Jonathan Downs, Newark Academy English teacher

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Letter of recommendation for Pavlo LevkivI have known Pavlo Levkiv for three years and I have worked with him as a teacher, coach, and mentor. Though I am completely cognizant of the possibility of sounding too chummy, I sincerely believe that Pavlo makes miracles happen daily. Pavlo Levkiv is the single most inspiring person I have ever met.

In 9th grade English I learned a few certainties regarding Pavlo. First, he is extremely creative and passionate about the Ukraine. While the class read George Orwell’s 1984, Pavlo supplemented the assigned reading with Zamyatin’s We. Pavlo then volunteered to present a critical comparison of the 2 novels to the class. In that oral presentation, Pavlo shared his ideas in a manner most aptly described as the essence of concise. I suspect that his ability to be succinct, to provide dense information with as few words as possible, comes as a survival technique – something he has learned on his own – which is no doubt a seemingly inherent and highly developed skill spawned from his disability. His instincts and listening skills are remarkable, and although he tends to listen, he is always ready and willing to speak.

Cerebral Palsy has not stopped Pavlo from running on the cross-country team. Not only does he beat other runners consistently, but he is capable of running a 5K in under 28 minutes. Pavlo falls nearly every practice and continues to run with bloody knees and elbows. Last year he ran the majority of the season with a broken forearm. His ability to endure pain and be uncomfortable is simply unusual and inspiring. He has had a major impact on his teammates and opponents alike, helping all who run with him to believe in themselves and each other. Those who come into contact with Pavlo inevitably want to become better people, and suddenly believe that they can.

Pavlo has his heart and head in the right place. He loves to laugh, as he does so with all of his teachers and peers. He also deeply desires to master his studies. For the past three years Pavlo has joined the cross-country team on its preseason trip to New Hampshire. After each 12-15 mile day, Pavlo was consistently the only runner whose light would remain on after curfew. Because he was studying math in 2 different languages, I felt compelled to make an exception to the rule. Pavlo’s light seems to always be on.

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