Community

South Whidbey native son goes the extra mile daily

Members of the Birds of Prey spirit group surround Steven Gabelein, who came up with the idea in order to encourage students to actively support athletics at South Whidbey High School. - Spencer Webster / The Record
Members of the Birds of Prey spirit group surround Steven Gabelein, who came up with the idea in order to encourage students to actively support athletics at South Whidbey High School.
— image credit: Spencer Webster / The Record

What’s it take to go the extra mile?

“Not much,” says South Whidbey High School senior Steven Gabelein.

“That little extra effort can sometimes make a big difference in someone’s day — and yours. What it does take is getting out of our comfort zone.”

About four years ago, Mrs. (Mildred) Scott was walking around town trying to find a particular store.

“I was so frustrated, and it must have shown because this young teen, asked if I needed some help? The young man said he hadn’t heard of the store, but said, ‘Let’s go find it.’

“Well, he walked me right to the store’s door and bid me a good day. I asked his name and he said, ‘Steven Gabelein,’” Scott said. “I thought how many people go the extra mile like that?”

Gabelein says, “When someone asks you to give them a hand, offer them two.”

He’s inspired by teachers and people in this community every day, he says, “starting with my parents who never walk away from hard work, or helping a neighbor.” He says his parents never looked for anything in return.

Andy Bennett, a sophomore at South Whidbey High School writes, “Steven is the absolute inspirational mentor and role model. He’s a merry bellwether who does things for our school not for fame and popularity, but for the smiles of the kids around our school who may not even know Steven.

“He would be the kind of person that would be in a hidden closet wheeling a stationary bike to help power our school to save money, and if you were to thank him on the fact, he would graciously say, ‘Oh, I’m just trying to stay in shape, someone just happened to hook me up to the school’s main switchboard.’”

Gabelein stands tall both in his values and in his stature. At nearly 6’5, he towers like a gentle giant. He greets you in his parents’ garden and leads you through their front door. He asks if sitting at the dining room table would be comfortable?

He smiles and offers some refreshments.

People and helping his community are his top priority.

“My grades have taken a bit of a hit this year from the extra volunteer work and student body president duties — but I’m OK with that,” Gabelein says. “It makes me more of a well-rounded person I think.”

Brett Warwick, a South Whidbey High School senior, says Gabelein has been an influential role model.

“Steve has made wonderful changes in this community and our school through his volunteer work at food drives, courtyard clean-ups, charity benefits and other activities that have driven South Whidbey toward a cleaner and more united place to live. He wanted to draw our school closer together so he co-founded a club he calls Birds of Prey. This club encourages school spirit with face painting and other fun activities to excite students about our athletics and to encourage a sense of pride on our campus.

“The club was a complete hit and nearly everyone in the school participated. I can’t imagine what our school, let alone our community would be like without him,” Warwick says.

Gabelein says he couldn’t do anything without other people.

“CJ Baker stepped up right away to co-lead the Birds of Prey, while Kylie DeMartini worked day and night to help,” Gabelein quickly points out. “And without the hundreds of students, teachers and parents that joined, it would have never happened. It was a lot of work, but it was all worth it.”

He says community service or volunteering cannot be about padding one’s resume, or drawing attention to oneself. It has to be in your heart.

Gabelein says he tries to live by the motto that strives to leave a person, or a club, or community you are involved with just a little better off than how you found them.

“It could be leaving someone feeling less alone than before or a little happier. If we try to live this out everyday, we ourselves cannot help but feel good,” he said.

He says he keeps in mind each day that life is short, and he never wants to waste even one day.

What does “wasting a day” mean to him?

“Lying around watching mindless TV, or playing video games come to mind. If something isn’t beneficial to yourself or others, then it’s probably a waste of time.”

His oldest sister Julie Gabelein says, “My brother’s heroic qualities were evident early in life. He was always patient and fun loving while his other sister and I dressed him up in frilly dresses and applied blush and lipstick to his chubby cheeks. As soon as he could walk, he was our father’s right-hand man, wanting to work hard like our dad. As Steven grew (and grew and grew) he remained an island boy through and through. While many students can’t wait to leave ‘The Rock,’ Steven is more concerned with the state he will leave his school and community in,” she says.

His other sister, Jennifer, agrees Gabelein always goes beyond the call of duty.

“He is patient and lives his life for others. He has the biggest heart I know. And Steven is the one person who can make me laugh so hard that I actually pee my pants and have tears streaming down my face. He brings peace and joy wherever he goes,” his sister adds.

“He truly lives out the Mother Teresa quote: ‘Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.’”Steven Albert Gabelein

Born: Jan. 31, 1990 in Everett.

Parents: Albert and Lori; operate and own Albert’s Construction.

Siblings: Two older sisters; Julie graduated from South Whidbey High School in 2003; Jennifer graduated in 2005.

Education: Currently a senior at South Whidbey High School. He plans to attend Gonzaga University in Spokane to study engineering.

Years on Whidbey: “All my life — 18 years.”

Hobbies: Young Life, community volunteering, running, hiking, fishing, hunting, traveling, watching shooting stars, snowboarding, making movies, antique shopping, watching and playing sports.

Personal sides:

What do you do when you are down or feeling defeated?

“Listen to music or run.”

What do you wish more people would do?

“Be a smart consumer, read labels, make purchases with not just ourselves or today in mind.”

An adage you live by?

“By Gandhi, ‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.’”

Favorite book?

“Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer.

What do you miss most about being a kid?

“Playing with my trucks in the dirt and no sense of time.”

What one question would you like to ask God?

“What can we do to stop hatred and greed in our society?”

What is something you wish everyone would understand about you?

“I always have time to sit down and chat over a cup of cold milk.”

What is an attribute you respect in others?

“Someone that can stand up for what’s right, even if it isn’t popular at the time.”

Some of the South Whidbey people you would like to thank?

“I would first like to thank my mom and dad who have always supported me in everything I put my mind to; my sisters, Julie and Jennifer, for always challenging me and setting high standards; my grandparents for teaching me all about the good old days; Kylie DeMartini, Kyle Asay, Nick Rovang, Eric and Scott Stallman, Andy Bennett, Jordan Thornley, Maya Hough, Eric Barrow, Sam Felt, Jensen Connor, Levi Sawyers, Dylan Fate, Brett Warwick, CJ Baker, Amanda Spalding, Matt Idso, Adam Hosmer, Nathan Kamps, Marijane Daumen, Aaron Mannie, James Schorr and many others who deserve to be named for being such good friends and always being there for me; my educators that got me here: Mrs. Nack, Mrs. Adams, Mrs. Sidhu, Mr. Posch, Mrs. McCue, Mr. Jones, Mr. Terhar, Mr. Kramer, Mr. Eager, Mr. Durbin, Mr. Freundlich, Mr. Patterson, Mr. Ballog, Mrs. Gochanour, Mrs. Fitz, Mrs. Ricketts, Mr. Nelson, Mr. Koffkin, Mr. Wodjenski and Mr. Hunter. I would like to thank Mr. Davis for giving me a chance on the hardwood; Coach Fulton for believing in my running career and passing on his expertise; Mark Cook, Matt Chambers and Dick Guise for your inspiration; Leo Langer and Dale Wilson for being the most outstanding custodians on the planet; and Mr. Johnson, Mr. Patton and Mr. Prosch for always challenging me in my many duties in school and life. Again thank you to everyone who has helped to shape who I am today.”

What others have to say about Gabelein

“Leadership and influence take many different forms. Some people try to lead by their words, some try to lead by their bravado, some try to lead by charisma, some try to lead through their connections. Steven is a young man who leads by character, example and by temperament. Everyone is a better person by their connections to Steven because his character, example and temperament rub off. I’m proud to have Steven as a family friend.”

Matt Chambers, Senior Pastor, South Whidbey Assembly of God

“Steven is the person I respect the most at the high school. He has been my best and most understanding friend throughout the last four years, as well as a great example. His adherence to his morals have aided me greatly in my efforts to follow my beliefs, and have helped make the right thing to do easier. I cannot think of a better nominee for Hometown Hero.”

Kyle Asay, South Whidbey High School senior and friend

“As a student at South Whidbey High School, Steven has demonstrated superior leadership skills as our student body president. Steven was instrumental in creating a school environment of spirit and togetherness between students.

He is a selfless individual, who puts other students and the school before himself. If I ever need something important done I, without hesitation, ask Steven because I know it will be a quality finished product.”

John Patton, assistant principal/athletic director

“Steven is a true uniter. He was able to bring together South Whidbey High School through Birds of Prey, and revitalize ASB and Key Club with his leadership. He is calm, personable and sets a terrific example for me and many others. It is important to him that everyone is included, acknowledged and thanked for their hard work.”

Dylan Fate, fellow student and ASB officer

“Steven is one of the finest young men this community has produced. He is mature beyond his years and is highly respected by peers and faculty at South Whidbey High School. His family and this community have every right to be proud of him and his accomplishments. Steven will represent us well in the future.”

Tom Kramer, South Whidbey High School teacher

“Steven was selected as our South Whidbey Kiwanis Club celebrated one of two students for academic and community service. In February, I had the honor of working with Steven as he prepared a leadership conference for high school students from a number of area schools. He is a role model not only to his fellow students, but he is an example for all people living on South Whidbey regardless of age. He’s intelligent, considerate and really a nice guy.”

Dick Guise, South Whidbey School District

“I knew Steven, which was 12 years ago, as his kindergarten teacher. Steven at that young age was gentle, caring and polite with a sense of responsibility. He chose to work in the required centers before going to the more fun and optional centers. He was well-liked by all of his classmates and will be an asset wherever he goes.”

Miriam Nack, South Whidbey kindergarten teacher

“Steven is a genuine young man who is selfless and giving. His family motivates him and encourages each other to pursue their dreams. Watching Steven persevere through a hard class or through a new sport, inspires others to pursue high goals of their own. Steven worked very hard on an important speech. He used cups of water each representing a different goal. The speech was a big hit and he showed up dressed in a suit and tie.”

Kylie DeMartini, South Whidbey High School senior student

“Steven has been a friend of mine for four years now and the entire time I have known him, he has always worked hard whether in a group or on his own. He has a great ability to set goals and find ways to accomplish them, with the best intentions for the community or school in mind. During cross country, he was always there to push me harder and his motivation to improve was endless; he is a great choice for this award.”

Eric Stallman, South Whidbey High School student

“We are both very proud of Steven and the choices he makes. He is a very conscientious and independent young man. He has been a joy to raise and we feel very blessed to be his parents. We love you, Steven!”

Albert and Lori Gabelein, Steven’s parents

“Our community benefits from having people like Steven in it because there is nothing but good associated with him whether it be academically, socially or spiritually. The old saying ‘the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree’ certainly applies here as Steven models the wonderful example set by his two nurturing parents. Steven is self-motivated and strives to do his best at whatever he attempts. If the world was made up of Stevens it would certainly be a wonderful place to grow and thrive without wars, hatred and ill will. In the classroom Steven always fostered good feelings by those around him due to his positive attitude and strong work ethic. His peers respected him and were well aware of his strong work habits and quiet demeanor.”

Darrell Posch, retired South Whidbey teacher

“Steven is a quiet young man who listens and thinks before he speaks. He represents the fifth generation of his family (on both sides) being on Whidbey Island — a responsibility not taken lightly by him.”

Grandma Noreen Furman Warnock, (South Whidbey class of 1959)

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