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CCSD Heroes Profile: Debbi Kennedy

Affective Needs Paraeducator Debbi Kennedy with CCSD Superintendent Christopher Smith and her team.Debbi Kennedy couldn’t help thinking that she was meant to be at the intersection of Smoky Hill Road and Biscay Circle on Aug. 16.

It was the second day of the 2022-23 school year in Cherry Creek Schools and Kennedy, an affective needs paraeducator at Trails West Elementary, had left the building a little earlier than usual because of the staggered school schedule that day. She was behind the wheel, waiting to make the turn onto Smoky Hill when she spotted a small figure running into the rainy street.

It was a child, she realized; a very young child.

“I thought, ‘What’s going on? He’s not with his parents! I’ve got to do something.’ That’s why I stopped and pulled over,” Kennedy recalled. “I pulled up beside him, and then I lost sight of him. I pulled the wrong way going on to Biscay. I got out of my car and ran, and he was in the middle of Smoky Hill. I ran out there and asked the cars to stop; I was screaming, holding my arms up.”

Some of the cars stopped. Most didn’t.

With traffic whizzing by on the busy, four-lane road, Kennedy reached the child, grabbed him, and pulled him to safety on the side of the road. She called 911, and tried to comfort the child as best she could as police officers arrived.

“It had rained that morning. He didn’t have any shoes on; he just had socks on. His feet were soaking wet,” Kennedy said. “I tried to get him warm, put a little towel on him. He wasn’t talking. I kept on saying, ‘Where’s your mommy?’”

The child didn’t reply. He was non-verbal autistic, as Kennedy learned after the child’s mother arrived and took him home. On that day, Kennedy didn’t get the chance to talk to the child’s mother; she didn’t get the opportunity to ask any questions, or receive proper credit for her heroic actions.“I felt like I was at the right place at the right time, because I do work with special needs kids,” she said. “I was there. I was able to comfort the child until mom came.”

Kennedy eventually received that credit, thanks to the Trails West community. During a surprise celebration held on Sept. 19, the entire school gathered in the gym for a surprise celebration honoring Kennedy’s selflessness, bravery, and quick thinking on that rainy afternoon in August. CCSD Superintendent Christopher Smith was on hand to present Kennedy with the Cherry Creek Heroes Award, an honor designed to recognize those in Cherry Creek Schools who commit extraordinary actions of behalf of the community.

“Thank you for being a real-life hero,” Smith said. “You saved a child’s life. You are the epitome of what it means to be a Cherry Creek Hero and a member of the CCSD family. Thank you.”

The awards ceremony was a complete surprise to Kennedy, who entered the gym expecting a schoolwide assembly. Instead, she received cheers, congratulations, and encouragement from students and staff alike. Students hoisted handmade posters bearing messages like, “You’re Our Hero, Miss Debbi.” Her colleagues were on hand to speak to Kennedy’s everyday commitment to kids.

“Debbi is the definition of Hero and compassion in my book. Every single day I see her helping the kids. She gives her all in everything that she does,” said district Behavior Support Technician Texceam Krebsbach, who nominated Kennedy for the Cherry Creek Hero Award. Krebsbach added that she wasn’t surprised when she heard the tale of Kennedy’s brave rescue of a small child wandering into a busy street. “I wasn’t totally surprised when she told me the story.

“That’s what she does,” Krebsbach added.

Cherry Creek Heroes is a recognition program designed to celebrate any member of our community who contributes to the district in an extraordinary way: someone who goes above and beyond normal expectations to help or support Cherry Creek Schools students, staff, or schools. If you know of a student, parent, employee, or community member whose exceptional service or amazing action has made a positive difference to the students, staff, schools, or families in our district, please let us know! We want to acknowledge their outstanding actions with a formal ‘Thank you’ that includes an award, a small ceremony and recognition across the district.
To nominate someone for this special recognition, please go to and tell us why they deserve to be a CCSD Hero!

- Posted 9/19/22 at 12 PM