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HARRISBURG, PA (May 16, 2019) – The Pennsylvania State Education Association recognized educators, students, and community advocates with its 2019 Celebrating Excellence Awards Thursday.
Celebrating Excellence consists of the Human and Civil Rights Awards and the Adler Friend of Education Award. The Human and Civil Rights Awards are given to individuals and organizations in various categories whose outstanding work is making a difference in Pennsylvania's public schools and communities. The Adler Award honors individuals who have made significant contributions to public education.
This year’s winners are:
“PSEA is pleased to recognize these remarkable educators, students, and community leaders who represent the very best of Pennsylvania,” said PSEA President Rich Askey. “From empowering youth to transform their neighborhoods to getting kids ready to go back to school to preserving stories of the Holocaust and supporting LGBTQ youth, this year’s Celebrating Excellence winners are changing our commonwealth and our world.”
Human and Civil Rights Awards
Local Association: The 900-member Downingtown Area Education Association has made extraordinary efforts to support their neighbors in Chester County, including raising more than $1 million for dozens of local organizations. At Pickering Valley Elementary, staff and students have donated food grown in their gardens to the Chester County Food bank, and fifth-graders have collected 680 cans of soup, 100 pairs of pajamas, and 3,000 pairs of socks to help people in need. Association members have also donated clothing and blankets, raised money for the Relay for Life, and volunteered their time with Girls on the Run.
Community Leader – Organization: The Attic Youth Center in Philadelphia provides opportunities for LGBTQ youth to develop into healthy, independent, civic-minded adults within a safe and supportive community. The Attic has served and supported more than 10,000 LGBTQ youth and youth allies since it was founded in 1993. The Attic offers academic support, counseling, life skills classes, free meals, and support programming. The young people who come to the Attic participate in arts and culture and gain confidence to grow and become independent.
Community Leader – Individual: Patricia Bruzzese, a child services specialist for kindergarten through third grade at the Artman Elementary School in the Hermitage School District, saw a growing need to provide basic back-to-school services for families in the Mercer County district. Bruzzese and the Hermitage School District partnered with Primary Health Network to host a “Back-to-School Bash” in August 2017 at the Shenango Valley Mall. Students in kindergarten through seventh grade received backpacks filled with school supplies and prepared for the first day of school with free haircuts and dental exams. The event attracted 500 students in 2017 and more than 1,500 students in 2018. “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.
Educational Leader: Lise Marlowe, a sixth-grade teacher at Elkins Park School in the Cheltenham School District, has strived to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive for her students, community, and temple. Marlowe brings survivors into her classroom to talk to her students, hires Temple University students to film their stories, and has written short books about several of them. Twenty years ago, Marlowe set out to teach her students about the enormity of the lives lost in the Holocaust. She asked students how long it would take to draw 6 million stick figures to represent the people killed in the Holocaust. Some thought it would take a few weeks or months. Two decades later, her students are up to about 1.3 million stick figures, representing only the children under age eight who were killed. As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, Marlowe tells her students that after they hear a survivor’s story, it is now their story to tell others.
Student Leader: The Lower Merion School District chapter of buildOn is part of a worldwide movement to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education. Last year, more than 300 community members from Lower Merion’s chapter volunteered a total of 12,474 hours. They worked on more than 100 projects in their community, including tutoring at Bethel Academy, delivering food to families in need, beautifying local parks, feeding the homeless, and much more. Since the program began, buildOn students and staff have also raised $750,000 to construct 10 schools and provide adult literacy programs in Haiti, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Malawi.
Adler Friend of Education Award
Chris and Megan Long received the Adler Friend of Education Award for their efforts to promote early-years literacy, empower students from struggling communities to pursue higher learning, and bring clean water to the global community.
Chris Long is a defensive end and unrestricted free agent who has played for the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, helping both teams win NFL Championships in back-to-back Super Bowls in 2017 and 2018.
During a trip to Tanzania in 2013 to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, Chris witnessed the lack of clean water available in the country. The experience inspired him to start Waterboys in 2015 with a goal of building 32 sustainable wells in Tanzania. The group is now planning projects to bring clean water to 1 million people worldwide.
In 2017, Chris and Megan established the Chris Long Foundation, and Chris donated his full NFL salary to charity, including Pledge 10 for Tomorrow and other organizations focused on making learning and college a reality for children from low-income communities in Philadelphia, Boston, and St. Louis.
During the past season, Chris donated a quarter of his salary to launch the “First Quarter for Literacy Drive” to put books in the hands of children in underserved neighborhoods and promote the lifelong benefits of reading at an early age.
About the Celebrating Excellence Awards
PSEA launched the Celebrating Excellence Awards in 2005 to honor individuals, local associations, and organizations who go the extra mile for our schools and communities. Past recipients of the Adler Award include Fred Rogers, Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg, Sen. Bob Casey Jr., Gov. George M. Leader, and Teresa Heinz Kerry.
A selection committee meets each January to review the nominations submitted and select winners for the Adler Friend of Education Award and the Human and Civil Rights Awards for Student Leader, Educational Leader, Community Leader, and Local Association.
An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 181,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.