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Monday, Feb 24 2014 12:45 PM

'First Look': Two honored for exemplary ethics

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    From left to right, Californian Executive Editor Robert Price; Bakersfield High School assistant football coach and Wendy Wayne Award for Exemplary Ethical Behavior recipient Lance McCullah; and Christopher Meyers from the CSUB Kegley Institute of Ethics, talk about the award on "First Look with Scott Cox."

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    North High School student Elizabeth Pelzer, left, is the recipient of the Youth Award for the Wendy Wayne Awards for Exemplary Ethical Behavior. She is joined by her FFA teacher, Natalie Ryan, who nominated her for the award, and Californian Executive Editor Robert Price on "First Look with Scott Cox."

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BY LAURA LIERA Californian staff writer lliera@bakersfield.com

Lance McCullah keeps a positive attitude no matter how he is feeling. Recently diagnosed with ALS, McCullah said he neither uses the disease as an excuse nor does he let it get in the way of helping coach Bakersfield High School's football team.

"We never coach or teach about winning," McCullah said Monday on "First Look with Scott Cox." "We teach about hard work and being successful."

McCullah's perseverance and positive influence on students led to his selection for the 2014 Adult Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is a part of the Wendy Wayne Awards for Exemplary Ethical Behavior presented by the Kegley Institute of Ethics at Cal State Bakersfield.

The annual award -- along with the Youth Award -- recognizes people who have either lived an ethically exemplary life or who have acted in a particularly impressive way during the previous year, institute director Christopher Meyers said.

Being a part of a team is about family and feeling safe in an environment where students will not be criticized, McCullah said.

Several years ago, McCullah said, he went through a dark time in his life, struggling with drugs, but he overcame the addiction. And he changed his life around.

"I realized I wanted to impact lives until I can't anymore and that's what I am going to do," the coach said.

Californian columnist Herb Benham has been McCullah's neighbor for the past 20 years and said he has admired him from afar.

Every Thursday during football season, McCullah takes a group of 20 to 25 football players to restaurants with menus, he said. Many teens don't know what an entree is and during dinner, they learn how to behave and be respectful in public.

On numerous occasions, "someone will come by and pay for our bill because they can't believe how respectful they are in public," McCullah said.

Simulcast host Scott Cox said McCullah gives athletes extra time and attention and that probably means the world to them.

"I do the things I do not for recognition but because it's in my heart to do so," McCullah said.

McCullah has also gone on numerous missionary trips.


Growing up in a military family, Elizabeth Pelzer moved to different schools every year. Making friends was tough, but when she made friends, she stuck by their side. The North High School senior made it her mission to stick by a friend who was bullied, defending her when others picked on her.

"I had a hard time making friends so I stick up for people who are having a bad time because I understand them and I get them," Pelzer said.

Natalie Ryan, a science teacher at North High and adviser of Future Farmers of America, nominated Pelzer for the Kegley Institute's Youth Award because Pelzer stood out from students.

"She demonstrates integrity," Ryan said. "She's going to make a positive difference in life."

Pelzer will receive a $5,000 college scholarship, and a $5,000 donation will be made on behalf of McCullah.

Both will be honored during an invitation-only awards ceremony on March 11 at Seven Oaks Country Club.

Nomination forms for next year will be available online soon. For more information, visit www.csub.edu/kie.

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