Scholarship honors 9-11 responder who loved art

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Constance Higdon (c.) poses with the winners of a scholarship that was created in honor of her son. Photo by Ivan Pereira

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By Ivan Pereira
Thursday, April 7, 2011

Detective Thomas Wesley Higdon Jr. lived to serve the community, and his drive and imagination for helping people started when he attended St. Clare’s Catholic School in Rosedale, according to his mother Constance Higdon.

The Queens Village parent said she wanted to honor the memory of her son, whose commitment to his community included long hours at Ground Zero following the 9/11 attacks, after he died of a respiratory illness two years ago by promoting that creativity to future generations of those grammar school students.

“We chose this school because it is where he developed his formative years,” Constance Higdon said at the first awarding of the scholarship in her son’s name Friday.

Six students from grades six through eight were given financial aid in the form of $500 and $250 prizes for a one-of-a-kind creative contest. Unlike other scholarships that require good grades or an essay, the prizes were decided through an art competition.

Constance Higdon said her son, who worked at the 106th Precinct before he died suddenly at the age of 38, loved art, especially comic books, so she asked applicants to draw a comic strip that featured a message against bullying.

She said the problem has become worse among young learners and wanted the students to show how it is detrimental to their lives and how they can curb the practice.

“A lot of people are talking about bullying today. President Obama has talked about it, too,” she said.

The winners, three first-place students from the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grades, and three runner-ups from the same grades, mixed superhero-stylized art with meaningful plots that taught tolerance and respect.

Cameron Burse, 12, the seventh-grade runner-up, wrote and drew his story about a boy who uses his super powers to prevent bullying.

“You can stop bullying. All you have to do is put your mind to it,” he said.

Constance Higdon said she was impressed with the dedication and time the students spent with their comics.

“We were looking at the entries and I was amazed at how they expressed themselves through comic art,” she said.

The students’ works were no different than some of the art pieces Thomas Higdon would create when he attended the school at 137-25 Brookville Blvd. His mother said the school taught him the discipline that went into everything he did.

“It helped to bring his sense of community,” she said.

Thomas Higdon eventually went on to work with the NYPD and was at Ground Zero following the Sept. 11 attacks. He worked tirelessly to help search for his fellow officers, according to his mother.

“Tommy liked to help people all the time. That is why he became a police officer,” she said.

In October 2009, he was taken to Jamaica Hospital, where he was treated for an aggressive form of pneumonia and died a short time after he was admitted. Although she said the city’s Medical Examiner’s office is still investigating the cause of his death, Constance Higdon said she believed that the dust at Ground Zero affected him.

A few months later, she held a fund-raiser in Douglaston and used the money to create the scholarship. Constance Higdon said she plans to hold the contest again next year and inspire more students in her son’s honor.

“There is nothing you can’t do if you set your mind to it,” she told the winners.

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 7th, 2011 at 9:09 pm and is filed under Education, Feature, Print Articles, TimesLedger. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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