaker: Jace Muhlbach
  • Starr: Adrian O
  • Engleman: Katelyn Sybrants
  • Wasmer: Emma Cruz
  • Howard: Magda Cifuentes-Oxlaj
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