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Eli Kane Spirit Award Celebrates Late BHS Graduate


In honor of the late Berkeley High School (BHS) graduate Eli Kane, the Eli Kane Spirit Award, launched this year by Eli Kane’s family, will allocate a $3,500 cash prize to one BHS junior or senior in April 2022. Nominations for the award are open until February 27.

Eli Kane graduated in the class of 2019 from Berkeley International High School (BIHS). He drowned in the summer of 2021 while counseling at Camp Tawonga, near Yosemite, according to a Berkeleyside article. 

The Eli Kane Spirit Award is meant to commemorate Eli Kane by honoring BHS students who embody his spirit.

“He was such a positive, big-hearted person who loved and lived life to the fullest,” wrote Eli Kane’s father, Scott Kane, in an email to the Jacket. He said Eli Kane would always be “the first to offer a hug, and the first to break out into a dance.”

Anyone can nominate an unlimited number of students for the award — excluding their family members — according to the fund’s website, The criteria for nomination is listed on the fund’s website and will be considered to determine the prize winner. Among other attributes, nominees will be evaluated on their exhibition of engagement and respect “both inside and outside the classroom,” their efforts in establishing connections with people, and their ability to spread “joy and laughter by being their authentic self.” The application and further details on individual characteristics can be found on the fund’s website,

According to BHS boys soccer varsity coach, André Hébert, Eli Kane was an exceptional soccer player, leading his varsity team to their championship win in the 2018-19 season. 

“He was like having another coach on the field,” Hébert said. “His questions were always excellent. … He made you a better coach.”

Eli Kane continued to play when he joined the University of Michigan’s mens soccer club his freshman year of college. According to the fund’s website, the club retired his jersey number in his honor.

During BHS home games, Kane would store his bag in BIHS English teacher Karl Kaku’s classroom. When he came to retrieve his bag, Eli Kane would ask if Kaku could attend the games. 

“If I’d say I’m going, he said, ‘I’ll be there,’” Kaku said. “I remember him standing at the door and he’d point at me and he’d say, ‘I’ll be there.’”

A number of photos are displayed on Kaku’s classroom wall with snapshots of his past classes, one of them showing Eli Kane embracing his peers. Kaku recalled when Eli Kane would come into his classroom during lunch to work and talk with classmates. He said Eli Kane could work with anybody, acknowledged all of his classmates, and greeted Kaku and thanked him before leaving class.

Kaku said Eli Kane fully embodied the traits outlined in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Profile, such as being knowledgeable and open minded. The profile lists attributes BIHS encourages its students to live by, many of which are similar to the spirit award’s criteria.

“He’s the type of student [who] we aim to graduate,” Kaku said. “He touched my life.”

According to College and Career Center counselor Mary Jacobs, BHS counselors helped the Kane family decide how to allocate their funds toward students. She said they eventually chose to aid juniors and seniors since they are the most academic-related financial support.

Jacobs sent the first email to the BHS community about the Eli Kane Spirit Award in January. Although she did not know Kane personally, she was moved to help distribute information about the award.

“I feel it is my mission here to give out information,” Jacobs said. “Only good could come from this, to keep his legacy alive, to give some comfort to the family, and to help students recognize their accomplishments or their personality traits, and give a little monetary award too to help ease the college costs.”

Jacobs said the family will review the applicants to determine the winning student. She said they are relying on the community to help contribute to the fund and continue to give grants to BHS students.

Scott Kane said the Eli Kane Fund is open to donations, which will “help spread joy like Eli did throughout his life” through grants and programs. 
“Our hope is that this will become an annual award at BHS that will continue for many years to come,” wrote Scott Kane to the Jacket. “We hope to recognize dozens and dozens of students who embody Eli’s spirit and love of life.”