A Hero’s Journey

By Kristin Sanderson

From Julia Finney, Principal

The hero’s journey begins with a call to action. For Marcell Porter, that call was when he looked down from the top of the bank and, without thinking, ran from the known into the unknown and joined two other men in Cobb’s Creek trying to rescue whoever was trapped inside a car that was upside down and quickly filling with water.

Our 2nd and 3rd graders spent conference week studying heroes, exploring the character and lives of superheroes like Wonder Woman and Superman but also real life heroes like Malala Yousafzai and Albert Einstein. We were thrilled when the dad of 1st Grader Mya agreed to describe what happened to him on August 19th,. The children were riveted and their questions at the end were largely about whether he was scared, echoing what every adult I know, who has heard the story of Marcell’s heroism, ask themselves — Would I do the same if I were in his position?

Marcell wasn’t scared, at least not until it was all over. And, he says, he didn’t feel heroic at the time. He acted — it was all adrenaline and no questioning. Perhaps, as teacher Mark Palacio suggested, Marcell’s “super-powers,” his knowledge and skill gained as an auto body mechanic, enabled him to know the right way to work with the car in order to free Cheryl Allison. Maybe his recall of the basics of CPR was another kind of power. But, if so, they were certainly mundane in Marcell’s mind — abilities we all might possess. One of the strong and surprising lessons of his story is that we each possess the power to be a hero. Our own regular experiences can be life-saving talents in a time of need.

After reflecting on Marcell’s heroic journey and the incredible uplifting power of his story, I find myself thinking less about my hero qualifications. After all, I possess neither a lasso of truth nor automotive skills. Instead, I think more about how I might ready myself for the first part of the journey — the call to action. During the eight minutes it took to break the car’s shatterproof window, dive into the car, cut Ms. Allison away from her seat belt, pull her out and up from the murky water and resuscitate her lifeless body, Marcell was drawn along by adrenaline and urgent events. But, first, he made that decision to stop and help. That moment is available to all of us, if, as Marcell explained, we aren’t on our phones and the radio is not playing too loud; “I wasn’t too caught up in my thoughts or distractions and that’s why I noticed the woman flagging me down.” I believe that simply paying attention, so that we are present and available when that call is made, is how we can become heroes.

None of us may ever be the hero Marcell is, but truly there are opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life every day. At Miquon, our teachers are the heroes–they train themselves and practice being alert and aware each time they engage with your children, an ongoing effort to ensure our education is always child-centered. They develop extensive curricular plans and identify the learning goals for your child as a result, but, like many heroes, they are also always ready for the unexpected. Their call to action may happen while observing a child’s new curiosity in a particular subject, or a struggle to learn something new–causing the teacher to intervene and modify the parameters, the context, or the materials. A child may bring a strange (unknown) new caterpillar into the classroom, for instance, and the teacher might take a detour from the study of trees. In working with the whole group to identify, discover, and explore the beauty and mystery of the insects in our area, the teacher then helps the children travel from the world of the unknown to the known, as illustrated by Joseph Campbell’s heroic cycle diagram, below (that Mark, Diego, Marie and Diana Saraga introduced during their hero study).


While fictional superheroes (and sometimes, real-life heroes like Marcell Porter) may encounter death and rebirth, at Miquon, we strive to help children along their own journey which does involve deep personal transformation and growth. I remain in humble awe and gratitude to be surrounded by the many heroes in our extraordinary and intentional community. Thank you for being a part of this effort, and for joining us on the journey.

The account of Cheryl Allison’s rescue is available in the Philadelphia Daily News.

Leave Us a Comment