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Springfield High School Teachers, Classmates Remember KCUR Reporter Aviva Okeson-Haberman

Kansas City public radio reporter Aviva Okeson-Haberman, admired by her peers as earnest, bright and dedicated, died last week in Kansas City after being wounded by a bullet shot through her apartment window.  She was 24. Okeson-Haberman attended Central High School in Springfield, where she was known for her tenacity, storytelling, and kindness as a mentor.

At Central High School, Aviva Okeson-Haberman was part of the student broadcast journalism team called Central Intelligence, or CI. 

Josh Cantrell, Central’s media teacher, worked with her on CI her senior year of high school. He says her dedication to research and knack for storytelling made her bring as much detail into her stories as possible. 

“We had kind of a two-minute limit, two-and-a-half,” Cantrell remembers. "And she would always try to negotiate down from about five, because she just had so much that she always wanted to say.” 

Okeson-Haberman found success in the CI program. A piece she worked on won the National Scholastic Press Association’s Story of the Year in 2015. 

She also excelled in the debate team, qualifying for nationals in extemporaneous speech in 2012 and 2014. Central’s debate coach, Jack Tuckness, remembers she also helped other students become better debaters. 

“I think her legacy has been one of an individual who set goals and worked very hard to meet those goals, and set a very high example for those that were around her,” Tuckness said.

Others remember her for her kindness. Sydney Weber, who was a freshman at Central when Okeson-Haberman was a senior, says the talented senior became her friend and mentor on journalism projects. 

“Not only was she a force of nature and tough, but she was kind. She was compassionate. She cared deeply,” Weber said.

And Allison Hamberg, another friend, says Okeson-Haberman was passionate about social issues, in part due to her own experiences in the foster care system.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman graduated from Central High School in Springfield in 2015 before attending the journalism school at Mizzou, where she uncovered serious problems with Missouri’s hotline to report elder abuse. Her story led to a state investigation.

KCUR has set up a memorial fund in honor of Okeson-Haberman. That fund will support aspiring journalists. 

Josh Conaway is a graduate of Missouri State University with a B.A. in Political Science and an M.A. in International Affairs. He works as a news reporter and announcer at KSMU. His favorite part of the job is exploring the rich diversity of the Ozarks and meeting people with interesting stories to share. He has a passion for history and running.