Topeka High, and Highland Park student athletes honored for positive actions during negative events
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topeka’s Faith Community and city leaders took time Monday night to honor a group of student-athletes for their reaction to a tough situation.
The celebration titled “Concerned Clergy Saluting Excellence” was held at Topeka Performing Arts Center.
In early December, Topeka High School’s boys’ basketball team was targeted by what witnesses described as offensive and potentially racist comments and behavior.
“But because our guys showed good sportsmanship because they showed courage they were able to return back to us unscathed, not hurt. We say that whenever our children, our youth, or anyone does anything wrong it’s all over the news, sometimes even national, so why not celebrate and congratulate them for doing good,” said Clarence Newton, Pastor at New Life Baptists Church.
After the incident clergy members worked with the city to hold an event to recognize the team’s positive behavior.
“It’s great for these young men to see that somebody hears them and that they are recognized and they do matter. This is a big deal,” said Geo Lyons, Topeka High school, Basketball Coach.
The night included remarks from Dr. Ruben West, performances from the Topeka High drum line and cheerleaders, and the International Academy Youth Choir.
Mayor Mike Padilla even made an appearance praising the team’s reaction.
“They are the focus. They are the story. They and their parents are the ones that are important to this whole story and it just gives me a lot of good feelings to be a part of it,” said Mayor of Topeka, Mike Padilla.
Highland Park’s boys’ basketball team was also recognized during the celebration. They had a game in Kansas City canceled last month when verbal sparring during warm ups got out of hand.
In both instances, officials say the outcomes could have been much different.
“We believe that what gets praised gets practiced and so if we can acknowledge a great thing they do then there will be more people inspired to do great things,” said Motivational Speaker, Dr. Ruben West.
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