Brookside’s Pawloski recognized for extraordinary ability to cheer others

EXTRAORDINARY – 14-year-old Gabriel “Gabe” Pawloski of Sheffield Lake was joined by family members as he received Brookside Middle School’s prestigious Phil Miceli Award at last week’s annual awards assembly. Pictured here (l to r) are his aunt Donna Pawloski; mom, Mary; sister, Jessica; dad, Paul; nephew, Casey; and Gabe. (Press photo , Michele Murphy)

By Michele Murphy

Sheffield Lake – When he saw someone eating alone, he asked to sit with them. When a classmate was struggling with math, he pitched in to help them understand a tough concept or formula.

While 14-year-old Gabriel “Gabe” Pawloski had no agenda other than to help someone feel better or more connected, his teachers and classmates saw something extraordinary.

For his efforts, he was honored with Brookside Middle School’s prestigious Phil Miceli Award last week during an annual year-end awards assembly for the school’s 7th- and 8th-grade students.

The Miceli Award itself has an extraordinary reason for being. Miceli was a middle school industrial arts teacher in Sheffield-Sheffield Lake School District. Teacher David Baughman introduced the award by reminding students about the life of Miceli. He said Miceli would not have been named smartest, most athletic or handsome, drawing laughs. However, it was Miceli who knew how to make people laugh or feel better. In addition to his humor, he was well known for his willingness to poke fun at himself. He was kind, caring and respectful, and his life was cut short when he was killed in an auto accident.

Fellow teachers and school officials created the award 39 years ago to remember the well-loved colleague. They determined that, each year thereafter, a Brookside Middle School student who most demonstrated those character qualities that had been such a vital part of Miceli’s personality would be honored with the award.

This year 21 students were nominated by their teachers. None of them knew they had been nominated. As their names were announced, nominees made their way from the bleachers where they sat amid their classmates to the gym floor. Following a rousing round of applause, the nominees returned to their seats. Six finalists’ names were announced, then Gabe was announced as the 2017 winner.

In an interview a short time later, he said his stomach dropped when he heard his name called, even though a classmate sitting next to him had kept telling him she thought he would win. He says that as he descended from the bleachers, he caught sight of his tearful mom also walking with other family members to center court. Traditionally, the award recipient’s family is invited to attend the assembly, although they are sequestered in a hallway so as not to impact the surprise announcement until the moment it is made.

As he accepted the award from teacher Jessica Schremp, Gabe says he realized his mom, dad, sister, aunt and 2-year-old nephew were nearby. “When I saw my mom was crying, I said ‘Oh, I have to give my mom a kiss,’ ” he recalled. It ended with a big group hug. As he swung his little nephew into his arms, he stood taking in the moment, the applause from classmates in the stands and the hugs and pats on the back from teachers, who had been seated along the gym’s perimeter but walked to center court to offer their congratulations.

Immediately following the conclusion of the assembly, Gabe’s parents, Mary and Paul, answered in virtual unison when asked how they were feeling. “I couldn’t be prouder. Words just can’t explain,” said his dad. It’s worth noting that Paul Pawloski is no stranger to Brookside. He is an alumnus who played football, baseball and basketball. Gabe said his dad’s basketball team won regional competition, earning him a place in the Brookside High School Hall of Fame.

Like his dad, Gabe plays basketball. He says he plans to try out for baseball next year. He also said he is giving thought to other activities he may wish to join. He explained that this past year he had been asked by a teacher to participate in 8th-grade Care Club, a program where students try to connect to other students, “I didn’t want people to feel left out,” he says.

He says he knows the feeling because he was bullied during 6th grade because, as he describes, “I was short and fat.” The weight dropped off as he grew. He also admitted that, as the teasing stopped, he became a bully teasing those who were shorter than him. He knew it was wrong, and had to work at changing his behavior. He wrote an essay about being bullied and being a bully. As a result, he was asked to join a team of Brookside Middle School students who participated in a program at Lorain County Community College. His role was to read a portion of that essay.

As his middle school years draw to a close, he offers the following advice for his peers. “Be yourself. If you have a group of friends who don’t accept you, they’re not really your friends.” He continues, “Get involved. Have fun.”

He will be following his own advice as he is playing baseball with a travel team this summer, then cutting lawns to earn a little money. He hopes to study architecture in college because, as he explains, he’s been good at building things since he was little. If things go right, he will attend the University of Alabama and he just may play baseball there, too. Meanwhile, he will continue to keep an eye out for opportunities to spread a little humor and a lot of kindness.
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Brookside 8th-grade students nominated for the Phil Miceli Award:

Keller Bacher, Jacob Barnhart, Gunner Brubaker, Katelyn Brunner, Eleanor Buckler-Tino, Jose’ DeLeon, Lucas Ferenec, Alicia Fike, Riley Hellinger, Andrew Kelly, Skyler Marzio, Jayce Minear, Exavior Ortiz, Gabriel Pawloski, Alex Rodriguez, Emma Roth, Jordan Sweeney, Joshua Thompson, Jonathan Tolento, Johanna Trowbridge and Aliyah Wilson.

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