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Nikolay Fontanez-Vargas was named as the recipient of the 2020 Lee Strebel Memorial Award for Enthusiasm in the Performing Arts. The Ithaca High School (IHS) Underclassmen Awardees are being announced online. The Lee Strebel Memorial Award is presented each year to an IHS student who has not only participated in performing arts at the high school level but has shown extraordinary spirit in that pursuit.

The award is given in loving memory of Lee Strebel, an IHS student who died suddenly during his freshman year in February 2006. In his short time at the high school, Lee became a standout in the drama department after playing the leading role of George Gibbs in Our Town. "Lee was a promising young actor to be sure, but what made him so well-loved was his constant smile, great work ethic, support for his peers and an unshakeable positive mental attitude. It is hoped that the recipient of this award will continue to demonstrate many of the same attributes, and recognize that although skills may be handed out in various amounts, our attitude and effort are completely under our control," notes the Strebel family.

Ithaca High School Drama teacher Lorraine Tino praised Nikolay, "Niko has not just been an active participant in our drama and musical productions, he has become a leader in moving our program towards our goals of inclusion and conscious casting. He also pushes all our students to reach for excellence in all their work. His voice is one we have all come to value."

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