The names of Iola Middle School students honored Friday at an awards ceremony covered two pages. Recognition was for academics, athletics and attendance.
At the top, two awards — and eight students — stood out.
Eighth graders Rebecca Cunningham and Bryan Mueller were selected to receive the school’s top honor, the American Legion Award.
In place since 1937, the award recognizes students who have had high academic achievement over their three years at IMS, as well as demonstrated the courage to stand up for their beliefs, encourage classmates, provide a good example, maintain a positive attitude, work hard and provide service to the school or community.
Recipients are nominated by staff and selected by students and staff.
Both Mueller and Cunningham said they were surprised by the award.
“I want to thank everyone who helped me through the years to get it,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham, daughter of Betty and Glen Cunningham, said she hopes to “continue to get good grades, help everyone else and just do what I’m supposed to” in her years ahead at Iola High School.
Mueller said he actively worked toward the award.
“It means a lot to me,” he said. “Last year I heard about it and I was thinking it would be really cool to be one of the ones that got it, so I tried throughout eighth grade” to work hard, he said.
“I had a lot of long nights and kept my grades up,” he added.
Although nervous about the future, Mueller, son of Tom and Carla Mueller, noted, “I’ll just keep trying hard.”
SIX STUDENTS were selected by IMS teachers to receive the American Citizenship Award.
Two students from each grade level who demonstrate a positive attitude, strength of character and courage to do what is right are singled out.
This year, those students were eighth graders Moriah Maple-Mitchell and Adam Kauth, seventh graders Drake Dieker and Emma Piazza, and sixth graders Joie Whitney and Morgan Wilson.
Again, surprise reigned.
“I had a teacher come say ‘Congratulations’ but I didn’t know what for,” Dieker noted.
Maple-Mitchell heard similar words from her mom.
“My mom (Cheryl Mitchell) said I was getting a special award, but I didn’t know what,” she noted.
Of all the recipients, Maple-Mitchell was probably most stunned by the honor. She had never received anything of the sort before, she said.
Asked why she was singled out this year, she said she didn’t know.
“I just did my best,” she said.
IMS counselor Stacey Crusinberry said that throughout the year, teachers pay attention to little things that help them select the award winners.
“If there’s a student who is ostracized, these students will go and sit by them and stand up for them,” she said. “It’s hard to do at this age.”
The most critical thing in middle school is to fit in, Crusinberry noted. Peer pressure can be fierce.
“There are little things that I know I shouldn’t do” that others might prompt him to, he said. “There’s a consequence, so you tell them not to do it and you stay behind and don’t participate.”
One example is smoking, he said. Some students do. “I tell them they should stop, that it’s not cool,” he said.
Kauth said he was honored to be chosen as an American Citizen.
“It means a lot,” Piazza concurred. Piazza said she tries to be responsible and help out in classes.
Kauth noted the award reflects activities beyond academics. “You have to do more than just go to classes,” he said. “If someone’s getting picked on, you stand up for them.”
Crusinberry noted that’s just the sort of spunk that the award is there to recognize.
“Teachers look for these students,” she said.
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