“She was not afraid to be ambitious”: Remembering Aviva Okeson-Haberman

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– On Friday, April 23, Aviva Okeson-Haberman, 24, was struck by a stray bullet while she was in her first-floor apartment in Kansas City, Missouri.

Okeson-Haberman was a Springfield native and a journalist in Kansas City. She had been covering Missouri government and politics at KCUR since 2019 after graduating from the University of Missouri. Okeson-Haberman was a Central High School graduate, and her former media teacher says it was an honor to have known her.

“Really, the biggest tragedy of all of this is we don’t get to see the world through Aviva’s eyes anymore,” said Josh Cantrell, a media teacher at Central High School. “She was not afraid to be ambitious. She would tackle stories that were far over her head and she didn’t care, and she just did it. They were always something really special because she would deal with stories that a typical high schooler would not.”

Cantrell met Okeson-Haberman in 2014 on his first day teaching at Central High School. On this particular day, students were allowed to interview Linda Brown. Brown was the child associated with the lead name in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education. The Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was a landmark 1954 Supreme Court case in which the justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional.

“We had an opportunity to interview Linda Brown and I reached out to my journalists and asked who would like to take the story,” said Cantrell. “She was the first one to text back.”

After graduating high school, Okeson-Haberman enrolled in Missouri’s School of Journalism and graduated in 2019.

“She wanted to know the answers that she was seeking,” said Cantrell. “She wanted to do justice to the stories that she was seeking. Her stories were really special. If data didn’t exist she would go from room to room and survey her peers.”

When messages to Okeson-Haberman went unanswered, it was a KCUR co-worker who went to her apartment to check on her. Neighbors say they are tired of the senseless gun violence that plagues Kansas City.

“Very terrible and the lady didn’t do anything,” said David Barton. “I don’t even think she had company come over too much.”

“All I want to know is just that why people just have to pick up guns and just kill people,” said Necy Oats. “For what? It’s not even worth it.”

“Just cut it out,” said Barton. “It’s senseless. Cut it out. We all have to live here together.”

Cantrell says Okeson-Haberman was one of two students to receive a National Press Association Award for her story on a student who brought a gun to school and it accidentally discharged.

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