May 3rd, 2012

Local Stars Address SSM Awards Event

Paul Najjar

CSN Staff Writer

Local Stars Address SSM Awards Event
photo by Paul Najjar

Burke, Siva hand out prestigious awards at SSM

It wasn’t a typical Wednesday for the students at St. Stephen Martyr elementary school.

Late in the afternoon, class by class was summoned to the cafeteria, handed some ice cream, sat down and prepared to see which athletes would receive the Alan Star award. The award is named in honor of a former SSM student who attended the school in the late 1980’s and left an indelible mark on those who taught him, played alongside him and coached him.

“We honor 8th grade students every year who exemplify Christian values and leadership characteristics,” said SSM Athletic Director Rick Laemmle. “It’s voted on by coaches, teachers and the athletic board.”

The students knew that the awards were going to be presented, but they had no idea that a pair of University of Louisville basketball stars, Becky Burke and Peyton Siva, would be talking to them and presenting the Alan Star awards.

When Burke and Siva were introduced, the students jumped to their feet to welcome the local hoops heroes and clamored for a high five or to get a piece of candy that the two brought to distribute the kids.

“In past years, we’ve always tried to bring in quality role models,” said Laemmle. “We hit the jackpot this year with Becky Burke and Peyton Siva. They’re two of the most high quality kids you’d ever want to deal with in your life. We’re honored to have them.”

And Burke and Siva delivered strong, positive messages to the students that focused on the values of hard work, accountability, leadership and listening to what their parents, teachers and coaches ask of them. Siva joked quite a bit about coach Pitino’s love of the treadmill for correcting even the smallest of mistakes.

“If we run the wrong play, go to the treadmill. If we miss a class, go to the treadmill. If we tie our shoelaces wrong, go to the treadmill,” Siva smiled as he answered a student’s question about what his coach is like.

The students asked a few more questions:

Who are your role models? Burke answered that a former high school teammate that she looked up to and Siva replied that his mother was his role model.

What’s the most important thing you learned from a teacher? Siva talked about a teacher who emphasized hard work and never giving up while Burke mentioned that the teachers who made learning fun and cared about her as a person were things she’ll never forget and try to pass on in her life.

But the highlight of the assembly was the award ceremony. The Alan Star Award is usually given to one girl and one boy, but Laemmle explained that there were so many deserving student-athletes that they decided to honor more.

The girls recipients were: Madison Woods, Jessica Laemmle and Dara Jackson.

The boys recipients were: Kurt Ramser and Jared Seay.

The most special moment of the assembly occurred when Laemmle gave out the first ever St. Stephen Martyr “Courage Award” to Joey Sullivan.

Sullivan, an 8th grade student, has been battling pediatric brain cancer for nearly two years. He had a brain tumor removed in 2010. After his first surgery, he endured a stroke. A second surgery was performed and then chemotherapy treatments were administered. During those treatments, he developed fungal meningitis, a life-threatening disease. But he’s endured it all and is battling every step of this journey.

“We had to put the cancer treatment on hold for a while after his stroke and the meningitis,” said Joey’s mother Angie holding back some tears. “He had to re-learn how to speak and swallow and walk and blink, all of that. When you wonder if your child is going to make it to a day like this and then they do, it’s just… I’m so proud of him. He’s a fighter.”


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