Celebrating Excellence

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Celebrating Excellence Awards: Meet the 2019 Winners

Adler Friend of Education: Chris and Megan Long

Chris Long, an unrestricted free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles, won the 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for the extraordinary work and contributions he has made in communities in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Missouri, and Massachusetts. Hailing from Charlottesville, VA, Chris is the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame member Howie Long, whose talents he clearly inherited.

Chris played college football at the University of Virginia, where he was recognized as a unanimous All-American. He was selected by the St. Louis Rams as the second overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Long has also played for the New England Patriots, winning a championship with them in Super Bowl LI in 2017. In 2018, he won Super Bowl LII with the Eagles, who in turn defeated the Patriots.

Chris met his wife, Megan, at the University of Virginia, where Megan was a member of the women’s lacrosse team. They married in 2013 and now have two sons.

During a trip to Tanzania in 2013 to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for the first time, Chris was struck by the lack of clean water in the country. In response, he started Waterboys in 2015. The organization began with a goal to build 32 sustainable wells – one for each team in the NFL – in Tanzania. In 2018, Waterboys achieved that goal, and now plans to bring clean water to 1 million people worldwide.

Later in 2015, Chris and Megan established the Chris Long Foundation, which works to support bright futures for individuals and their communities. Chris donated his full NFL salary in 2017 to charity, with the last 10 game salaries going to Pledge 10 for Tomorrow and other organizations focused on making learning and college a reality for low-income children in Philadelphia, Boston, and St. Louis.

This past season, Chris donated a quarter of his salary to launch the “First Quarter for Literacy Drive.” The program is designed to put more books into the hands of children in underserved neighborhoods and raise awareness about the direct connection between early-reading proficiency and quality of life over the long term. It also aims to build excitement and awareness around the role parents and caregivers play in raising readers. The program is partnered with United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) and in support of Philadelphia’s Read By 4th campaign (RB4).

Chris and Megan chose to focus their education philanthropy this season on promoting early-reading proficiency by the fourth grade. They wanted to address the documented correlation between fourth-grade reading proficiency and long-term academic success and high school graduation rates. Chris and Megan plan to distribute more than 25,000 books for children in underserved neighborhoods to build at-home libraries, as well as fund the creation of three Chris Long Book Nooks that serve as neighborhood-based reading areas for families.

“Educational opportunity and equity are the best gateway to a better tomorrow for everyone in America,” said Chris.

Educational Leader: Lise Marlowe, Cheltenham Township EA

A sixth-grade teacher at Elkins Park School in the Cheltenham School District, Lise Marlowe strives to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive for her students, community, and temple.

With a passion for social justice and standing up for others, Lise credits some of her enthusiasm to her Danish great-grandmother, Victoria Madsen, who was a publisher during World War II and played a vital role in helping more than 7,000 Danish Jews flee the Nazi occupation. In 2006, Lise won the History Channel’s first Teacher of the Year award, and last fall she was honored by the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center where she serves as chair of the education committee.

To help her students learn about the Holocaust, Lise brings some of the dwindling number of survivors to talk to her classes, hires Temple University students to film their stories, and has written short books about several of them.

Twenty years ago, Lise started a project with her students to help them grasp the enormity and impact of those who were killed in the Holocaust. She asked her class how long it would take to draw six million stick figures, representing people who were killed in the Holocaust. Some thought it would take a few weeks or months. The next day, her students started drawing. After two decades, Lise believes her students are up to about 1.3 million stick figures, representing only the children under age eight who were killed.

Lise’s Cheltenham students will be the last generation to see and hear a survivor speak. She tells her students that when they go off into the world and hear “the Holocaust never happened” from a denier, that they can say, “you are lying, because I met a survivor.”

She tells her students that, “after they hear a survivor story, it is now their story to tell to others."

Student Leader: buildOn - Lower Merion Chapter

buildOn is not a charity, it’s a movement.

buildOn’s mission is to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education. The organization empowers youth in the United States to transform their neighborhoods and the world through intensive community service.

Lower Merion School District has a buildOn chapter.

Globally, buildOn constructs a new school every two days in some of the poorest countries around the world. The student groups have traveled to Burkina Faso, Mali, Malawi, Nepal, Nicaragua, or Senegal to build schools using local materials. Students go through various workshops to prepare themselves for the two-week journey. And, while building schools in these far-flung countries, they stay with local families and learn their customs.

Last year, more than 300 community team members of Lower Merion School District’s buildOn chapter volunteered for a total of 12,474 hours in their community. They worked on more than 100 projects, including tutoring at Bethel Academy; delivering food to families-in-need; cleaning and beautifying local parks; working with shelter children; feeding the homeless; volunteering their time with the Hearth, American Dance Wheels, Emily's Entourage, the Buonicanti Fund and JCHAI; and much more.

Since the program began in the Lower Merion School District, buildOn students and staff have raised roughly $750,000 to construct ten schools and provide supplementary adult literacy programs in Haiti, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Malawi. 

Community Leader - Individual: Patricia Bruzzese

A child services specialist for kindergarten through fourth grade at the Arman Elementary building in the Hermitage School District, Patricia Bruzzese saw a growing need to provide basic back-to-school services for area families.

Located in Mercer County, Bruzzese and the Hermitage School District partnered with Primary Health Network to host a Back to School Bash in August at the Shenango Valley Mall to help students and their families prepare for the upcoming school year.

Students could pick out a new backpack and then fill it with school supplies like pencils and notebooks. And to make sure they were ready for the first day of school, the soon-to-be students could also get a free haircut and a dental exam. Though geared toward children in kindergarten through seventh grade, no child was turned away.

“For some kids, it might be the first time they’re getting a haircut, because if you have a few kids it can be expensive taking them all to a salon,” Bruzzese said.

Last year marked the second year of the program. As the needs of the area are growing, so too is the program. In 2017, 500 attended the event. This past year, more than 1,500 students from all throughout Mercer County attended. The Back to School Bash as become the center piece of the start of school, thanks to Patricia.

“The children of Hermitage are fortunate to have Patricia as their advocate,” said Hermitage EA president Nicole Porter, who nominated Patricia for the award.

Local Association: Downingtown Area EA

In addition to educating more than 13,000 students, the 900 members of Downingtown Area EA have supported members of their Chester County communities in many ways for many years, involving themselves in the betterment of their communities through volunteerism and fundraising

The Downingtown Area EA members represent a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, educational credentials, degrees, and real-world experiences. Through the years, they have raised upwards of $1 million through various activities and for dozens of local organizations and groups.

At Pickering Valley Elementary School, the staff and students have donated food grown from their gardens to the Chester County Food Bank. The fifth graders donated 680 soup cans and the school donated 100 pairs of pajamas and 3,000 pairs of socks for the Lord’s Pantry.

The teachers and families at Uwchlan Hill Elementary School together donate clothing, blankets, and “blessing bags.” Association members also raise funds for and participate in the Relay for Life and volunteer with Girls on the Run. 

For Downingtown Area EA members, community outreach, volunteering as coaches, spending time in churches and hospitals, and connecting with youth and community groups have always been a part of membership in their association. And it has made a tremendous difference in the lives of the people they have served so well for so long.

Community Leader - Organization: The Attic Youth Center

The Attic Youth Center in Philadelphia promotes the acceptance of LGBTQ youth in society while providing opportunities for LGBTQ youth to develop into healthy, independent, civic-minded adults within a safe and supportive community.

The organization was founded in 1993 by two graduate students who piloted an eight-week project out of an attic to help provide weekly after-school support for LGBTQ youth. The youth who participated found it so valuable they were determined to keep the group alive. They worked with the graduate students on a research project to document the group and advocate for its continued existence. Through their perseverance, the Attic Youth Center was born

Experiencing growth throughout the late 1990s, the Attic expanded its programming, services, and staffing. Counseling and HIV-prevention opportunities were developed, and mental health professionals donated their time and services to the Attic youth.

In 2000, The Attic became incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization and received a gift from an anonymous donor to purchase its current building on 16th street, in Center City, Philadelphia. After three years of renovations, the Attic moved into its new home.

The Attic offers academic support, counseling, life skills classes, free meals, and support programming. The young people participate in arts and culture and gain confidence to grow and become independent.

Since 1993, the Attic has served, helped, and supported over 10,000 LGBTQ youth and youth allies. Some visit the Attic wanting to talk to a caring adult in a space place. Others look for counseling. Some want after-school activities or homework help. And others need assistance to find housing or a job. The Attic strives to have a positive impact on them all.

History of the 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.