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SEF News & Success Stories

Congratulations to the 2023-2024 Fred Saigh Leadership Academy Class

man on stage speaking at a podium

The Fred Saigh Leadership Academy Class of 2024’s graduation on May 1 was a remarkable evening filled with inspiration and pride. Fred Saigh Leadership Academy Coordinator Debbie Smith guided us through a memorable program.

SEF’s Executive Director, Tim Eby, provided an insightful overview of the Fred Saigh Leadership Academy, highlighting its origins and the invaluable benefits it offers. Following this, Debbie Smith spoke about each graduate and they each had the opportunity to address the audience, sharing personal reflections on the leadership qualities they cultivated throughout the program.

Their presentations were truly inspiring, with many recounting transformative experiences such as visits to the Holocaust Museum, immersive learning sessions at the Missouri Botanical Garden, and engaging discussions with state leaders at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.

Diplomas were awarded to each graduate filled with proud moments and the stage was met with applause from peers, teachers, leadership, and families, celebrating the hard work and dedication of our graduates.

And the C.J. Aubuchon Award Goes to….

One of the outstanding members of the Fred Saigh Leadership Academy Class of 2006 was a sophomore student named C.J. Aubuchon. C.J. always had a big smile and a willingness to do whatever asked of him. His leadership was exemplified in his ability to make others feel comfortable and at ease, in his consistent lead in demonstrating good manners and in his commitment to accepting responsibility.

In 2008, C.J. was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. C.J. fought with everything he had to conquer his illness, was extremely brave, and never complained. However, he lost his battle with cancer the summer of 2009. He is missed by his family, friends, and the many, many lives he touched in such a positive way.

In honor of C.J’s leadership and perseverance, the Special Education Foundation presents the C.J. Aubuchon Award to an Academy student each year who exemplifies the following qualities:

  • Kindness
  • Consideration of others
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Supportive of others
  • Articulate
  • Polite and responsible

Chosen by the students from this year’s Leadership class, it was a TIE! We are excited to recognize and congratulate both Terrance Jones of McCluer North & North Tech High School and Taylor Owens of Ladue Horton Watkins High School — this year’s recipients of the C.J. Aubuchon Award!  

To conclude this momentous occasion, a catered appetizer buffet allowed students to mingle with their loved ones, teachers, and SEF staff, fostering a sense of community and celebration.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Fred Saigh Leadership Academy Coordinator Debbie Smith, retired SSD administrator MaryLee Burlemann, and Hazelwood West High School’s SSD Administrator Matt Moellering for their unwavering dedication to crafting a curriculum that instills invaluable leadership skills and fosters community engagement. None of this would have been possible without the generous support of The Saigh Foundation, whose major grant has empowered us to continue nurturing the leaders of tomorrow.

Once again, congratulations to the graduates of the 2022-23 Fred Saigh Leadership Academy. Your accomplishments are a testament to your hard work, resilience, and unwavering commitment to excellence.