Former Area stand out and Porter resident, Becky Mateja Lombardini, has been giving a 5th grade student athlete an award to inspire them to continue his or her academic and extra-curricular activities. Mateja won a basketball in the 5th grade at a church raffle and propelled her into a life time of experiences and accolades. The latest being a run for Porter County Council – also for past NWI Influential Woman; Chicago Top Athlete and Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer.
Back in 1984 Mateja lead Whiting High School in athletic as well as academic teams in a no division system. At a time when girls’ sports was burgeoning, she being an Oiler was also a pioneer of sorts. There were no Friday night games, bands, or cheerleaders for the ladies’ team, but the heart and soul of this Whiting athlete was appreciated especially by her Athletic Director Ray Zubeck. “Becky was a special kid, a once in a life time. Not only talented, but helped everyone around her. I’m proud to know her, always doing good.”
Pictured: Congrats to these sweethearts…Arianna Vianello, Jordyn Rivera, Lily Morando, Haley Downen, and Kiara Chavez with Honorable Mention Nevaeh Kender and Hailey Drewniak. The now Mateja Family Award Winners in honor of Becky’s parents marks the 20th year!
So the encouragement continues through this little effort that would hopefully see more advancement for women. Inspired by her parents, the greats Phil Mateja Sr. and Sue Haluska Mateja, she realized how much they did not only for their family, but community. Phil a stand out professional athlete and administrator, and Sue a cheerleader and activist as much as she could working and raising three kids.
Even today the chances All American daughter Lia Lombardini to become a professional softball player that could earn a living from her efforts seems unlikely.
Due to the pandemic, the award winners for the past five years were: in one of the State’s coolest gyms, the Whiting High School Memorial Gymnasium, they met mid court at half time to be awarded. In a world of unfairness, especially for women, they are playing a sport for fun, are loved, and supported.
To be eligible, preference is given to, but not solely determined: Whiting Student in grade 5 through 8, female, C average or better, strong desire for basketball and essay. They are awarded a $100 savings bond, basketball and certificate. The winner’s names are added to the plaque that hangs in the Whiting junior high school near the gym where the high school girls first played. Participants can email P&H Printing firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can catch Professor Mateja teaching at Indiana University Northwest, broadcasting on her show on WVLP and beyond, or helping folks realize their dreams with Vision Quest. Way to go, Oiler and now Trojan Nation.
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