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.