Noelle, Awards of Excellence Recipient, Follows Her Firefighter Father’s Example

We congratulate Noelle Philippi for being selected as a First Responders Foundation Awards of Excellence 2020 recipients.  Noelle is graduating from Ralston High School. 

The Awards of Excellence are presented to children of first responders who demonstrate a commitment to the community and volunteerism, have good character, and balanced achievements in their lives.

Below is part of an essay that Noelle submitted for the award.

Noelle, Awards of Excellence recipient, Follows Her Firefighter Father’s Example

Noelle remembers the way her father Brad’s career as an Omaha Firefighter has influenced her life.  Noelle writes;

Noelle Awards of Excellence Recipient I am reminded of all the ways my dad’s occupation has impacted my life. From the time I was a baby, I participated in training drills for fire departments and paramedics. I remember being asked to hide around the station as a toddler, to help new recruits understand what it was like to rescue a goofy, squirmy, somewhat uncooperative kid. These are all fun things to look back on, but what’s really impacted me is my Dad’s heart for other people.

I can’t imagine the physical and emotional labor required to spend 24-hour shifts rescuing injured people and fighting fires, operating effectively in high-stress situations, and then getting up to do it all again in a day. My dad takes this challenge in stride. The fact that he spends his life helping people he doesn’t even know is inspirational to me, and one of the main reasons I feel so drawn to volunteer work. I don’t think I’ll ever be fighting fires or rescuing people from burning buildings, but I still want to make the world around me a better place with how I spend my time.”

Noelle is definitely following through on what she learned from her father with her desire to make the world a better place.  While at Ralston High School, Noelle made an impact on students, families, and the community.


Noelle was an Rambassador, a play on words with the high school Rams mascot, where she met with new students and families, to give school tours. She also participated in the “Bridge to High School”, a summer program attended by most freshmen.  Noelle said, “This was one of my favorite responsibilities!  I was able to spend time with new students and ease their fears about transitioning to a new school and classes, and give them a familiar face to connect with if they needed anything later in the year.”

Noelle was on the Swim Team and Tennis Team all four years of the high school receiving many Varsity letters.  She and her doubles tennis partner made it to State their junior year. Noelle enjoyed sports, while at the same time, always making a conscious effort to be a role model for underclassmen.

As a Senior

Noelle discovered she had passion and skill in photography as the business manager of the yearbook.  The project of which she is most proud was establishing one cohesive archive of all 67 editions of the Ralston yearbook.  This project expanded into a partnership with the Ralston Archives Museum where the yearbooks are being digitized and will be available to the public.  In March 2020, Noelle received an award from UNO for News and Feature Photography.

Noelle was an officer of the Ralston High School National Honor Society her senior year. 

Here, she volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, participated in the Open Store, a garage sale that is free to families in need, and assisted in monthly food distribution at the Omaha Food Bank.  Most importantly she made her primary focus the Ralston High School food pantry. She coordinated volunteers, led biweekly meetings, and assisted with solving food shortages and surpluses.  The food pantry provides food for Ralston School District families. 

Noelle said, “I love being able to make connections with people who come through my line, even if all I do is help them walk food to their car. I hope that I made their day a little better than it was before.”

Noelle also volunteers at Calvary Christian Church where she has been a member of life.  She is part of the Hospitality Team that welcomes people each Sunday and provides free coffee.  “I enjoy being able to meet all the wonderful people and try to make their mornings a little brighter”, said Noelle.  She has also assisted with Vacation Bible School and enjoys working with young people.

All of this directed Noelle toward a career in public service.  “Though I don’t know where I’ll be in ten years, my goal is to spend my working days talking to people in my community in need, and giving a helping hand where it’s needed,” said Noelle.Noelle and her father

Future Plans

Her plans in the fall are to attend Northwestern College in Orange City, IA, studying Public Relations and Communications, and play on the school’s tennis team.  Noelle’s goal is to integrate faith and service to others, into a career in Public Relations, with a non-profit organization. The class load she had in high school from honors biology, chemistry, foreign language, to women’s choir, have prepared her for what is ahead academically.  She is very thankful for all the opportunities and great experiences she received in high school and is excited about the future.

The lessons learned by example from her father Brad, as a first responder, have made lasting impressions on Noelle. Noelle represents all that the Awards of Excellence are meant to honor 

NoelleAgain, we congratulate Noelle and wish her all the best in the future.

Noelle’s father, Brad, was a volunteer firefighter paramedic and training Captain for the Ralston Volunteer Fire Department while he was a career firefighter for the Elkhorn Fire Department.  He moved to the Omaha Fire Department when Elkhorn was annexed.  Noelle participated in the training when Brad was at the Ralston Volunteer Fire Department.

(Note: The First Responders Foundation typically holds a ceremony for the Awards of Excellence recipients where they receive their award and $500 check. This year, due to COVID-19, and the health and safety of the students and their families of utmost importance, the ceremony has been canceled. In place of the celebration each student will receive a special package in the mail.)

Read an article written by Noelle in the Ralston Recorder: A Ralston H.S. Senior’s Shifting Thoughts Amid a Pandemic.

For a list of all Awards of Excellence 2020 recipients click here.