Celebrating Excellence

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Celebrating Excellence Awards: Meet the Winners

Congratulations to the 2020 winners!

Adler Friend of Education: Sen. Jay Costa

Human and Civil Rights – Educational Leader: Sue Mulvey 

Human and Civil Rights – Community Leader – Organization: TeenWorks 

Human and Civil Rights – Community Leader – Individual: Gisele Fetterman

Human and Civil Rights – Student Leader:  Maeve Yanes

Update for 2020 and 2021 awards

Because the May 2020 House of  Delegates was postponed because of the COVID-19 emergency, we will recognize the 2020 Celebrating Excellence award winners in May 2021, and accept nominations for 2021-22 later in 2021. Stay tuned for more details on this.

Meet this year's winners

Adler Friend of Education: PA Senator Jay Costa

Representing the 43rd Senatorial District in and around Pittsburgh since 1996, Sen. Jay Costa has worked tirelessly to support, fund, and promote public education, not only in his district, but across the commonwealth. As the dedicated floor leader of the Senate Democrats, Sen. Costa has worked with Gov. Wolf and members on both sides of the aisle in the Senate and the House to increase the education budget by more than $1 billion. Under his leadership, investments have been made to increase basic education, special education, early childhood, and higher education funding. In his own senate district, he has fought to secure the needed funding for Penn Hills and Woodland Hills. 

Sen. Costa continually stands with workers and union employees and is a staunch supporter of raising the minimum wage. He has worked tirelessly to assist high school graduates of lower-income families to attend a Pennsylvania community college or a state-owned or state-related university.

PSEA has worked with Sen. Costa on legislation that would provide more students with access to trained, professional mental health and support services in every school district.

Sen. Costa has been on the front line fighting for a pro-public education agenda for more than two decades. The senator maintains good relationships with his own constituents and when he needs advice or an opinion on education issues, he knows he has a whole team of PSEA members to ask. He is a leader and an advocate whom his constituents and all Pennsylvanians can always count on to fight for them.  

Educational Leader: Sue Mulvey

Several years ago, Sue Mulvey, the school nurse at Second District Elementary School in the Crawford Central School District, asked students, “What is the one thing you are most thankful for this holiday season?” The overwhelming response of the kids was, “food!”

Because her own children and their friends took food and full refrigerators for granted, Mulvey was intrigued by their response. She came to realize that her students at Second District were hungry. Mulvey and two of her colleagues researched setting up backpack programs at schools in their district, and eventually established WiNS (Weekend Nutrition for Students). 

WiNS has just begun its sixth year of distributing weekend nutrition to the elementary school children of the Crawford Central School District. Their first distribution was October of 2014 in only one school. The following year it increased to two schools, and now WiNs services all five elementary schools in the district, feeding about 500 children 33 weekends a year.

As WiNS Project Coordinator, Mulvey works tirelessly, not only as a school nurse, but also to fundraise and feed the students in her schools so they can concentrate on learning.  

Student Leader: Maeve Yanes

A ninth-grader at Emmaus High School in the East Penn School District, Maeve Yanes is naturally civic-minded and displays deep empathy for the world around her. Yanes was involved in student council, middle school builders, and is a member of her high school’s Key Club. She has also served on the United Way TeenWorks since elementary school.

Growing up, Yanes heard firsthand about the cuts and deficits area school districts were experiencing and grew particularly concerned about books and library funding. That concern led her to an idea to bring books to the children in Allentown.

In 2017, she set her sights on creating Free Little Libraries throughout the city. Working with the Lehigh Valley AFL-CIO and several local education associations and using grants she secured through the PSEA Foundation and the Lehigh Valley United Way AFL-CIO TeenWorks Board, Yanes conducted book drives to collect both new and used books to help fill the Free Little Libraries. After an overwhelmingly positive response from the Allentown, Yanes has expanded the Free Little Libraries and book donations to Bethlehem and Parkland. 

Community Leader - Individual: Gisele Fetterman

Gisele Fetterman, The Second Lady of Pennsylvania, is a strong advocate for the poor and immigrants, as well as for women, girls, and the LGBTQ+ community. Fetterman was born in Brazil and emigrated as a child to the United States, living as an undocumented immigrant for over a decade. When she would leave her house, her mother would tell her to “be invisible.”

Influenced by the food waste and inequities she saw and experienced growing up, Fetterman became a nutritionist in New Jersey, where she focused on food justice and access, continuing that work when she later married the then-mayor of Braddock, PA, John Fetterman.

Since moving to Braddock, Fetterman has founded several organizations that have gone on to shape and strengthen her community as well as other towns throughout western Pennsylvania. In 2012, she established Free Store 15104. The Free Store is completely free, and those in need can receive gently used clothes, household items, and surplus food.

In 2015 she cofounded 412 Food Rescue, which works with food retailers, wholesalers, and other food providers to rescue unsellable but completely edible, quality food to feed the food insecure. In 2017 she took part in creating For Good PGH. This nonprofit organization “develops and implements initiatives that promote diversity and inclusivity and create positive experiences for underserved populations in the greater Pittsburgh region and beyond.”

Fetterman has turned her pain, background, and experiences into action. There is nothing more powerful than that.  

Community Leader - Organization: TeenWorks

TeenWorks, a kinship to the Lehigh Valley United Way, was formed in 1999 when labor unions and teens of the Lehigh Valley collaborated to encourage and fund young, local leaders who want to better their community. Since then, TeenWorks has funded more than 500 teen-led projects.

The intent of TeenWorks is to have a board that consists of local union members and area teens. The TeenWorks board can grant up to $1,000 to local youth who are completing community service projects. In its 20-year history, TeenWorks has granted more than $500,000 for projects such as building park benches in the Bethlehem Rose Garden, the creation of STEM kits for a local library, and funding the Orefield Middle School Senior Citizen Prom.

The board expands opportunities for members of local labor unions to mentor youth in the Lehigh Valley. Many of the youth join TeenWorks at a young age and can gain leadership skills and growth experiences while on the board. The board members typically present at least one project of their own and can sit on various committees, present to local unions, and serve as teen officers. TeenWorks is unique to the Lehigh Valley United Way. 

History of the Awards

*Note: We will celebrate the winners of the 2020 Celebrating Excellence Awards at the December 2020 House of Delegates. Due to COVID-19 disruptions, we are currently not accepting nominations for the 2021 Celebrating Excellence Awards. 

Since 2005, PSEA's Celebrating Excellence Awards Dinner honors winners of the PSEA Adler Friend of Education Award and the PSEA Human and Civil Rights Awards.

PSEA hosts the dinner each May to provide a special opportunity to recognize individuals, local associations, and organizations going the extra mile for our schools and communities.

The Adler Friend of Education award recognizes an individual who has made significant statewide contributions to public education. Adler Award recipients have included PSEA leaders, public officials, and others whose work has improved public education in Pennsylvania.

The Human and Civil Rights Awards are intended to applaud the outstanding work occurring every day in Pennsylvania's public schools and in our communities.

A selection committee meets each January to review the nominations submitted and select winners in four categories: Student Leader, Educational Leader, Community Leader, and Local Association, along with the Adler Friend of Education Award. 

Among the past winners: an organization that provides the simplest joy of a birthday celebration to children who are less fortunate; an educator who organized Unity Week activities to raise awareness of harassment, bullying, and intimidation; an ESP leader who works with Hispanic students and their families; a special education advocate; a former congressman who worked tirelessly to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell;” a student who fought to create a safe haven for fellow students by forming a Gay-Straight Alliance at his school; and a Philadelphia organization that delivers means, counsel, and hope to people with life-threatening illnesses - and many other exceptional individuals and organizations who make a difference each day in our own lives and those of our students, families, and societies.

Past recipients of the Adler award include Fred Rogers, Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg, Sen. Bob Casey Jr., State Sen. J. William Lincoln, Gov. George M. Leader, Teresa Heinz Kerry, and PSEA Board member Marylou Stefanko.