“Teen” and “hero” are not words commonly associated with one another. Our media often paints teenagers in a negative light, portraying them as angsty sex-fueled jerks who just want to party, hang out at the mall, and go skateboarding. Funnily enough, this story starts off at least partially adhering to that stereotype with four teenage boys skateboarding in the parking lot of a mall. However, these teens were far from typical.
Arnaud Nimenya, Carsyn Wright, James Hielema and Starlyn Rives-Perez were having a typical night at the Chinook Mall in Calgary, Alberta when they noticed something strange: a well-dressed older man carrying a drunk and distraught teenage girl.
“She was screaming and yelling. She just wanted to be out of there. She was all scuffed up and dirty,” Wright told CBC News.
They approached the man and questioned what he was doing. The man claimed to be helping the girl. He said he was about to call the girl’s father so that he could give her a ride home. The boys decided to ride off. They believed the man, or at least they wanted to.
“You don’t want to really think of the worst in somebody like that. You don’t want that situation to be real, so you just brush it off and hope for the best,” Wright continued.
Partway through their ride, they realized just how unsettling the earlier situation was and decided it might be a good idea to go back and check on the girl. They had last seen the sharp-dressed man taking the girl to a nearby stairwell. So they decided that that’s where they would head.
When they got there, they saw something that they simply could not believe!
“He had her in a stairwell, bent over, and just, it was disgusting,” Wright explained.
They paused for a moment, in total shock.
“You walk in, and you see something like that, and you freeze,” Nimenya added, “You don’t know what to do.”
Once they got over their initial shock, the boys sprung into action. Three of them chased after the attacker while one stayed behind to look after the girl. The man put up a fight against the kids, as Arnaud Nimenya described:
“He was trying to walk out and walk away from us. He pushed me aggressively out of the way, kinda like just gives me the smile, like, ‘I can do this. You can’t do anything about it.'”
Yet the man was wrong. They could do something about him and, in fact, did. As the man got more and more aggressive, the boys did their best to hold him off. At one point, the man even picked up one of the group’s skateboards and tried to beat them with it. It was a very tense encounter but the boys successfully held the man off until the police arrived.
That day, the police came to arrest the man and charge him with sexual assault but that wasn’t the last the boys would hear from the force. Soon after, the four friends received calls from the police, calls that they thought would land them in the slammer.
“We always thought we were going to be in trouble, because we fought with [the attacker],” Nimenya explained, “When they called us, we didn’t wanna answer.”
Fortunately for the boys, the police were looking to honor, not arrest. The teens were invited to the Chief’s Awards Gala where, on Thursday, June 8th, they were honored for their compassion and bravery. They were among 25 citizens honored at the event and, while I certainly agree with that judgment, according to Wright, they were just doing what they had to do.
“You can’t just leave a girl in that situation. She was a young girl. She was 15 years old. She needed help and we needed to be there for her,” Wright explained in an interview with CBC News. “I hope that anyone who’s in that situation would come to her help because it’s just a humane thing to do. It’s just ethical.”
So next time you’re watching a cheesy teen drama on TV, just remember that real-world teenagers are capable of some incredible things. Share the story with a friend; it’s a reminder we can all be capable of going above and beyond to do the right thing.