STEUBENVILLE - Friday marked two years since the West family lost a son, brother and friend. Lee Alexander West, a 15-year-old high school freshman, died in a house fire on Jan. 31, 2012. His mother, Cookie West, has worked to shape her grief into a positive force for the community ever since.
In addition to hosting annual birthday parties at Belleview Park and family basketball games at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, West and the L.A.W.S. Movement introduced Teacher Impact Awards at Lee's annual memorial service, which was held Friday at Tower of Power Church on Maryland Avenue.
After a 15-minute photo slideshow, one minute for each year of Lee's life, Pastor Everett Mitchell led about 40 friends and family members in prayer before West announced the Teacher Impact Award winners.
ANNIVERSARY MARKED — The Lee Alexander West family observed the second anniversary of his death Friday by recognizing community educators with Teacher Impact Awards, a tradition that L.A.W.S. Movement members hope to keep going for years to come. Celebrating Lee’s life are, from left, Becky Bryan, Jennifer Agresta, Cookie West, Gillian Haught, Katrina Morrow and Kim Masloski. - Shae Dalrymple
Students at Steubenville High School nominated around 80 teachers in 150-word essays, and L.A.W.S. members selected three winners based on which essays inspired them the most.
"This is for teachers who truly go above and beyond to influence their students' lives," West explained. "They care about students on a personal level, and reading the nomination essays was so inspiring."
Becky Bryan, now retired, taught at Harding Middle School and was nominated by a former student, freshman William Monigold.
Jennifer Agresta is a participating member of L.A.W.S. and currently teaches third grade at Wells Academy. She was nominated by freshman Haley Stamps.
Katrina Morrow teaches eighth-grade science at Harding and was nominated by freshman Gillian Haught.
Finally, a fourth Teacher Impact Award was given to Kim Masloski, a science teacher at Steubenville High School. This award was to "honor the teacher that most impacted Lee's life in a positive way." West described Masloski as "kind of like Lee's mom at the school," and recalled how he used to come home speaking enthusiastically about what he learned in her science class.
"It takes a village to raise a child. I truly believe that," West said. "We want to honor these teachers, because they are changing lives for the better, and it's what Lee would have wanted."