The Syracuse City School District Educational Foundation hosted it’s 16th Annual Recognition Breakfast on Saturday, March 30, 2019, at the Holiday Inn Liverpool. Each year, the SCSD Educational Foundation recognizes individuals, businesses, and organizations that have given above and beyond in providing support to teachers, students, and programs in the Syracuse City School District. These awards are presented at the Foundation’s annual fundraising breakfast.
In 2019 the SCSD Educational Foundation presented a Recognition Award to C&S Companies for their commitment to education, particularly in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields. This company believes that STEM education is vital to the future of their company and community; and proudly supports a number of initiatives to build a strong pipeline of students capable of tackling our community’s future challenges. They lead or participate in many STEM Career Exploration events in the region.
The Foundation also presented a Recognition Award to MercyWorks. Mercy Works is a non-profit organization that operates from the Clarence Jordan Vision Center, on S. Salina St. in Syracuse, NY. They believe that empowering youth and under-served individuals will improve our community, and enable them to reach their highest potential. Mercy Works facilitates vision-based programs that focus on academic achievement, character development, technical training, and employment skills. The youth and families that go through their programming are given hope, and equipped with the tools to change their future. For nearly 15 years Mercy Works has provided Syracuse City youth free STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Personal and Professional Development programs with the majority of the students coming from the Syracuse City School District. Mercy Works efforts have resulted in more than 3,000 students graduating from their programs, 850 youths receiving computers, and 250 college-bound students gaining experience in local businesses. Mercy Works has generously supported the SCSD Educational Foundation Grants Program by donating an annual matching grant to fund and support STEM projects. In addition, Mercy Works has make generous contributions to Say Yes to Education, Westside Academy at Blodgett, and to the District’s Educational Fund.
The Foundation presented a Recognition Award to Darco Manufacturing, Inc. Darco has greatly enjoyed partnering with the Syracuse City School District in Adult Education and CTE programs. The Manufacturing Training Initiative (MTI), offered by the district’s Refugee Assistance Program (RAP), is one of our core partners. Part of the RAP program’s mission is to prepare refugees for work opportunities by familiarizing them with skills needed to become productive members of our local workforce. Darco supports this mission, and has teamed up with RAP to supplement and enrich the MTI program with relevant industry basics and hands-on experience with our employees, tools, and machines. And, we are happy to report that our partnership has grown to include other local manufacturers! Another SCSD core partner is the PTECH program at ITC high school. In addition to mentoring students, hosting site visits and job shadows, and offering internship or seasonal employment when possible, Darco consistently includes PTECH and other CTE students in our community engagement and industry events. These opportunities provide students with valuable experience meeting and collaborating with high school students from other districts, college students, educators, and a spectrum of manufacturing workers and professionals. Darco is a member of the CTE Partnership Council, the PTECH Mechanical & Electrical Technology Advisory Council, and the CTE Blue Ribbon Task Force.
The Foundation also took a moment at the breakfast to acknowledge Wayne O’Connor, who had recently retired as Regional Executive Director of Hillside Work Scholarship Connection. The Hillside agency works with students in the Syracuse City School District, grades 7 through 12. Most of the students come from Syracuse’s poorest neighborhoods and are most at risk of not graduating. The Hillside goal is help those students graduate from high school, ready for college or a career. Since Wayne joined Hillside in 2007, the number of youngsters enrolled in the program has grown from about 30 to more than 1,200. The graduation rate of students in the program has gone from 50 percent to 85 percent. Wayne is a proud alumnus of the Syracuse City School District. He went to kindergarten at Delaware Elementary School. He and his parents moved but they eventually came back and he graduated from what was then Central High School. After college he wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. So, he became a teacher, first teaching in Rochester, then returning to Syracuse to teach at Shea Middle School. He became a Vice Principal and then Principal at Shea. He was then appointed as an Area Superintendent, overseeing 19 of the City’s schools, working with Superintendent Dr. Stephen Jones, and partnering with Jaime Alicea. After leaving the District, Wayne went to work at the Syracuse Choice Program. It was an opportunity to work with middle school kids that were having challenges in their lives. He had a skeleton crew. No budget. Working 6 days a week. Working with kids after school, evenings, weekends. He convinced Dr. Jones and a number of local business leaders, including Gary Pickard, one of the founding members of our Educational Foundation, attorney Frank Clark, and many others, that the city needed to work on academics, to keep kids busy, keep them off the streets. Syracuse Choice needed resources, and Wayne’s tireless efforts paid off. The SCSD Educational Foundation was lucky enough to work with Wayne in those early days of Syracuse Choice, administrating and supporting his fundraising efforts. One year, Wayne was even able to secure a grant for $250,000 from the Federal Department of Justice! Wayne was recently asked by the Post Standard how he defined good leadership, and he said “A good leader has passion for whatever it is they’re doing. Really caring about whatever the task is. And then caring about the folks that they’re working with. You need to have a thick skin. Because not everybody is going to like what you’re doing. If you’re in leadership and everybody likes what you are doing, you’re probably not doing very much.” The members of the Board of Directors of the SCSD Educational Foundation thank Wayne O’Connor for his service to the students of the City of Syracuse, and we wish him the very best of health and happiness in retirement.
The SCSD Educational Foundation, together with the Syracuse City School District, was very proud to recognize our Annual Educators of the Year, men and women who help to ensure educational excellence in the School District. Each year, the Foundation recognizes two teachers, one administrator, and one support staff member. To be eligible, an Educator of the Year candidate must be a full-time staff member and they can be nominated by colleagues/peers, students, parents, or community organizations. Key factors that are considered in the selection process are the individual’s unique abilities that make them outstanding among their peers. Winners of these awards are individuals who have demonstrated a willingness to go “above and beyond” and who provide support to students in an exceptional manner. these dedicated individuals who help to ensure educational excellence in the City of Syracuse. The 2019 Educator of the Year Award Winners were:
Jennifer Park, Special Education Teacher at Ed Smith K-8 School; Michelin Keleher, Music Teacher at Lincoln Middle School and Dr. Weeks Elementary School; Shannon Geer, Social Worker at Meachem Elementary School; and Eva Williams, Principal at Van Duyn Elementary School.