Person of the Week: Matt Atkinson

A Wisconsin teen became a hero in his hometown after he warned officials that two friends were planning a Columbine-style attack on his Green Bay high school the very next day.

By his coming forward, officials averted what could have been a terrible tragedy for the community. During a press conference Wednesday, 17-year-old Matt Atkinson described his decision to speak out.

"If I didn't go, and they were serious, I couldn't live with all that on my conscience," he said.

Although the subject matter was gravely serious, it was not an easy decision. Atkinson wasn't at all certain the threat was genuine. And he's a teenager, when peer pressure can be intense.

"It was on my mind for a while and I told my mom about it and everything I had heard, and she told me 'Do the right thing' and 'It's up to you,'" he said.

"This was in no way easy for Matt," said his mother, Nancy Dury. "He was very upset knowing about this and really needed to talk."

After much thinking and his mother's advice, the high school senior said he decided it was his "duty" to tell authorities what he knew about the plot.

He met with a school administrator, who described the tip as "shocking."

"As soon as he left the room, I acted immediately," said Green Bay East High School associate principal Matthew Mineau. "It could have been a catastrophe that we averted because of what he had done. He saved my life."

'Matt Saved Our Lives'

Officials said students William Cornell and Shawn Sturtz were very serious about their plot. They and a former student had allegedly planned to set off bombs near bathrooms, set fire to exits and then shoot people they didn't like in the 1,400-student school.

Law enforcement officials raided the boys' homes and found suicide notes and a stash of weapons, ammunition, camouflage clothing, helmets and gas masks.

After helping authorities prevent the attack, Atkinson is a hero among his peers. "Matt saved all of our lives that day," said senior Stefanie Bunday. "Without him there, we could have been in a very different state today."

The mayor's office is considering establishing a scholarship fund set up in Matt's name.

"As a mayor, I'd name a street after him, you know, anything he'd like, but he did the right thing. He'd just like to get on with being a kid, and we're going to allow him to do that," said Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt.

Atkinson has been described as an unassuming kid who loves the Packers, goes to school events and loves his community. He's a member of the Future Farmers of America and plans to go to a nearby technical college, with thoughts of choosing computers as a career.

So, does he consider himself a hero?

"Kind of, but not really," Atkinson said. "I think of it that I'm just saving my fellow students' lives."

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