by Susan Mikula Campbell
All eight of the young award winners looked a bit nervous Tuesday as they were individually marched up on the vast Niagara Falls High School stage by a member of the Niagara County Sheriff's Honor Guard.
Wheatfield's Robert Dikcis wasn't that nervous when he reported the fire at West Street Elementary School last month. After all, he explained, he was just doing his job as a member of the school's Safety Patrol.
The youngsters, on stage in front of a proud audience of relatives, were being honored in the Do The Right Thing program. As finalists chosen from nominations received from all over the county, they each received a plaque and a backpack filled with goodies, along with praise from Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour and Niagara Falls Police Superintendent Brian DalPorto.
Their names and the tales of their exemplary behavior were read by County Legislator David Godfrey and James Ward, representative for State Sen. George Maziarz and a former county legislator.
In addition to Robert, those honored were: Sarah Hillard of Catholic Academy of Niagara Falls, De'Shaun Swanson of Niagara Street Elementary in Niagara Falls, Rohmeo Lewis of Cataract Elementary in Niagara Falls, Chase Luly of Drake Elementary in Lockport, and Malik Leverette, De'Sha Staples and Malika Grant-Dolson, all of Gaskill Preparatory School in Niagara Falls.
They joined more than 550 honorees in the past 15 years who have "shown through their accomplishments, attitudes and/or outstanding efforts that they are positive role models for their peers as well as being outstanding representatives of Niagara County."
One honoree on a school field trip to Washington, D.C., noticed an unknown younger child crying in a gift shop because of not having enough money for a chosen souvenir. She kindly made up the difference in cost. Another honoree found and turned in $100.
Robert, a fifth-grader and a Boy Scout, was on Safety Patrol duty in West Street's kindergarten pod when two kindergartners told him there was a fire in a vacant room. Thinking they might be imagining things, he checked. "I was shocked because there was a real fire," he said. As trained, he immediately reported to a teacher and the school was evacuated. "Everybody got out of the building; no one was hurt," he said.
The students were taken to the high school for pick up by their parents. When Robert's mother Gigi arrived, "Everybody was coming up to me and saying, 'Your boy's a hero'," she said. Robert told her, "Mom, I just did my job."
His calmness and readiness to do the right thing might come from being the youngest in a family of six boys. He's especially proud of three older brothers who served in the Army - Tom (Cannuli), an Iraq veteran; Stan, who was injured in Afghanistan, and Alan, who was killed in Afghanistan.
N-W Interim Superintendent James Knowles praised Robert. "We should honor young people for these kind of acts," he said.
He said the fire is believed to have started in an electrical appliance that had a short in it. Repairs, painting and cleaning of air ducts are being done both in the vacant room used for storage where the fire occurred and in adjacent classrooms.
As for Robert, he's looking forward to heading off to Edward Town Middle School next fall. He wants to attend college and possibly become a lawyer.
Why a lawyer? "I would get a lot of money and I would be doing what's right," he said.