Newark High School seniors Matthew Plain and Eli Ebanks became the 2011 recipients April 28 of the Greater Newark Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Youth Awards.
Given at the annual community awards dinner at the Newark Quality Inn, the Outstanding Youth Award winners were announced by WHAM 13 Associate News Director and Anchor Don Alhart.
Alex Eligh Community Center Director and Newark Recreation Director Michael Muscolino, Chairman of the Chamber’s Awards Committee, said there was more than one nomination for each of the award winners.
Among those nominating Ebanks for the award were NHS Physical Education teacher Mike McGavisk, who is also the head NHS Varsity Football coach and Varsity Club advisor; and Jim DeWitt, Newark Middle School psychologist and head coach of NHS Boys Varsity Swimming team.
Among those nominating Plain were The United Methodist Women from the First United Methodist Church in Newark.
McGavisk, who has been Ebanks’ Physical Education teacher, football coach and Varsity Club advisor, said he has been “a tremendous leader for me in all areas.”
“He is one of the finest people that I have ever taught or coached at any level. He competes hard on the athletic field, excels in the classroom and gives back to his community in a very unselfish way,’’ McGavisk said.
Ebanks is a three-sport athlete who has been captain of his football, swimming and lacrosse teams. He was named the Varsity football team’s Most Valuable Player and offensive player of the year this past fall. He has also been a sportsmanship award winner and a scholar athlete winner. Ebanks was a first team All League selection for football as a running back in 2010.
In February, he was named to the New York State Football Coaches Association 2010 Scholar All State Football Team. He was one of only five Section 5 football players to receive this honor. He has also been nominated for the National Football Foundation’s scholar athlete award.
McGavisk said that during the past 2 years, Ebanks has taken a leadership role in a food distribution program the NHS Varsity football, baseball teams and Varsity Club have become involved in.
“Eli has been my captain in this endeavor,’’ he said. “The Wayne County Action Program, Inc. has teamed up with Food Link, AmeriCorps, and the Retired and Senior Volunteer program to do USDA Free Food distributions. We will have done four food distributions and Eli has been there every step of the way. He helped to build and distribute over 100 boxes of food for the needy each time. He also helped to carry the food boxes out and assisted people to their vehicles.”
As varsity club vice-president, McGavisk said Ebanks has been very involved each year when the Varsity Club buys gifts for 30 residents at the DeMay Living Center and delivers them to residents on the night of the DeMay Center’s Christmas Party.
McGavisk said Ebanks also recently received “The Hands of Christ” award.
“He is an outstanding person, leader and student athlete. He is an overall great kid who works very hard at everything that he does,’’ he said.
Dewitt, who has known Ebanks for the four years, has coached him as a member of the Newark Varsity Swim Team and the Newark Wahoo’s Swim Club, echoed McGavisk’s high praise for Ebanks.
“Eli is an excellent student, and is as highly respected by his teachers as he is by his coaches. He has consistently been on high honor roll, and is one of the top students in his class. He sets goals for himself academically, and strives to reach them. He represents our high school with distinction and with pride. Eli is a well-rounded young man,’’ DeWitt said.
“As a swimmer, Eli is one of the hardest working athletes I have ever worked with. What sets Eli apart is not just this desire, but also his ability to set goals for himself, to recognize what it will take for him to reach his goals, and then to do it. He has shown dedication, commitment and maturity in and out of the water. He has achieved many of his goals, becoming one of our most versatile and valuable swimmers,’’ DeWitt said.
He said Ebanks was first in team scoring this year. He was the Finger Lakes League Champion in the 50 and 100-yard freestyles for both the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and won four events in the league championship meet both years.
“This year Eli was the Section V Class B Champion in the 100-yard freestyle and this year he was awarded our team’s Most Valuable Athlete. More important than his many accomplishments, he is a role model for other swimmers. Eli is known to other coaches in the League as not only a talented competitor, but also more importantly one who shows good sportsmanship. Eli is a true team leader,’’ DeWitt said.
Ebanks was chosen as captain of the Varsity swim team by his teammates and coaches for both his junior and senior years.
“He has led the team in our dry-land training program; has mentored younger swimmers; has acted as a mediator and problem-solver for his peers, has worked with me on team goals, and has been a motivator and leader of spirit in our competitions,’’ DeWitt said. “I have seen Eli handle adversity well, and show determination and courage to persevere through difficulties that have come his way. This year, the Finger Lakes League coaches selected Eli for the Outstanding Senior Swimmer Award.”
DeWitt said Ebanks has volunteered his time to help coach younger swimmers on the NMS swim teams.
“He relates well to these students, and they look up to him as a role model.’’ DeWitt wrote.
Ebanks is a member of Link Crew, a mentoring program for younger students; the Rotary Interact Club, a volunteer organization doing charitable works; and the National Honor Society. He also volunteers at his church as an alter server and works at the parish festival each year.
“Eli has been accepted at several prestigious colleges and universities, and he plans to continue his education studying engineering,’’ DeWitt said.
“Eli is a very talented young man, NHS Principal Kevin Whitaker said.” He has excelled in every arena that he has entered, whether it was sports, academics, or his volunteer work. Eli has a very promising future, and his star will shine brightly. I am eager to see the great things that await him.”
Speaking on behalf of The United Methodist Women, of which she is a member, Elsie Dedrick said of Plain: “Our church has been blessed with a young man who has dedicated himself to the workings of the First
United Methodist Church.”
“When he was three years old, his mother died from cancer. His father was not able to have Matt with him. Matt and his sister, Danielle, went to live with an older sister, Marcia, her husband and five children.
Ten years ago, when Matt was eight and in the second grade, he was being mentored by Merle Fancett who was a grandparent volunteer at Lincoln School.
“Matt and Mr. Fancett developed a very close relationship and Mr. Fancett became a positive male role model for him,’’ Dedrick recalled.
As a result, Plain, who was then attending another church, began attending the First United Methodist Church in Newark that Fancett attended.
“How blessed our church is to have Matt,’’ Dedrick said. “Our church family has been able to watch Matt grow up in the church and become a very dedicated and caring young man. He is loved and cared for by his church family.
Dedrick said while at NHS, Plain has been volunteering for the Newark-Arcadia Volunteer Ambulance and is an active NAVA member and Technician.
“Recently he has also been working with the Sodus Ambulance squad. His duties are to assist the crew chief and driver with the provision of emergency care to the sick and injured,’’ she said. “ He is working on his EMT-Basic certification and has taken and passed the practical application portion. He now needs to take and pass the written portion to become certified. His goal is to continue working in the first responder emergency field. He is considering entering the military and becoming a medic.”
Dedrick said for their church, Matt is the “go-to guy”.
“When he is not working with NAVA, he helps the church in any way he can,’’ she said. “Most recently, he volunteered to prepare and organize our Sunday coffee hour while the other members were recovering from surgery. Matt ushers and helps serve communion. He helps with our projects and activities of dinners, community booths, holiday decorating and anything else that comes up.
“When a member of our church needs help around his/her house or business, Matt is there.’’ the Rev. Roger Smith continued. “One church member said: ‘Matt was a great help last summer, working many long hours at a business property as we demolished it at the beginning of the renovation project. He proved to be hard working and conscientious. I would hire him ‘in a minute’ to help me in the future.’ Smith said Plain is also involved with the youth group and a role model to our little ones.
“Matt is our church’s young disciple. The vision for the First United Methodist Church is “Seek God, Serve the World and Support Each Other”. Matt lives our vision in both the church and the community,’’ he said.
“I am very proud of what Matt has been able to accomplish in the area of volunteerism as he pursues his goals in the EMS field,” Whitaker said. “ There is a great need in that area, and I am so happy that he has chosen to give back by helping others”.