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Local students recognized in annual SSD awards

Several local students who receive services from the Special School District of St. Louis were recently honored for their positive personal strides and community outreach efforts through a variety of annual awards.

The Special School District of St. Louis (SSD) honored six Parkway and Rockwood students with Rosemary Zander awards and special scholarships. The Rosemary Zander awards are named for an SSD teacher who dedicated her career to the success of her students. Since 1988, students have been honored for success in a variety of categories – academics, arts, athletics, communications, vocational training, employment, independent living skills, community service and extracurricular activities. 

Parkway Central High senior and wrestler Kalob Duncan, studying law enforcement through South Technical High, was recognized for being dependable, responsible and reliable even in the most adverse and stressful situations that the pandemic has created. He earned the captain position for his wrestling team and has placed in the top three at five different wrestling tournaments, including two national tournaments.

Also studying law enforcement at South Tech is Zander awardee Jeremy Peters, a senior at Eureka High, who was recognized for his remarkable character, dependability and reliability. In addition to South Tech, Peters is an active member of the St. Louis County Police Explorer program, where he holds the rank of captain. Peters competed in the National Police Explorer Conference and won second place in white-collar crime investigation


Joseph Fisch, a student at Parkway West High, was selected for great strides in his academics, communication, independent living skills and vocational training and employment skills. Fisch is working toward employment readiness by demonstrating exceptional growth in his ability to initiate and complete tasks. He has participated in the school’s coffee cart program and is an excellent role model for his peers when it comes to working with money, cleaning and working independently.

Also from West is awardee Ian Mannings, who was selected because of his character and hard work as an outstanding student. In addition to his academics, he is a member of the symphonic orchestra, participates on the robotics team and is a member of the Mountains and Valleys club. He volunteers with Special Olympics and earned a Longhorn Pride award recognizing “ordinary students doing extraordinary things.” Outside of school, Ian is a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and earned fifth place in sparring at the United States Tae Kwon Do Nationals in 2018.

On the younger age spectrum is fifth-grader Logan Novotny from Oak Brook Elementary. Even though learning can be difficult for him, he keeps a positive attitude and combines it with a healthy thirst for knowledge. Outside of school, he takes part in Tae Kwon Do, baseball games with his Challengers team, and musical performances with his School of Rock band, as well as family events. It is integrity, kindness and perseverance academically, personally and socially that earned him this award.

The Ellisville-based Bonhomme Lions Club showed their support of community youth by providing two students receiving SSD services with $1,000 scholarships for continued education.  

Although she is an honor roll student at Oakville High, academics have not always come easily for Catherine Kister, who was honored by the Lions Club. Kister has worked hard to overcome academic struggles and hopes to pay it forward by becoming a special education teacher. Additionally, Kister spans the age spectrum by working part-time at a nursing home and volunteering at her church working with students. Kister also received the James E. Westbury Memorial Board of Education Scholarship, which recognizes his legacy on the Board as a fierce advocate for education throughout the St. Louis region. This award recognizes her commitment to serve others as a special education teacher.

The second Lions Club honoree is Jaxon Luraschi, a senior at Pattonville High and North County Technical High. Despite academic obstacles, he is an honor student who is currently enrolled in the Firefighting and EMT program at SSD’s North Tech. To support his passion, he has participated in the Fire Explorers Club and volunteers with a local fire department. Outside of school, Jaxon completed nearly 200 hours of community service, is a graduate of the Fred Saigh Leadership Program and a passionate hockey player.

The final award, Allison M. Haake Memorial Scholarship, was awarded to a deserving SSD student who has an interest in working with children. The scholarship was established in memory of Allison Marie Haake, a former SSD teacher assistant. Awardee Kaden Constantz, a senior at Parkway South High, was recognized for his integrity and perseverance as a stellar student and his passion to help others. In college, he plans to study occupational therapy, with a particular passion to help youths with autism. Constantz works work younger students at Spark and Adventure Club. He also volunteers at the local animal sanctuary

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