Sazzy Gourley is leaving quite a mark on Myers Park High including an award created in his honor.
Its called The Gourley Award, and it will be given each year to a student whose spirit creates a lasting legacy at Myers Park.
Sazzy received the inaugural award for several achievements: He is the student body president, a champion diver, straight-A student, fundraiser and humanitarian worker. He even brought back homecoming to the Mustangs of Myers Park High.
I feel like I have the ability to execute a vision and make it a reality, Sazzy said.
He said he harnessed his school spirit this academic year when he helped bring back the homecoming festivities, like the parade and dance, which had not been held at the school in more than 20 years.
In late August 1990, a 15-year-old was shot and killed after the homecoming football game at Myers Park. The incident prompted Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to experiment with early start times for Friday night games and to cancel postgame activities, according to Observer reports.
Sazzy had always thought of homecoming as a key high school experience, so he decided to try to bring it back.
I felt that holding this big event in the beginning of the year would create a sense of community throughout the school to set the tone for the rest of the year, he said.
So, as student body president, Sazzy sought to reestablish homecoming as a celebration, with the help of the student government association (SGA). Homecoming became our main focus for the first quarter, Sazzy said.
Sazzy started planning a proposal for homecoming activities to be submitted for approval by the principal.
What delights me the most as a teacher is Sazzys true love of Myers Park High School and his determination to serve the students whom he represents, said Christopher St. Clair, Myers Park SGA adviser.
Sazzy and his team planned this years homecoming day down to the minute starting with student arrivals to school at 7:15 a.m. and going through to dance cleanup at 11:30 p.m. Charts documenting the flow of students throughout the day were also created, so there would be no room for error or trouble.
One of my biggest challenges was figuring out how we were going to take the largest student body in the state and move them from the football game to the dance, Sazzy said.
SGA planning also involved seeking security for the dance, which was held after the game in the schools cafeteria. You have to start somewhere, Sazzy said about the dances location.
We have a very strict administration, and getting this event approved was a very long and complicated process, St. Clair said. Sazzy handled it all with class and style. In every meeting where the principals would play devils advocate, Sazzy was already prepared with the answers to their questions, and the event was considered a huge success.
Launched exchange program
Sazzy also helped establish a student exchange program between Myers Park High and Garinger High, where his dad is an English teacher.
For one week in fall 2011, five underclassmen from the Myers Park student leadership class swapped with five underclassmen at Garinger. Each student followed the others schedule to get an idea of what it was like to attend a different school.
Our goal was to open the students eyes to stereotypes at each school, Sazzy said.
Garinger High, which does not have an established SGA, focused on Myers Parks leadership class, in hopes of bringing a similar program back to Garinger, said Hunter Gourley, Sazzys father.
At the end of the weeklong challenge, the 10 students analyzed their experiences together and brought back ideas to improve their own school. The conclusion, according to Sazzy: They are very different environments, but you can choose to surround yourself with positive people in either environment.
He said the exchange program is scheduled to continue next year and will focus on homecoming ideas for Garinger, which also doesnt hold a parade or dance.
In the pool
When Sazzy isnt solving SGA challenges, he can be found at the pool. He began diving in sixth grade at his neighborhood pool, where he spent all day, every day, he said.
One day I was trying to get a 1-and-1/2 dive and the lifeguard asked me if I was going to do front flips all day, Sazzy said, laughing. Eventually, I just held on long enough.
By eighth grade, Sazzy joined a competitive team at Carolina Diving Academy. Since then, he said, he practices 30 hours per week. Last summer, his diligence paid off at the USA Age Group Diving Nationals, held at the University of Tennessee: He placed eighth on the 3-meter platform and 14th on the 1-meter platform.
It was so neat, but I cannot stand to watch, to tell you the truth, said Hunter Gourley. No matter where you sit, you see them on the board and you think, Dont hit your head, dont hit your arms.
In the fall, Sazzy will continue diving, on the Brown University team. But before he heads off to the Ivy League school in Rhode Island, he is spending a month working at Maho Bay Camps, an eco-friendly resort on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Sazzy said he hopes to expand his knowledge of the environment and sustainability, because he plans to study the subject in college.