PALMDALE, Calif. (AP) _ Twelve-year-old Paul Grossnickle has lived as a hero for six years now. It wasn't until he wrote a composition for a recent class project, however, that he got the recognition he deserved.

On July 27, 1991, Paul saved his 3-year-old sister Julie from drowning in the family swimming pool. When he found her, he jumped in, scooped her off the bottom and brought her to the deck.

Their father was trying to revive Julie when firefighters arrived. She survived without serious injury.

About a week ago, in Paul's seventh-grade language arts class at Juniper Elementary School, teacher Liliana Mauro asked students to write about an important event in their lives. Paul wrote about rescuing Julie.

``He was somewhat disappointed he was never recognized for his deed,'' Principal Esmeralda Mondragon said. ``Mrs. Mauro contacted the Fire Department and looked into what they could do for him.''

The school held a regularly scheduled assembly for teachers and 200 pupils Monday and surprised Paul. Firefighters from a local station joined Assistant Fire Chief Dave Horn and Palmdale city officials who presented Paul a plaque that recognized him ``for his heroic effort preventing a needless loss of life in a near-drowning accident.''

Paul's parents, Alan and Kathy Grossnickle, were there as well as Julie.

``Paul's story was one of success ... and his sister was able to survive with all her faculties in place,'' fire Capt. Steve Valenzuela said. ``This should remind everyone else that because of Paul's quick action, knowing to get his sister out of the pool and calling 911 and beginning CPR probably saved her life.''