When the Lake Oswego Rotary Club honored the community's education heroes with a new awards program last year, the response was overwhelming.
More than 150 nominations flowed into the club in 2016, and hundreds of people attended a tribute dinner at Marylhurst University in January.
"The success of the program kind of caught us all by surprise," says club member Brian Bice.
Now, the Service Above Self: Educational Excellence (SASEE) awards are back. Rotarians are increasing the number of cash prizes and scholarships to be handed out, but the same three categories remain: Citizens/Volunteers, Teachers/Administrators/Support Staff and Students associated with public and private schools in Lake Oswego.
That means there are thousands of potential awardees working, learning or volunteering in the Lake Oswego School District and at Our Lady of the Lake, Park Academy, International Leadership Academy, Touchstone Elementary School, Chinese American International School, Marylhurst University and other local schools.
Nominations are now being accepted and must be in the hands of the Rotary Club by Jan. 10, 2018. Finalists will be honored during a tribute dinner at Marylhurst on Feb. 28. The awardees will receive:
Teachers/Administrators/Support Staff: $1,000 to apply toward their school or service activities;
Students: $500 to apply toward their school or service activity; and
Citizens/Volunteers: a $2,500 scholarship established in their name to support the college education of a current high school student.
Ideal nominees should be 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.
Eric Allenbaugh, who led the effort to create SASEE last year with fellow Rotarian Malcolm Mathes, says that's important 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.
Allenbaugh says he also likes the idea that SASEE honors both students and adults.
"I am encouraged that these represent a legacy of leadership and service that are being reinforced from one generation to the next," he told The Review.
Mackenzie Coder, one of last year's SASEE scholarship recipients, says she plans to study business at Texas Christian University and to someday work at a nonprofit. So her scholarship might be a gift to her, she says, but it could also benefit others.
"That's going toward my education, which will allow me to help other people," she says.
Allenbaugh says the SASEE awards committee is looking for nominees who exemplify one or more of six criteria:
-- Performs in a commendable manner and is involved in extracurricular activities;
-- Engages in community activities that benefit students and citizens;
-- Behaves selflessly toward other people;
-- Actively connects with and strives to inspire people to achieve their greatest educational excellence, while cultivating their social and emotional development;
-- Creates a powerful sense of confidence, competence and responsible citizenship "in the minds and hearts of others"; and
-- Fosters a life-long interest in learning.
It's important to note that the 2017 winners aren't eligible to win again. That includes students Melanie Gabriel Hastings, Michael Murray, Karthik Sreedhar, Mackenzie Coder and Kate Fayloga; Cole Chatterton, Denise Gonzalez, Nancy Longman, Laura Paxson Kluthe and Jennifer Schiele in the Teachers/Administrators/Support Staff category; and Citizens/Volunteers Linda Brown, Sandra Miller, Piper Park, Cay Borduin, Deanne Knipple and Anja Bump.
Another key point: The SASEE program is just one example of the Rotary Club's commitment to education. All told, the Lake Oswego Rotary Club supported local students with $19,500 in scholarships for the 2016-17 school year.
That includes the recently announced Robert Bigelow Memorial Scholarship for future journalists from Lake Oswego or West Linn who will attend the University of Oregon. This year's winner was Kenzie Hudler, a Lakeridge High School graduate. (The award is named for the former publisher of The Review and the West Linn Tidings; Bigelow himself was a Rotarian.)
"Education is a foundational component in the work all Rotarians do to make the world a better place," the club says in an open letter on its website. "As part of that effort, Lake Oswego Rotary believes in recognizing the incredible work of educators and strong supporters of education in our own community. We are acutely aware of the importance of your work and dedication to this community, and we are so very proud of you all."