LAFAYETTE — Ask Dante Rideaux and Amba West who their heroes are and Superman tops both the 8-year-old second-graders’ lists. On Wednesday, Dante, Amba and 33 other students from across Acadiana were honored as Cox Inspirational Heroes.
“You’re very courageous,” said Julie Simon-Dronet, executive director of operations for Cox Communications Acadiana to the crowd of heroes, their caretakers and teachers.
The local recognition event, now in its third year, cited students from ages 7 to 18 for their inner strength to overcome obstacles and challenges ranging from physical and developmental limitations to the loss of a parent or other personal challenge.
Dante’s mother, Monique Rideaux, said he suffered an asthma attack in November that led to a stroke.
Doctors told Dante’s parents that he faced a long, arduous recovery. Within two months, Dante started walking, and this week, he visited his class at Magnolia Elementary in New Iberia and the friends he has missed for the past few months.
“He’s a determined boy. What happened to him didn’t stop him,” Rideaux said.
Amy Ledet, Amba’s teacher at Hattie Watts Elementary in St. Mary Parish, said she is a hero to her classmates and her teachers, who seek her out for one of her famous hugs to get them through a rough day.
Amba said a hero is “a Superman or someone who does a good job.” She accepted her recognition during the ceremony in a blue, Cinderella princess dress and white gloves.
Amba’s mother, Tamika West, said her daughter was born with Dandy Walker syndrome, which affected her brain development and she has endured several surgeries.
Doctors told West that Amba would never walk or talk, but by her first year she was walking, the mother said.
The young girl’s smile is as famous as her hugs. Amba said she has a good reason for her non-stop smile: “Because I’m glad I’m here.”
Each hero had a unique story of triumph in the face of adversity.
Haley Kipp, a senior at New Iberia Senior High, has helped to support her disabled mother since her father’s death. The 18-year-old works two jobs and maintains a 4.0 grade point average.
After being recognized Wednesday, Kipp said she does not see herself as a hero and she finds strength and inspiration in her mother.
Here’s a complete list of the 2013 Cox Inspirational Heroes for Acadiana:
Acadia Parish: Baileigh Goins of Mire Elementary; and Matthew LeLeaux, of St. Francis School
Iberia Parish: Katelyn Freyou of Catholic High School; Drake Guidry of Delcambre High School; Haley Elizabeth Kipp of New Iberia Senior High; Grant Klentzman of Highland Baptist Christian School; Joshua LaSalle of Jeanerette High School; Dante Rideaux of Magnolia Elementary; Camrin Sandoz of Loreauville High School; Trah’Nae St. Julien of Daspit Road Elementary; and Akel Youman of St. Edward School.
Lafayette Parish: Joseph “Cash” Alleman of Acadiana High; Gerard Andrus of Northside High School; Hunter Bouillion of Milton Elementary/Middle School; Tiyael Bush of Prairie Elementary; Kenneth Chaisson, Jr. of Ossun Elementary; Hannah Delahoussaye of Teurlings Catholic; Javonte Dickerson of Holy Family Catholic School; Brandon Thomas Dugas of Charles M. Burke Elementary; Cortravien Francis of Live Oak Elementary; Kacie Francois of Plantation Elementary; Hunter Guilbeaux of L. Leo Judice Elementary; Alexys Lauren Hebert of Lafayette High School; Amber Hollier of Acadian Middle; Abbie Judice of Green T. Lindon Elementary; Chesten Miller of Scott Middle School; and Quinton Thibodeaux of Carencro High School.
St. Martin Parish: Aaron Delahoussaye of Parks Middle School; and Shae Stelly of Cecilia High School.
St. Mary Parish: Amani Aytre Calais of Patterson Junior High School; Robert McGraw of Berwick Junior High; Nadia Spiller of West St. Mary High; and Amba West of Hattie Watts Elementary.
Vermilion Parish: Cole Lange of Rene Rost Middle School; and Haylie Mouton of Kaplan High School.