CAMPBELLSPORT — Manuel Wuest watches with sympathy as pencils, pens, erasers and other school supplies scatter from the dropped pencil case of a fellow student at St. Matthew Catholic School in Campbellsport.
While other students pass with hardly a glance, Wuest, 13, without hesitation, bends down and helps retrieve the fallen supplies.
“I like to help people and be as nice as I can,” he said.
Eleven-year-old Emmie Pierrat, known for her kindness toward other students, enjoys assisting classmates having difficulty with an assignment.
“I want to be known as a good person. I do like helping other students study,” she said.
Emmie and Manuel, who are sometimes seen giving a gentle push to younger students on the school’s playground swings, are two of five winners of a unique award recognizing kindness, caring, consideration and respect toward others while demonstrating Christian values.
The Clarice H. Theisen Good Servant Award is given annually to a student at St. Matthew who is living Catholic values in everyday life.
Named in honor of a graduate of the School Sisters of St. Francis convent in Milwaukee, the award gives winning students $100 along with their name engraved on a plaque hanging in the school, said Clarice’s daughter-in-law and Theisen family spokesperson, Joanne Theisen of Campbellsport.
“We wanted to keep giving in memory of my mother-in-law, who we called ‘Ma,’ because she loved kids and thought education was important. We wanted some way to reflect her. She was one of those people who always cared about other people before herself,” Theisen said.
School principal Joan Schlaefer said, “It’s a big deal when the kids get the award, the last award given out at the end of the year.”
Students and staff of the school, which has 113 students from K3 through eighth grade, eagerly anticipate the award, given out at a school-wide dinner party.
“They are the role models for our parish,” Schlaefer said.
She said the idea for the award, which she believes is unique in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, came during a meeting with Joanne Theisen following her mother-in-law’s death in 2012.
“We came up with the idea of recognizing kids who think of others before themselves,” Schlaefer said. “As Christians we are supposed to care for our fellow man. That’s the main focus of these kids. If they see one of their fellow students having issues, they are the first ones to try to help. If teachers need help with a project, they are one of the first to volunteer to do it. If a student needs help putting on their snowsuit in winter, these kids will help.”
Students are selected by vote, typically unanimous, of the teachers.
Theisen said awards are frequently given to the top achievers scholastically or the best athletes, “the top dogs.”
“We wanted to pick someone who doesn’t have to have all A’s or be the best athlete,” Theisen said. “We just want a really good person who excels in helping and being kind to others. We are looking for the underdogs,”
In addition to the student awards, the Theisen family recently gifted the school enough money to buy Accelerated Math, a state-of-the-art computer math program, that helps students master math skills.