Lansdale Catholic High School junior Nicole Mezzatesta and Kennett High School senior Gavin Seele were presented with the 10th First Lieutenant Travis Manion & Corporal Michael Crescenz Award on Saturday, October 9 during halftime of the Army-Navy Cup at Subaru Park in Chester, PA.
The award is given to two regional high school soccer players, one male and one female, who exhibit the same qualities as First Lieutenant Manion and Corporal Crescenz – men who exemplified selfless service, lived lives of substance, and gave their lives defending the United States.
Mezzatesta was nominated for the award by Gabrielle Benedict, her soccer coach at Lansdale Catholic.
“Nicole is an incredible soccer player and even better human being,” Benedict said. “She battles every game despite a particularly painful and difficult arthritis that affects her muscles. What makes Nicole so special is it doesn't slow her down, even though it should, and she competes every day with a smile on her face. She has been a Varsity starter since her freshman year helping us secure a State Championship and has served as captain since her sophomore year. She is an irreplaceable member of our team and is so deserving of this award. I am so honored and proud to coach such a great kid!”
In addition to her work on the field, Mezzatesta helps provide kids with disabilities the chance to learn how to play soccer with the Thunder Program, and is involved with the Interact Club, where people ages 12-18 develop leadership skills while discovering the power of Service Above Self.
For Mezzatesta, whose father served in the Air Force for 28 years, the award means a little more.
“I am beyond grateful for everything my dad and others have done for myself and for this country,” Mezzatesta said. “He deployed multiple times and was away from our family for long periods when my brother and I were younger. He sacrificed a lot by being away from us, but he never complained. From my father, I learned to respect authority, to work hard for what I want, and to be a fair, honest and good person. I try to follow his example and be that kind of person every day, which makes me especially proud to be recognized for this award.”
“I've been given many opportunities in my life, and I know that so many service members have given everything, including their lives, to allow me to have the freedoms and opportunities I’ve been given. I feel that it’s a privilege and my responsibility to give back as much as I’m able to the community and to others who aren’t as fortunate, as a way of paying forward the sacrifices of the military and other heroes throughout our country.”
Seele was nominated by Mike Barr, his coach at Kennett.
Off the field, Seele is involved in Future Business Leaders of America and National Honor Society. During the summer, he volunteers at various local soccer camps like Delaware Football Club, Sporting Delaware and Penn Fusion.
“As a kid, I participated in summer soccer camps and looked forward to going each day,” Seele said. “I idolized the camp counselors who seemed to be so good at soccer and nice to everyone. Now, to be older and on the other side of that, I really enjoy the opportunity to give back. I have been lucky enough to be a counselor at the same camps that I participated in. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and pride to be able to give back and help the little kids develop their skills and love for the game of soccer.”
Seele is also the co-founder of PetSEEN, a program that creates pet bandanas to be used in photos by rescue organizations to help increase adoptions.
According to Barr, the senior mid is “probably the most technical player I have coached at Kennett.”
“Excellent student, he will be attending Univ of Pennsylvania,” Barr said. “He is our captain this year and leads by his hard work and dedication.”
“I’ve consistently worked hard to be the best I can be while helping other players develop their skills and love for the game,” Seele said. “The First Lieutenant Travis Manion & Corporal Michael Crescenz Award sets a high standard for selfless service, so I feel extremely honored to be receiving the award. I’m grateful to my high school coach, Mr. Barr for nominating me. He is a great role model and challenges me to improve my soccer and leadership skills. Mr. Lentz, my other high school coach has been my teacher, so I’ve learned a lot from him on and off the field. My club coaches Jamie Scott and Steve Cavalier have been my mentors and had a huge impact on my life.”