James Metz lived by a simple motto: Show up.
Show up and take part.
Show up and do the right thing.
Show up and do your best – whether it’s in school or sports or everyday life.
Now, a Lancaster student who exhibits that same attitude will be recognized with the inaugural James Metz Memorial Scholarship in honor of the high school freshman who died in a plane crash last fall.
James’ parents, Steve and Sue Metz, are humbled by the gesture.
“I’m very proud of it – very proud,” his mother said of the scholarship.
James died Sept. 27 on a sun-splashed autumn day while taking part in a free event at the Buffalo-Lancaster Regional Airport designed to introduce youngsters to recreational flying. Soon after James and his pilot took flight in a small, single-engine aircraft, their plane collided in midair with another participating in the event. Their Cessna crashed to the ground, killing James and the 78-year-old pilot, Anthony Mercurio.
The scholarship is sponsored by the Lancaster Central School District’s Parent-Teacher Organization Council, which traditionally offers two community scholarships at graduation, said Patricia Burgio, a district spokeswoman.
But following his death, the organization decided to rename one of the scholarships after James, whose mother had been active in the group since he was in kindergarten.
The $1,000 will be awarded to a student who has shown integrity, selflessness and community awareness.
In James, his parents tried to instill those same principles using the simple message, “Show up.”
“It’s a saying from an old family friend,” explained his mother. “ ‘You don’t have to do a lot, but you should show up.’ We would tell James and his brother, Donovan, that from a young age and apply it to any situation whether it was academics or playing tee-ball. We just gave him that as a guideline.”
And James learned it.
His mother recalled how hard James worked to make the varsity swim team as an eighth-grader. His third-grade teacher once told his parents that she never met a kid with such a fully developed sense of integrity as James.
“James wasn’t perfect – he was a 14-year-old boy,” Sue Metz said, “but if I could say one thing about him is he had a very strong moral compass from a very young age and he did not waver – ever.”
James played trumpet in the high school band and enjoyed basketball. His younger brother, Donovan, has been raising money to refurbish the run-down basketball courts at Keysa Park in the Village of Lancaster as another tribute to James.
“He wasn’t a super athlete or a super scholar,” his mother said, “but he just did the right things and always worked as hard as he could.”
Lancaster students interested in the James Metz Memorial Scholarship can find the application on the counseling center section of the Lancaster High School website at lancasterschools.org/naviance.
To be considered, students must have an academic average of at least 75 and have plans to continue their education. Applicants must also write an essay of at least 250 words describing how they have demonstrated community awareness, self-awareness and integrity and how they “show up.” The deadline is May 1.