Pownal student lands Clukey award for courage

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FREEPORT — Matt O’Shea of Pownal reported to the Freeport Middle School auditorium along with other students for an all-school assembly April 28.

No one, including O’Shea, knew quite what to expect.

On stage stood 2010 U.S. Olympian luger and Maine native Julia Clukey, Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, and Principal Ray Grogan. Shortly after Grogan began speaking, O’Shea recognized who the student Grogan was speaking about.

It was him.

The self-described quiet young man who said he does not seek the limelight heard his name announced along with the award he would receive: The Julie Clukey Courage Award. 

The award honors leadership and overcoming adversity, traits Clukey embodied from her training days in Augusta to participating in the luge event at the Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“It was a surprise,” O’Shea said Monday from the school library. “It was a very fun moment.”

Being 14, O’Shea said he momentarily felt awkward. He knew when Grogan talked about a student’s participation in the Maine Civil Air Patrol that the principal was calling him front and center, for a good cause.

“I’m really kind of a shy guy,” O’Shea admitted.

His community service, however, speaks loud and clear. His ability to overcome his shy nature convinced the school to nominate him for the Clukey award. 

“He’s a great kid,” Grogan said. “He’s very involved with the Maine Civil Air Patrol and he’s working on his pilot’s license.”

O’Shea volunteers with his family at a local soup kitchen, Grogan said. The teenager shares his enthusiasm for the CAP and flying with younger students. Grogan said O’Shea asked permission to speak to seventh-graders about the air patrol. 

“He’s a history buff, especially around wars and battles. He definitely knows his stuff,” Grogan said.

O’Shea looks for ways to help. If there’s a school dance or event, he helps school staff set up the space and later break it down.

He said he’s inspired to serve others from the leadership lessons he’s gained from the CAP.

“It’s kind of preparing me for adult life, pushing myself through,” the blue-eyed teen said. 

O’Shea will be a Freeport High School freshman next year. He’s interested in attending classes at Region 10, under the state’s umbrella of technical high schools.

He also expects to study more for his pilot’s license. Many hours will be required, plus flying lessons and a solo flight. He could learn to fly before he learns to drive. 

“I’ve just chiseled at this,” O’Shea said, gesturing as though he chipped away one task leading to pilot’s lessons.   

Lisa D. Connell can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or lconnell@theforecaster.net. Follow Lisa on Twitter: @connell_ld.

Freeport Middle School student Matt O’Shea, 14, of Pownal, is the recipient of the Julia Clukey Courage Award, named for Maine native and U.S. Olympian Julia Clukey.