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Awards program pays tribute to community 'heroes' with a devotion to service above self

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Musician Aaron Nigel Smith, one of the winners in the citizens/volunteers category of last year's Service Above Self:Educational Excellence Awards, was honored for working over the course of 15 years to educate, empower and entertain youth and families around the globe. Nominations for this year's awards are now being accepted. Nominations are now being accepted for the Lake Oswego Rotary Club's third-annual Service Above Self: Educational Excellence Awards, which are designed to honor individuals in the education community who "give more to life than they take from it."

That's how Rotarian Eric Allenbaugh describes the mission of the SASEE program, which he started in 2016 with co-chair Malcolm Mathes. Now, "a number of Rotarians are actively involved in making it a reality," he says.

That means this year's program will look a bit different. For the past two years, for example, SASEEs were awarded in three categories: teachers, administrators and support staff; students; and citizens and volunteers. But this year, the awards will be broken into four categories, with support staff being recognized separately.

"There are so many amazing members of the support staff in the district, and we really wanted to recognize them," Allenbaugh says.

Mathes agrees.

"The judges had a hard time deciding who to choose last year, between all the amazing teachers, administrators and support staff. We realized the criteria we were looking for in a teacher versus a support staff member was very different," he says. "Support staff can be really important to students. They are oftentimes the backbone of the school system. We wanted to make sure we recognized them."

Other changes coming to this year's SASEE Awards are the number of prizes and the manner in which they will be given out at the awards ceremony, which is scheduled for Feb. 27 at the Tualatin Country Club.

"In previous years, folks knew in advance who the SASEE recipients were going to be," Allenbaugh says. "This year, it's going to have more of an 'Academy Awards' feel. We will narrow each category down to a group of finalists, and they and a guest will all be honored at a dinner and awards ceremony."

Mathes says the change in the awards dinner will lead to a better experience for nominees and attendees alike.

ALLENBAUGH"The first year we did the SASEE Awards dinner was a little bit like how we're doing it now. People got really excited about it, and we wanted to bring that excitement back this year," he says. "The student nominees in particular really enjoyed it. We didn't want to change too much, but doing little things different spices up the event."

With the changes to the awards ceremony, more people will be recognized but fewer people will actually receive SASEE Awards. "We wanted to bring more people in and honor them all at the dinner," Mathes says.

But one thing won't change, Allenbaugh and Mathes say: the quality of the honorees. SASEE judges will continue to look for people who are an inspiration to others and exemplify a stalwart commitment to education through projects, activities or other work that underscores a longstanding devotion to service above self.

MATHESThat's important, Allenbaugh says, because service above self — the idea of volunteering time and talents to help others — is at the heart of what Rotary does around the globe to make its clubs stronger, its communities better and peace possible.

"There's so much negativity in the world, I think it really helps people to pause and realize that there are a lot of good things happening here. It serves as a great reminder of all of the great people in our community." he says. "If those good things are recognized, it gives them the power to expand further."

Allenbaugh says the SASEE Awards committee is looking for nominees who demonstrate the concept of service above self in one or more of five areas:

• Showing initiative while demonstrating selfless conduct toward others;

• Inspiring others to reach a high level of educational excellence and development;

• Building a strong sense of confidence, competence and citizenship in others;

• Creating positive, results-driven impacts that leave a positive legacy; and

• Participating at a high level in extracurricular and school-related activities.

SASEE winners in the teachers/administrators and support staff categories will receive $1,000 to use toward their school or service activities. Student honorees will be awarded $500 to apply toward their school or service activity. For the citizen awardees, a student scholarship of $2,500 will be established in their name to support the college education of a current high school student.

Allenbaugh and Mathes agree that co-chairing the SASEE steering committee brightens their lives.

"The feedback we receive from all the participants is just amazing," Mathes says. "It's nice having something so positive out there, with everyone working together. It makes you feel really good."

To nominate someone for a SASEE Award, fill out an application online at by Jan. 10, 2019. For more information about the program or to purchase tickets to the Feb. 27 awards dinner, go to

Contact Lake Oswego Review reporter Claire Holley at 503-479-2381 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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