by Ike Hopper
I would like to share a little bit about my experience of being selected for the Tewaaraton Award for Outstanding Native American High School Student Lacrosse Player.
At first, I didn’t think it was such a big deal when my coach, Mike Messere from West Genesee High School, nominated me because I didn’t really know what it was all about. As part of the nomination process, I was required to write an essay in which I basically wrote about how I got started playing lacrosse and what the game means to me today. Then, the day came when I received “the phone call” from the Executive Director of the Tewaaraton Foundation, Ms. Liz Terry. I was at school at the time so my mom took the message. When she told me that I had been selected to receive this prestigious award, I thought, “Oh sweet!” However, I still was not sure what it was all about but that this huge scholarship came along with a trophy.
On May 28, 2009, the Tewaaraton Foundation flew my Mom, Dad and I down to Washington, DC to receive the award. We stayed at the University Club which was a really fancy hotel. We hung out the afternoon, waiting for the big event that evening. While I was hanging out, the Tewaaraton Foundation sent a welcome package to my room, compliments of Brine. I was really surprised.
Then, it was time for me to get ready for the banquet. So, I put on my suit and went to meet up with Trenna Hill who was the female high school recipient of this award. We were escorted to a limousine, along with the male and female NCAA finalists, which took us to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) where the awards ceremony was to take place. It was pretty sweet to be able to talk with all the NCAA finalists. Upon arrival, we had a quick rehearsal of the awards ceremony and then headed to the VIP dinner reception. It was at the VIP reception where I saw people from our Onondaga Nation community that had made the trip down. I was really happy to see my cousins Derek and Matthew Bennett, Sue Parsons, and Denise Waterman, along with Missy Rank, Shawna Booth, Sonny Shenandoah, Kelly Swamp, Chip Burr and Neal Powless. I mingled and met important people from the Tewaaraton Foundation and the University Club. I was also introduced to representatives from Brine, Nike, US Lacrosse, Iroquois Nationals, international teams and several college coaches. Everyone was really nice and had really good things to say. Plus, they all loved lacrosse. It was awesome!
The awards ceremony was held in the Theater of the NMAI. Our whole gang had VIP seating and our seats were reserved for the first two rows. As they went through the program, first calling upon the All-Star Team from the Baltimore area, I began to look around the theater. There were so many people. It was standing room only. The time then came when they called Trenna and me up on stage. Every part of the awards ceremony was well thought out and so special. But it was even more extra special to hear the funny comments of Roy Simmons Jr. as he received a Spirit Award and to see Travis Solomon hand out the NCAA awards to Max Seibald from Cornell University and Hannah Neilsen from Northwestern University. That’s pretty much when I realized how big a deal this was.
Overall, this was a very good experience for me and one that I will not forget. I am really honored that I was selected for this award. Thank you again to the Onondaga Athletic Club and Derek, Matthew, Sue, Denise, Missy, Shawna, Chip, Sonny, Kelly and Neal for coming to this event. It meant a lot to see you there and to have your support.