Lake Oswego Rotary Club names 15 SASEE winners
In his 26 years as the football coach at Lake Oswego High School, Steve Coury has had his share of winning and losing seasons. But at the end of the day, he says, it has always been about more than just the final score.
"My goal has always been to teach kids the valuable lessons of life that they can take from LOHS and practice. One of those lessons, which is so important, is the idea of putting things and people above one's self," Coury says. "The idea of being better people is something our program has always been about. If I have had any such impact on the kids and the families that I have had the privilege to coach and mentor, then this passion of mine has been a success."
That commitment to service above self is at the heart of the Lake Oswego Rotary Club's mission too, and it's why Coury and 14 other teachers, administrators, students and volunteers will be honored on Feb. 28 with the club's Service Above Self: Educational Excellence awards during a tribute dinner at Marylhurst University.
"The purpose of SASEE is to acknowledge and honor the remarkable work of both educators and supporters of education who demonstrate the core philosophy of Rotary — 'Service Above Self,'" says Rotarian Eric Allenbaugh, who co-chairs the SASEE Steering Committee with fellow Rotarian Malcolm Mathes. "SASEE honorees exhibit giving more to life than they receive, and serve as inspirational role models in our community."
Awards are given in three categories: Citizens/Volunteers, who each receive a $2,500 scholarship established in their name to support the college education of a current high school student; Teachers/Administrators/Support Staff, who each receive $1,000 to apply toward their school or service activities; and Students, who each receive $500 to apply toward their school or service activities.
Like Coury, all 15 award winners say they're accepting the honor not just for the work that has already been done, but also because it will help them to continue their efforts in the future.
"To be part of a program like SASEE, which focuses on commitment to education and volunteerism, is an honor," says award winner and longtime volunteer Laura Kosloff. "It's gratifying to know that the volunteer efforts in the schools are appreciated, and this award will definitely inspire me to continue the spirit of SASEE in encouraging students in our schools to do their best — and beyond!"
This year's SASEE award winners are:
• RON BAGWELL, a fifth-grade teacher at Forest Hills Elementary, who is in the final year of a 30-year teaching career — 29 in the Lake Oswego School District and all of those at Forest Hills Elementary.
Bagwell organized and runs the school's fifth-grade leadership group, which among other things has organized Turkey Drives for the needy and raised funds for the annual graduation party. Every fall, he leads the "Box Tops for Education" fundraisers, which over the years have netted Forest Hills more than $20,000 for school-related projects. His "Pennies for Patients" program has raised nearly $18,000 to help the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society fight blood cancers in children. And he has also organized blood drives for the American Red Cross and winter coat, blanket and cellphone drives for neighbors in need.
"I try to set an example for the children that we can't always help everyone, but we can always help someone in need," he says. "We must all be willing to give something back."
• STEVE COURY, the Lakeridge High grad who went on to play and coach football at the college and professional level before returning to Lake Oswego to guide the Lakers. Coury is being honored generally for "encouraging students to think outside of themselves, to be uncommon and to live with integrity," but more specifically for the role he plays in the school's fundraisers for the ALS Foundation and the Friends of Jeff.
Coury's teams have raised funds and participated in the ALS Walk for years in a tribute to longtime coach Jeff Young, who has lived with the debilitating disease for decades. But those efforts rose to a new level this year, bringing in more than $40,000 through a series of events and activities.
Coury read a letter to Young at a special school assembly, just as Young writes a letter to the team before every game. Football and soccer teams wore red jerseys honoring Young, and a special honorary jersey — number 48 — will now be worn each year by a player embodying Young's qualities of determination and of being an inspiration to others.
• ROLLIN DICKINSON, the principal of Lake Oswego High School, who joined the LOSD in 2007 after teaching in California and North Carolina. He was an English teacher and assistant principal at Lakeridge High School for nine years before moving to LOHS in 2016.
Dickinson is being honored for the committed and eloquent work he has done to foster and embrace diversity, equity and inclusion at LOHS, especially in the face of racist and anti-Semitic events that rocked the school during his first few months on the job.
Working with district administrators, staff and School Board members, Dickinson crafted frequent messages to parents to raise awareness and to include them in the difficult conversations that needed to occur; worked with student leaders and the school newspaper to give students ownership and the opportunity to lead change; organized special assemblies, Laker seminars, documentary screenings and information nights; encouraged classroom discussions when incidents occurred; developed The Pledge to Be Kind Online; and established a Diversity Council of students and teachers that meets once a month.
"Being an educator is a life-giving endeavor, each day rich, challenging and profoundly meaningful," Dickinson says. "This award will help us set up a free clothes boutique for our students in need and fund a project to beautify the walls of our school with images of our amazing, diverse students."
• ADAM JOHNSON, who has been teaching choir at Lake Oswego Junior High School for three years and at Lakeridge High School for one year. He is being honored not only for revitalizing the choir program at both middle schools, but also for broadening the pool of children who can participate and eliminating the barriers to any child who wants to join.
Johnson was nominated by Becky Owens, the mother of a sixth-grader in the LOSD's Pathways program, who expressed gratitude for "the total inclusion of my son, both on stage at concerts and with his experience in the classroom on a daily basis." She also cited the before-school Encore program that Johnson started to give students the opportunity to refine their craft and perform in an elite group of singers.
"Adam is passionate about the role music plays in the lives of all children," Owens says, "and he strives to give his students a diverse musical experience through their middle school years at LOJ & LJH."
• CANDEE SWENSON, a special education assistant in the Pathways program at Lake Oswego Junior High, who is being honored for her role in creating The Coffee Cart at the school and developing it into a hands-on, real-life experience for students to apply and practice academic, social, behavioral and language skills so they can prepare for a post-high school career and educational opportunities.
Students are involved in every aspect of the cart, from shopping for supplies to serving coffee with a smile. Through it all, Swenson adapts the program to make sure it fits individual students' sensory, communication or physical needs. She started working with students with special needs during her sophomore year of high school and has continued that work for 21 years, including 18 in the Lake Oswego School District.
She says she believes in her students and is committed to them.
"Serving others warms my heart and brings me pure happiness," she says, "especially when I see what a difference it makes."
• DELANEY ERICSON, a Lake Oswego High School senior, who has been training service dogs for Autism Service Dogs of America for the past three years. She has also been involved with National Charity League for six years, and through NCL she has organized an annual hygiene drive for the Northwest Children's Outreach.
Ericson was motivated to start training dogs for ASDA after watching an upperclassmen at LOHS; after passing an entrance interview and home visit, she was given her first dog, Paisley, who now lives in Texas. It's a huge responsibility that requires 24-7 attention, but Ericson says the payoff is huge. She receives periodic updates from Paisley's new family, who say the dog's arrival has been transformative for their autistic child.
• MYA HUDSON, a senior at Lake Oswego High School, who is president of the Student Body and a member of the school's Diversity Council, as well as a founder of the Royalty Committee. She is being honored for her leadership and a long resume of service to the school, although she says she is most proud of raising $1,000 and awareness for victims of sex trafficking.
Hudson has also rewritten the school Constitution and helped students be more aware of the importance of kindness and respect for all. She continually encourages students to support each other, especially during recent racist and anti-Semitic events at the school. She's currently a member of the Laker wrestling team, not because she wants to wrestle but because she wants to support the girls who got involved in a new sport for females.
Hudson says she is committed to building bridges and bonds between diverse people, and says she will use the SASEE award "to start an organization that gives LOHS students from diverse backgrounds and with diverse opinions a forum to speak honestly and constructively on controversial topics."
• MORGAN JONES, a senior at Lake Oswego High School, who is actively involved as president of the Red Cross Club, a photographer and page designer for the school yearbook and captain of the varsity softball team. She also tutors refugee children at Kateri Park in Portland, volunteers at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center and is a member of the National Charity League. But it's her work with the Red Cross Club that drew a SASEE nomination.
Jones became involved with the American Red Cross about a year and a half ago, first by giving blood, then platelets, and now by organizing two blood drives at LOHS this year. More than 50 percent of the donors at the fall blood drive were first-time donors, and together they collected 48 pints of blood — enough to help as many as 144 people. Not surprisingly, she plans to pursue a career in nursing.
• MAX KRUEGER, a senior at Lakeridge High School, who serves as Associated Student Body secretary/treasurer while maintaining a 4.0 GPA and participating on the Lakeridge swim team. He also organized a Red Cross blood drive at Lakeridge and works with Hope Community Church to gather donations for its food pantry, but he is being honored with a SASEE for his work with the Columbia Regional Program.
Krueger specifically sought out an opportunity to work with the visually impaired because he has a grandfather who is blind. At the Columbia Regional Project, he dedicated more than 100 hours to working with 40 blind or visually impaired children who needed assistance with games and learning activities. He also utilized his technical skills to put together a robot kit that the kids could use to explore their love of technology and science.
• CLAIRE SARNOWSKI, an eighth-grader at Lakeridge Junior High, who has been a Top Fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Oregon Chapter since she was 3 years old. From the beginning, she says, she has been inspired by her mother, who has MS.
Sarnowski says she started fundraising after a trip with her mother to Boston, where she saw individuals in all different stages of the disease and decided she wanted to make a difference and one day find a cure. Over the past 11 years, she has raised more than $71,000 through Walk MS and other community events, including Lakewood Bandstand and the Caddies 4 Cure Gala.
After graduating from high school in 2022, she says, she hopes to fulfill her lifelong dream of attending Harvard University and becoming a doctor.
• LARRY BOWMAN, a retired Lake Oswego High School teacher and coach, who founded the Job Seekers program at Lake Grove Presbyterian Church 14 years ago to help people who had lost jobs or were looking to change careers.
Bowman developed the program and found a home for it, recruited volunteer mentors and continues to organize weekly meetings and help sessions. He works with clients on interviewing and application-writing skills, arranges for guest speakers and provides inspirational messages in group and individual settings — and all without compensation.
Bowman says the foundation for the program was built on classes he taught during his time at LOHS, where he was affectionately known as "Larry Laker." After retiring, he continued to serve as a mentor for students at all grade levels throughout the school district, and now shares his knowledge and experience through Job Seekers. His personal mission in teaching and coaching, he says, has always been to help others help themselves get better.
"Education is not so much what you learn," Bowman says, "but who you become by what you learn."
• COURTNEY CLEMENTS, whose long history of volunteerism in Lake Oswego has focused on improving academic programs and facilities for students.
Clements joined the Art Literacy program at Oak Creek Elementary in 2006, eventually becoming a coordinator for the program both at Oak Creek and at Lake Oswego Junior High, where she trains parent volunteers, develops curriculum and projects and coordinates schedules. She currently serves on the Lake Oswego Art Literacy District Board, which oversees the program for all elementary and junior high schools.
In 2011, Clements brought her interest in sustainability and environmental issues to Oak Creek when she created the position of VP of Sustainability for the Oak Creek PTA. In that role, she helped get Oak Creek certified as an Oregon Green School and coordinated the installation of the school's native garden. As current co-chair of the Education Action Team for the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network, she works to facilitate parent and district-led projects to create healthy learning environments and promote sustainability in the curriculum and in the day-to-day operations of the schools.
Clements represented LOSN on the district's Long Range Facilities Planning Committee and Bond Development Committee, and she worked on the campaign to pass the school facilities bond in 2017. Since 2008, she has advocated in Salem for stable, adequate school funding. Most recently, she worked on the Measure 98 campaign to fund career and technical education and dropout prevention programs at the secondary level.
• LAURA KOSLOFF, an environmental attorney and longtime school district volunteer, who serves as an adviser for the Constitutional Law class at Lake Oswego High and as coach for its Mock Trial team.
The Constitutional Law class at LOHS prepares students for regional and state competitions, where they test their knowledge in philosophy, Constitutional history and citizenship. The Mock Trial team prepares students for regional and state competitions, where students argue a mock legal case before judges and educators. From September to March, Kosloff offers her insights and lends her expertise as an attorney several times a week, providing one-on-one help to students and acting as a sounding board for teachers.
She is also engaged with high schools across the region as part of her work on international cultural exchange. Her family has hosted more than a dozen high school exchange students, and she and her husband are now the regional coordinators for Northern Oregon and Southern Washington for EF High School Exchange Year, the largest high school exchange program in the U.S.
• AMY MAI, a fish biologist for Bonneville Power Administration, whose long list of volunteer activities includes serving as a Girl Scout troop leader, Cub Scout den leader and coordinator of Oregon Battle of the Books and Lake Oswego Robotics at Westridge Elementary.
Through those efforts, Mai touches the lives of hundreds of children every year. Battle of the Books has 90 participants at Westridge this year, and her Scout troops have almost 20 children each. In addition, she serves on a six-person leadership team that assists all Girl Scout troops in Lake Oswego, West Linn and Wilsonville. And as the Westridge liaison to LO Robotics this year, she's made it possible for fourth- and fifth-graders to compete in First Lego League Robotics, volunteering as a coach of one of the fourth-grade teams.
"Clearly, one cannot step up to so many unpaid and underappreciated leadership roles without a core belief that the world is made a better place if the people in it are educated and care for each other," says Lake Oswego resident Tamara DiVergilio, who nominated Mai. "She has even been known to quote part of the Boy Scout or Girl Scout law when interacting with children and adults to remind us all what we should be doing."
• AARON NIGEL SMITH, who has worked for the past 15 years to educate, empower and entertain youth and families around the world by demonstrating and promoting peace through the performing arts, with an emphasis on the transformative experience of choral singing and drumming.
Through his One World Chorus, Smith has built bridges internationally, reaching children not only in Portland but also in New York, Los Angeles, Kenya and Jamaica. Locally, he has joined forces with the Peace Village program to hold camps that teach children how to resolve conflicts peacefully with tools — including music —as they face violence online, in schools and in the streets.
Smith has also spearheaded the Rox in Sox Children's Music & Book Festival, a three-day charity event that provides a chance for families in the U.S. and Jamaica to enjoy free world-class music, authors, family-friendly activities and food vendors. Socks, shoes and books are donated at the entrance to the event in the U.S. and distributed to youth in Jamaica and Kenya.
Smith also works with Ben & Jerry's, The Bob Marley Foundation and PYE Global to organize the One Love Youth Camp, which brings youth from rural and urban Jamaica together for a weeklong camp that encourages creativity, empowerment and conflict resolution.
IF YOU GO
What: Service Above Self: Educational Excellence awards dinner
When: Wednesday, Feb. 28; check-in begins at 5 p.m., dinner at 5:45 p.m.
Where: Clark Commons on the Marylhurst University campus, 17600 Pacific Highway, Marylhurst
Tickets: $75, available at www.rotarysasee.org