Dustin Hyde said in many ways it is remarkable how similar Lyndzie Caron is to Isaiah Kozak.
It is why she is the first recipient of the Pen High Isaiah Kozak Memorial Award (Zeek Award) given to an aboriginal student. The award was created to honour Kozak, who died suddenly at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo. this past spring, where he was playing lacrosse.
Hyde, an aboriginal education teacher, said they share the same work thic and commitment to sports and how they conduct themselves.
“He was the first guy to come to school every day dressed up in Laker gear, a huge motivator,” said Hyde. “Everybodies best friend. Lyndzie is a lot like that too.
“He was a pretty amazing and a special young man,” continued Hyde, adding that staff who knew Kozak and what he meant to the school, put their minds together to create the award.
The Zeek Award goes to an indigenous student, who is an athletic leader, or “beast athletically” and is academically strong and has a presence in the culture and spirit of the school by attending events and dressing up. Like Kozak, Caron gets up every monring to work out at the school gym.
Kozak’s mom, Natalie Van Dale, called it an honour, but said it comes with mixed emotions.
“He was an amazing person. For them to recognize that, that’s pretty astounding,” said Van Dale, who is glad to see something positive come from her sons death. “He touched a lot of lives. A lot of teachers had a lot of respect for him. To create this award, it’s really an honour and a privilege to have that in his name.”
Van Dale said the award is a great idea because her son was proud of who he was and his heritage.
“For them to want to inspire other kids, I thought it was a pretty good choice because he was a pure leader,” she said. “He was just so driven at what he did. All this drive to be the best that he could be at anything that he did.”
Without knowing Kozak too well, Caron said it was an honour for her to receive it on June 1.
“When I got the award it was a very special moment, very emotional too, lots of tears,” she said. “Isaiah’s mom was there as well. I gave her a really big hug. It was just really special.”
Caron knew of Kozak seeing him work out in the school gym and playing sports as well as participating in spirit days.
“He was just always a happy person. I just love that about him,” said Caron, who received $750, which she will use while at the University of Victoria.