Kelsey Gibbs and Cameron Peck are winners of this year’s North Star Awards, among highest honors for SM North students

Cameron Peck and Kelsey Gibbs will both be headed to K-State for college this fall.

When Kelsey Gibbs and Cameron Peck got called to the office a couple weeks ago, they weren’t sure what was going on. And they were even more confused when they arrived to find a man they didn’t know standing next to their counselor.

“I thought maybe my counselor just wanted to talk to me about something, but then I walked in and there was this guy we’d never seen and it was kind of like, ‘What’s going on here?'” Peck recalled.

But Gibbs and Peck weren’t in trouble. Far from it. They were about to find out they were the recipients of one of the highest honors given to SM North students.

Each year, Shawnee Mission North teachers are asked to select two seniors — a male and a female — who embody the characteristics of leadership, involvement, teamwork, respect for others and academic excellence as winners of the school’s North Star awards. In addition to a trophy and having their names added to the list of award winners in a display case at the school, the award comes with a $2,000 college scholarship.

The fellow who was waiting for them in the counselors office was 1979 SM North graduate Steve Sears. After a career as a top executive with Pepsi-Cola and Frito Lay Australia, Sears has underwritten the awards for years now. He’s said in the past that helping support the awards “is a simple way to give back to an institution that did a lot for me, and I hope it encourages current and future students to take advantage of all that North has to offer.”

Both Gibbs and Peck said they were shocked and honored to find out they had won.

“It was a humbling experience,” Peck said. “I come to school every day and we have these amazing teachers who have had a great effect on me. They’ve helped shape me. So to hear that I was the one that was chosen by the teachers, it was really cool.”

Gibbs said she could hardly wait to get home to tell her grandmother, former Mission City Councilwoman Suzie Gibbs, face-to-face that she was the honoree.

Gibbs said that with graduation just weeks away, she’s trying to savor the last of her time at the school.

“There’s a lot of different activities and groups here, but not really many cliques. We kind of all know each other and hang out with each other. That’s what I really appreciate about it. I think it’s one of the things that sets North apart,” she said. “I love being here. There are certain teachers here that I’m thinking, not seeing their faces every day [after graduation] is going to be hard.”

Peck and Gibbs are both headed to K-State for college next year. Gibbs plans to major in English with a minor in music. Peck is planning a career in elementary education.

“I come from a family of teachers. My mom and grandma are both teachers,” he said. “And I have had so many great teachers. I think it’s a career that’s a good fit for me.