May 22, 2009 Herm Card Uncategorized
Annually, the Parents of Public Schools of Syracuse, Inc. has chosen from over 23,000 faculty, staff, students, volunteers, parents and community leaders, outstanding individuals to be honored as Celebration of Excellence Award winners.
For a school district the size of Syracuse, it would seem to be an incredibly difficult task to annually select a relative handful of individuals for awards, but given the impressive credentials of this year’s honorees, this year’s effort was clearly successful.
Following a reception in the lobby of Syracuse Stage, the attendees adjourned the Storch Theater where they were entertained by the music of Nottingham High School student Yordanys Fasta on piano.
The National Anthem was sung by Levy K-8 School music teacher Richard Fields and his sons, Nottingham graduate Nicholas and Nottingham senior, Daniel. To continue the theme of talent in the schools, Nottingham junior Nicolette Apraez presented her National Shakespeare Competition monolog.
Emceed by well known and award winning journalist Jean Kessner, the evening featured opening remarks by past president of PPS Bob Gardino, County Executive Joanie Mahoney and Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, president of “Say Yes to Education, Inc.” Schmitt-Carey pointed out that Syracuse is the first city in the state to embrace the program that has the goal of enhancing the educational opportunities in the SCSD and providing for qualifying students to receive full tuition grants to attend college in New York.
Kessner then presented the 2009 awards to:
Ruby Beal, K-8 social studies teacher at Huntington School, who was referred to as “a consummate teacher always instilling discipline and always instilling pride in her students. She teaches with humility, courage and a love of children.” Beal noted with pride, that two of her former students were also receiving awards.
Ryley Bonferraro, a fifth grader at Salem Hyde Elementary who, when three families at Salem Hyde lost their homes to fire went on “a mission to save lives.” Her efforts brought about a connection between families and the Syracuse Fire Department to enable families to receive free smoke detectors.
Marguerite “Peggy” Conan, who has had three of her children attend Nottingham High School, has become an active member of the Nottingham community. She has become “an outstanding example of parent involvement, the kind of engagement that is needed in every school.”
Courtney Dornton, a senior at Henninger, “whose hard work and efforts will bring her to graduation next month.” She works with senior citizens as a volunteer at the Frank DeFrancisco Community Center, helps assemble Christmas packages for the needy, and performs numerous other selfless acts. “Giving to others is second nature to her. Caring about others is what Courtney is all about.”
Walter Eilend, who has established mentorships models at Blodgett K-8 and Fowler High School, is co-founder of “100 Black Men of Syracuse,” a mentoring organization that provides models for community and school collaboration. He is “forever advocating for all students throughout the school district.”
Paul Grace is referred to as “the man who came to Corcoran but never left.” He has continually demonstrated his love for his alma mater through constant efforts aimed at the cleanup and maintenance of the Corcoran grounds. To this end, he has recruited and organized volunteer groups, started the Corcoran Environmental Awareneess Club, organized Earth Day clean up projects and been active in promoting the Ted Grace Reading Grove.
Vanessa Johnson, the Corcoran High School hall monitor who is “one of the kindest and most pleasant people you could ever meet.” She excels at a generally thankless and underappreciated job through setting a great example, giving and receiving respect in the act of diffusing difficult situations she encounters. She is described as “a person without comparison for her grace and class.”
Christine Kane, who, as the president of Clary Magnet School’s PTO, “has built a common bridge between the parents and staff members at Clary,” thus creating a strong network of student support within the Clary community.
Candace Labombard, a student at Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central, is an avid reader, writer and storyteller. She uses these skills to communicate and share her knowledge and caring with her fellow students. She has worked for a number of worthy causes for the betterment of the community. “Candace always puts her peers’ needs ahead of her own.”
Diane Ogno, a Blodgett Pre-K-8 social worker who coordinates the “Responsive Advocacy for Life and Learning in Youth” program, and serves on many volunteer committees. She has headed projects that combat bullying, give support to students at risk for drug and alcohol abuse, and work to assist students who struggle in the classroom. She continually works to support and enhance learning in the Blodgett community.
Parisa Pourpezeshk, a Nottingham senior who is “a vital member of the Nottingham community. As well as being involved in numerous school activities, including the Key Club service organization and Nottingham’s musical theater group, she was an organizer of this year’s Relay for Life team. It is said that her “friendliness and positive attitude seem to transcend all the activities she’s in (she) is a friend to all.”
The final award of the evening, the “Mary Ficchi Lifetime Achievement Award” was presented to community activist Carol Perry by Pam Percival, PPS board member. The award is named for its first winner, Mary Ficchi, a teacher, educator and Syracuse Commissioner of Education.
Of Carol Perry, it is said that she “has never taught in a school, and she has no education degree. She has never made lesson plans and never worried about state testing. But, she is a believer in the powerful engine of education that transports and transforms human lives.
“Her school is the community. Her lesson plans are life’s lessons. Her teaching message is ‘If you want to succeed, the only way to success is hard work and effort and devotion to education.'”
Perry has spent a career giving to education and educating. Through her long time business at The South Side Newsstand, “a true community classroom,” she provided mentoring, tutoring and lessons in manners and social interaction. She taught by example and became a driving force in promoting practical and vitally useful education, proving that education happens in places and ways that may not be found within the walls of a school or promoted by “educators” in offices in Albany.
Upon receiving the award from Percival, Perry thanked her family and the many people and agencies that she said had helped her throughout her career in business and education. She praised the generosity of the community in helping her to bring her message to the young people of the community.
“I thought I was just going to be able to help young people in the 13205 (ZIP code) area, but because of these people I was also able to help as far away as Africa, Jamaica and Puerto Rico and I would not have achieved what I did without the people of Syracuse.”
Following a lengthy standing ovation for Perry, Superintendent Dan Lowengard thanked PPS for its contribution to the Syracuse City School District, and praised the evening’s honorees, and encouraged the Syracuse community to work hard to ensure success in the classroom for all 21,000 students in the Syracuse schools.
Sue Fahey, PPS president concluded by thanking all who had participated and singled out Bob Gardino, saying that “He talks about all his committees, but it really turns out to be a ‘committee of Bob’ that makes this all happen.”