Every year, Lake Oswego Rotarians honor students, educators, support staff and citizen volunteers who embody the mantra of "service above self" at the Service Above Self: Educational Excellence (SASEE) awards dinner. This year, Rotarians will pay tribute to those who champion diversity, equity and inclusion, give their time selflessly and strive for sustainability in the community.
The awards are given in four categories: students, educators, support staff and citizens. Students, educators and support staff receive $1,000 to be donated to the charity of their choice. Recipients in the citizens category have a $3,000 scholarship named for them, which the rotary awards to graduating high school seniors at the end of the school year.
The 2020 SASEE award recipients are as follows (quotes in the story come from the SASEE nomination forms):
Mya Gordon, a senior at Lakeridge High School, is being recognized for her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Gordon is the co-chair of the Lake Oswego School District Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Committee. She also gives her time to her school's diversity council and Black Student Union.
She has impacted approximately 7,000 students through equity policy.
"In her work on the DEI Advisory Committee, Mya has engaged in courageous conversations about race and racism, she contributed to the creation of a LOSD equity policy, and has actively reviewed curriculum for cultural relevance," LOSD Superintendent Lora de la Cruz said.
Sera Lew, a senior at Lake Oswego High School, was also recognized for her actions to increase inclusivity on campus.
Lew sits on the Lake Oswego High School diversity council, is vice president of Key Club, and models sportsmanship on the LOHS skiing and tennis teams.
Last year, she spearheaded This is Us Day, an entire day dedicated to lectures and workshops around diversity.
"As her mother, I have watched her dedicate countless hours of her time to this project as well as speak passionately about this cause to fellow students and teachers," said Sumi Kim, Lew's mother.
LHS seniors Anna-Marie Guenther and Ella Feathers are being recognized jointly for their work on the Green Team and City Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB).
As president of the Green Team for the past three years, Guenther has led the efforts to obtain Green School Certification — which entailed installing hand dryers and working to create a schoolwide composting system.
She's served two terms as a youth representative on the SAB and has testified at City Council meetings and promoted community-wide events along with Feathers.
"She is a natural leader. She leads by example. She works hard and (makes) others want to work hard too," Chenne Fox, Green Team advisor, said. "I have been particularly impressed how, as a senior, she has encouraged the younger students to participate and get engaged."
Feathers showed tenacity in her commitment to the Green Team despite the "lack of a faculty advisor and declining interest from the student body," Jenny Slepian, staff liaison to the SAB, said.
"They really are a strong team working in tandem with one another," Slepian said.
Finalists in the student category this year were: Ella Fuentes, Megan Brokaw and Doris Yang.
Geritt Koepping is being recognized for his 16-year commitment to teaching students the value of law through the We the People of the Constitution debate team at Lake Oswego High School.
"Mr. Koepping has inspired several of the students to take a more active role in politics and community issues," parent Rosa Faust said. "He has especially taught the students the importance of being heard and not being fearful of expressing their views, all the while teaching them the importance of being good listeners as well."
David Rodenkirch earned recognition for his work as an Advancing Curriculum and Communication to Enhance Student Success (ACCESS) case manager and learning specialist at Lake Grove Elementary School.
"I can't think of anyone who is better suited for SASEE. Dave embodies 'service above self' and demonstrates the core value of inclusiveness. And the impact he has on our students and families during his five years as an ACCESS teacher and eight-plus years total in our district reaches far and wide," Gloria Chang, parent of Lake Grove ACCESS student, said.
Rodenkirch initiated projects such as ACCESS Parent Night, a forum that gave parents the platform to learn and discuss difficulties; Lunch with Mr. R, an open door opportunity during lunch for students who may be experiencing sensory overload to have a place to go; and a weekly recess group, which gives students who have difficulties socially have a structured play time.
"Dave creates a ripple effect in each student that leads to the betterment of classrooms, the entire school, families, the community and beyond," Chang said.
Kasie Hansen is a learning specialist and special services teacher at Lake Oswego Junior High School. Hansen won a SASEE award for her work in starting the first Unified Club in Lake Oswego. Pathways: Unified Club is an inclusive after-school club for all types of students who might not fit in other types of clubs. The Unified Club was created with help from the Special Olympics.
"Kasie provided a warm and safe place for students who can sometimes be marginalized, and opened an opportunity for them to socially mingle with students they might not otherwise have met," Sabrina Trembley, Hansen's co-worker, said.
Finalists in the educator category this year were: Jeff Goodrich, James Watts and Alex Ferguson.
Becky Owens and Cyndi Spear will be honored for their work as chair and vice chair of Student Services Parent Advisory Committee (SSPAC).
"Under Becky and Cyndi's leadership, SSPAC has rolled out a significant number of student and community events that promote inclusion and belonging for all students, especially those with diverse abilities," school board member Sara Pocklington said.
Such community events include Welcome to My World, Smart Start and Extraordinary Abilities Week.
"For parents of atypical learners, the public school system is hugely complex to navigate. The outreach work that SSPAC provides under Becky and Cyndi's leadership gives parents in Lake Oswego a resource that is invaluable and creates a sense of community and fellowship," Pocklington said.
Elizabeth Welsh is being recognized for her work in sustainability at LOSD as vice president of the Sustainability Program on the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) board. She spearheaded both the Green Team and Science Nights program at Oak Creek Elementary School.
"She is a tireless advocate for quality science education in our district," Courtney Clements, fellow PTO member, said.
In her time as a PTO volunteer, she's served on many different programs.
"Liz has been an exceptional leader within all levels of education within the Lake Oswego School District ... Over the years I have continued to be absolutely blown away by her motivation and her involvement in addition to her strong desire to make the world a better place," fellow PTO member Kerstan Ruffer said.
Ted Ricks earned SASEE recognition for his work in youth services at Lake Oswego Rotary Club.
In his role as Youth Services Committee member, Ricks has led several initiatives including the World Affairs Seminar and the relaunch of the Interact Club. He has inspired young people to participate in community service.
"Ted has taken the initiative to expand and enhance the Rotary Club's ability to offer opportunities for young people in the community to learn and to grow," Brian Bice, fellow rotarian, said.
Finalists in the citizen volunteer category were: Robert Heymann, Philip Rossi and Tamara DiVergilio.
Frank Everhart, a member of the LOHS varsity football coaching staff is being recognized for his emphasis on good sportsmanship, discipline and dedication.
"Frank is my neighbor and we have had many discussions about coaching. Rarely do we talk about winning and losing but more on the development of these young student athletes," Jim Mohr said. "I have seen numerous times Frank has had kids over at his house and they are not talking about X and Os but life in general."
Recipients and finalists from all categories will be recognized at the awards dinner Feb. 26.
If you go:
What: SASEE Awards Dinner
When: Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Tualatin Country Club, 9145 S.W. Tualatin Road
Tickets: $75, available at rotarysasee.org
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.