Peter Steen showed the world what the term “Huntington determination” is all about. A member of the Class of 1979, he suffered a devastating spinal cord injury during the summer preceding his junior year and was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Despite missing an extended period of school time during his recovery, Mr. Steen still managed to graduate on time. Voted Huntington High School’s Homecoming Day king in 1978, he went on to earn an undergraduate degree at Stony Brook University and work as a stockbroker, financial planner and inventor. He never surrendered his zest for life nor gave up hope that he would one day walk again.
Mr. Steen was seriously injured while playing in a summer lacrosse game in the community. As a Huntington sophomore, he had been the junior varsity football team’s leading rusher and the JV lacrosse team’s top scorer.
When Mr. Steen passed away on December 9, 2016 it hit his family, friends and classmates hard. They all admired his perseverance and his positive outlook on life. His family decided to perpetuate his memory by creating a scholarship award earmarked for a graduating senior at his alma mater.
Huntington senior Elizabeth Berejka.
The first annual Peter Steen scholarship award was presented during last week’s 49th annual Blue Devil senior athletic awards banquet in Louis D. Giani Gymnasium. Mr. Steen’s family gathered around the podium as his brother, Carl told a crowd of 300 the amazing alum’s story and introduced Elizabeth Berejka as the first recipient of the $1,000 scholarship.
Ms. Berejka earned varsity letters with the Blue Devil field hockey, winter track and lacrosse teams. “She is dedicated to academic excellence, participated in other areas of the school community and is someone who has persevered to overcome adversity,” Carl Steen told the crowd. “She has amazing inner strength. As a captain of the varsity field hockey team, she was the heart and soul of the team. She leads by example and takes the time talk to her younger teammates. She has shown her teammates how to win with pride and also how to lose with dignity. She has shown them how to hold your head up and go back to face the next challenging game.”
A member of Huntington’s National Honor Society and Latin Honor Society chapters, Ms. Berejka boasts a 95 academic grade average. She is headed to Fordham University in the fall to study mathematics.
“I was very surprised to be awarded the Peter Steen Scholarship,” Ms. Berejka said. “I was honored that the Steen family thought I most resembled Mr. Steen’s characteristics. It meant a lot to be recognized for my athletic and academic achievements as well as persevering through the difficulty of losing my mom during my junior year field hockey season.”
Well known for her strong work ethic, the teenager is considering the possibility of entering the medical field or pursuing a career in analytics.
Ms. Berejka plans on working as a summer camp counselor at the Bay Club and spending time with her friends before each of them heads off to college in a different direction.