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Oak Park, Senior

Lauren Morales is one of the region's best cross country runners and is probably one of the nicest people one could meet.

So it shouldn't be surprising that she has a charming voice to go with her radiant personality.

Morales sang for four years with the Agape Choir of the Agoura Bible Fellowship, a church outreach song group that toured California and parts of Mexico with the mission of touching those less fortunate.

As part of the group, she spent time at orphanages, boys' ranches, retirement homes and rescue missions - singing and interacting with people whom she never thought she could reach.

``It's an unbelievable group,'' she said. ``You get to talk to people you'd normally be scared of and instead, you get to bond with them on a personal level. It doesn't sound like much fun, but trust me, it is.''

Morales also was a member of the Key Club, an advanced peer counselor and a teacher of vacation bible school during the summer.

Lauren will attend Pepperdine University in the fall, where she plans to major in sports medicine and minor in art.

She was recruited to run track and Pepperdine awarded her a scholarship for her work in the community.


Oak Park, Senior

Danny Bushore doesn't see the humor in his paradoxical state: he's a football lineman by day, Eagle Scout by night.

``I never really found it funny,'' he said.

The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Bushore has been involved with the Boy Scouts almost his entire life. He was in Cub Scouts from kindergarten through sixth grade, Boy Scouts from sixth until 10th grade and then became an Eagle Scout, the organization's highest honor.

He has continued his involvement as Junior Assistant Scout Master, who helps Scouts earn merit badges.

Bushore wasn't always so comfortable with his love for the Boy Scouts.

For his first eight years, Bushore would not wear his uniform in public.

He'd bring it to meetings, change inside the building, and then change back to street clothes before exiting.

``When I started, I was really self-conscious of people and what they thought,'' he said. ``Then I matured, and I realized I didn't need to care what people think.''

Confidence is no longer an issue for Bushore.

He was the student body vice president of Oak Park High for two years, coached Little League, worked as a YMCA camp counselor and was an advanced peer counselor.

He's also got a little hobby: masonry. His Eagle Scout project included building shelves for YMCA storage, and he is working for this summer.

Bushore will attend Loyola Marymount University in the fall, where he plans to major in business.


Chaminade, Senior

Veronica Barth is known for her tenacity and her fastball on the softball field, but off it, she helps those without her physical and mental attributes.

From September until June, Barth volunteered once a week after school with ``Ride on Therapeutic Horsemanship,'' an organization dedicated to providing physically and mentally challenged children the opportunity to ride horses.

The services the organization provides are essential because while riding horses, handicapped children improve their balance and strength. Barth's job was to prepare the horses and lead them while the children rode because many have muscle problems and cannot control the horses on their own.

What struck Barth the most, according to her mother, Nancy, was the kids' attitudes.

``They were the happiest kids on earth,'' Nancy said. ``It made her appreciate what she had. She'd always come home and say, `These kids never complain about anything.' The gift of giving is rewarding in of itself.''

Barth graduated in June and immediately packed her bags for Cadet Basic Training at West Point.

``She wanted to find a purpose in her life,'' Nancy said. ``She was looking for something and serving her country was important to her.''

Due to tight regulations at West Pont, Barth was unavailable for comment.


Hart High, Junior

Will Kykendall intended to teach athletes in the Special Olympics about track, but they ended up showing him the most important lesson of all: running is supposed to be fun.

Kykendall, an 800- and 1,600-meter specialist at Hart High, had devolved into something of a self-admitted grumbler in the fall, continually complaining, along with his teammates, about the physical strain they were putting on their bodies.

After six months with kids who had fun every time out on the track, Kykendall's attitude changed.

``It gave me a better outlook on running,'' he said. ``These guys weren't whining like many of my teammates and myself. We've been doing some training this summer, and I've been able to make things more fun for myself and my teammates.''

Kykendall had dropped his soccer club team in December and wanted to get involved with the community. He had been running track, so he figured it wouldn't be too difficult to train athletes.

He worked with kids of all ages and some adults as old as 50 every Saturday for two hours and had four meets throughout the season. Among other duties, Kykendall would jog next to the runners and encourage them along the way.

``I learned a lot about how people work and what makes each individual want to run faster,'' he said. ``Kids definitely run better with incentives.''

Kykendall also was a math tutor at Hart, mostly helping freshmen who had problems with algebra and geometry.

He has academic interests in engineering and math and is looking into schools strong in those areas, such as Cal and Harvey Mudd.


Notre Dame, Senior

Stephanie Williams was just looking for a way to fulfill her service requirement for school, but what she found changed her life - and the lives of many others, too.

Williams' mother knew the head teacher of special education at Melvin Elementary and referred her daughter there before last summer.

Williams had previous experience with autistic children while working as a swim instructor at Valley College, and, as a swimmer and water polo player at Notre Dame, thought she knew what to expect.

But the kids at Melvin were different. They had much more serious psychological and physical disorders.

Eventually, Williams bonded with a young girl who was abandoned when she was 5. The girl's mother had a mental breakdown and never picked her up.

``She was so different,'' Williams said. ``She couldn't go home to the same thing that I had. It made me respect what I had and made me understand life a little better.''

There weren't many boys in the class, so Williams ended up filling an important role in the girl's life: playmate.

``I listened to her as a friend,'' Williams said. ``She didn't want something other than that.''

The girl became attached to Williams, so what had been planned as a nonchalant 30-hour service project became a year-long classroom experience.

Williams stopped her work at the school in June, but occasionally gets reports on the children.

She will be attending the University of Colorado in the fall, and plans to major in children's psychology.


St. Francis, Senior

At 6-foot-3, 245-pounds, Stephen McGee is an imposing figure. But the All-Mission League second-team lineman makes an even bigger impact off the field.

He revived the Brotherhood of Christian Athletes, a club at St. Francis that had become dormant.

McGee's personal history also plays into the story. By the end of his junior year, McGee had emerged relatively unscathed from some difficult times in his life after rediscovering his own sense of spirituality.

``I woke up and realized I had a lot of potential for good,'' he said.

So as a senior, he decided to reform the club with the help of his offensive line coach, Mike Scheper.

Under his watch as president, the club engaged in tutoring in Watts and played sports with disadvantaged kids in La Cresenta, among other community work.

What McGee is most proud of, however, was his group's contribution to the nationwide Relay for Life, a 24-hour cancer fund-raiser.

This was the first year St. Francis put together a team for the event, and under the tutelage of team captain McGee, more than 40 students participated.

St. Francis raised $7,500, the most of any team at the event.

McGee was also a key figure in the Living in Faith Experience (LIFE) group at St. Francis, where he excelled in planning religious retreats for the student body.

Instead of leading the customary two, McGee headed up eight retreats, feeling compelled to help people going through the same downswings of life that he had encountered.

In the fall, McGee will head to the University of San Diego, where he will pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. He was invited to walk on to the football team and will probably play center.


Simi Valley, Senior

Garrett Asanuma stumbled into the role of soccer coach, but he seems to be finding a niche for himself.

Asanuma, a center midfielder for the soccer team the past four years, took his exploits to the sidelines when he started getting involved in youth soccer three years ago.

First, he became the director of youth leadership for the Simi Academy of Soccer organization, where he helped publish programs for the competitive soccer club with more than 250 members.

He also started coaching AYSO soccer when a friend, Leslie Dawson, needed an assistant.

``I just kind of started thinking I was just doing a favor,'' he said. ``But after the first season, I found that I was really liking it.''

Asanuma moved on to coaching 13-and-under, 12-and-under and four- and-under teams.

This year, realizing he was starting to get serious, Asanuma acquired a National `D' license from the U.S. Soccer Federation in February, the most basic level of certification. To earn a higher license, Asanuma would have to undergo seven days of instruction and two days of extensive oral, written and practical examinations.

He says he is strongly considering trying for a `C' license and maybe more, but the impending demands of time in college may be too much.

Asanuma will start school at UC Santa Barbara in about a month and is considering a major in the biological sciences.


Notre Dame, Senior

When Tony Kurzeka acquired his lifeguard license from the Red Cross, he probably never thought it might ultimately lead to helping handicapped kids in and out of the pool at a summer camp.

Kurzeka, the captain of the Notre Dame water polo team last season, has worked at the Cal State Northridge Wheelchair Camp as a lifeguard and aquatics assistant since the summer before his sophomore year.

His job has entailed watching over the pool and transporting campers in and out of the water and their wheelchairs.

The water portion of the day is crucial for the campers because it allows them to relax their muscles and get their blood flowing.

Over time, Kurzeka became more accustomed to working with the handicapped and developed an important insight.

``This is their one week to do what they can't do in their normal life,'' he said. ``It's really important for them to have this camp.''

Kurzeka also was the drummer for the Irish Knight band and, in the fall, will become a member of the marching band at the University of Missouri, where he intends to major in business.


8 photos, box



Gus Ruela/Staff Photographer


Special to the Daily News


John Lazar/Staff Photographer


Courtesy of Stephen Morales


Evan Yee/Staff Photographer


Tina Burch/Staff Photographer


Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer



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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 4, 2004

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