Center for Special Services Thanks Community Partners for Enriching Students’ Lives
At its 25th Annual American Dreamer Achievement Awards Luncheon, the Center for Special Services thanked nine allies and partners for going “above and beyond” to help SWBOCES and its students.
“Without our partners, we couldn’t be as strong as we are,” said Lisa Schuchman, director of the Center for Special Services. “This luncheon is to thank you for everything that you do for all of our students and our organization.”
Susan Luria, who teaches SWBOCES students at Farragut Middle School in Hastings-on-Hudson, nominated school nurses Joanne Cipollina and Sally Ann Cullen for an award.
“They really get what it means to provide therapeutic care and support for our kids, whether they’re coming in with an imaginary illness, they just don’t feel well or they need a soft place to land,” Ms. Luria said. “They’re always so welcoming and kind to our students.”
The nurses said they were thrilled to receive the award. “It makes us feel so good that what we do is being honored,” Ms. Cipollina said.
Ms. Cullen said it’s a pleasure serving SWBOCES students. “They really do bring a smile to our faces. They’re very honest,” she said. “It’s just touching to get this award.”
Culinary students at the Center for Career Services Campus in Valhalla cooked and served the luncheon at the event. It consisted of caprese salad, chicken Milanese, haricots verts and rosemary roasted potatoes. Dessert was a duo of banana Nutella and lemon blueberry crepes.
One of the awards Tappan Hill Principal Phyllis Rizzi presented was to Bob Pirillo, a bus driver with the Scarsdale Bus Co. who drives one of the students to and from the Tarrytown school.
“He’s always very interested in the children. He’s very patient and kind,” Ms. Rizzi said. “Recently when one of the students experienced a seizure, he went above and beyond, making sure the student immediately got nursing care.”
The student’s teacher, Rachael Lynch, said in nominating Mr. Pirillo that he notified the student’s mother of the situation and waited at the school until the nurse cleared the boy.
Mr. Pirillo said he was happy to receive the award. He spoke highly of Tappan Hill teachers and staff members and said he has never seen anyone get flustered. “People over there deserve so much credit. It’s a wonderful place over there,” he said.
Ms. Rizzi and Tappan Hill teacher Errol Rivera presented an award to Matthew Faulkner of the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health. He has been a friend to SWBOCES for many years and has helped families navigate a difficult bureaucracy.
“With his kindness, his warmth and professionalism, we’re really lucky that he has helped so many,” Ms. Rizzi said.
Mr. Faulkner said it was an honor to receive the award and to help families. “It’s a privilege, and so many of them are so thankful,” he said.
Tappan Hill School also nominated Maureen Barnett, principal, and Ryan O’Rourke, physical education teacher, at John Paulding Elementary School in Tarrytown. Ms. Barnett agreed to let Tappan Hill School gym teacher Joe Racioppo co-teach a gym class with Mr. O’Rourke once a week.
Coach Racioppo said the teacher is very warm and has created unique opportunities for students to succeed with each activity and foster new friendships.
“It did take off quickly, and his lesson plans were precise for our kids,” the coach said. “He treated them as equals, and that, to me, is the most important thing.”
Abe Cohen and Jake Hartstein, supervisors at the Grove at Valhalla assisted-living facility, were nominated by Audrey Mangan, a principal/supervisor for Special Services students at the Center for Career Services Campus, and work-based learning coordinator Evangelo Michas.
The Grove is “a fantastic facility with a wide array of work-based learning experiences for our students,” Ms. Mangan said. The students work the kitchen and perform maintenance and administrative tasks. The alliance began in February and has been a success, said Mr. Cohen, who has since been promoted to administrator of another CareRite Centers facility.
“Both supervisors have been kind, generous and accepting, especially to our students with disabilities, creating an environment of respect and acceptance and enabling our students to excel,” Mr. Michas and Ms. Mangan wrote in nominating the supervisors.
Felix Castillo, owner of the Mamaroneck Food Market in White Plains, was honored for hosting students from SWBOCES’ vocational training program. Mr. Castillo and his employees have been friendly, helpful and accepting, Dennis Hawkins, teacher assistant at St. Matthew’s, wrote in his nomination of Mr. Castillo.
“It is thanks to Mr. Castillo and other business owners like him in our community that our students gain a richer education, which leads to feelings of happiness and contentment in their lives.”