Dozens turned out at the Aqua Turf on May 21 to celebrate the achievements of a particular member of the Southington community who has been described as someone who always puts the interests of his middle school students first.
Christopher Palmieri, assistant principal of DePaolo Middle School, was honored with the 69th Gold Medal of Honor at the annual UNICO award dinner last Wednesday.
Members of the Italian American service organization and friends of Palmieri alike said Palmieri’s selection comes as no surprise. A Southington native whose parents James and Joanne earned the Gold Medal award in 1998, Palmieri has been involved in public service his entire life.
“Our family has always been a very service-oriented family,” said Joanne Palmieri, mother of the recipient.
A 1992 graduate of Southington High School, Palmieri has been actively involved in the Southington community since his youth.
After graduating with his bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1996 and later with his teaching and professional certificates from Sacred Heart University in 1998 and 2001, Palmieri returned to Southington and quickly became involved in many areas of the community.
Taking his first job at Kennedy Middle School in 1996, Palmieri’s involvement soon spread to other areas of the community, as he served on the Library Board of Directors in 1999, the Board of Water Commissioners in 2001, and the Town Council in 2003 (a position he has held consecutively through this day). Palmieri has also spent nearly the last decade as chair of the annual Southington Apple Harvest Festival.
“He has dedicated his life to his [students], his family, and the people of Southington,” said Marc Ingriselli, general chairman of the award committee and former Southington UNICO chapter president. “Chris is truly deserving of this award.”
According to the Southington UNICO chapter Articles of Incorporation, the Gold Medal award is given to an outstanding citizen of the Southington community “whose purpose is to recognize and promote contributions to civic enterprise and community progress through humanitarian conduct; religious endeavor; youth activities and assistance; charitable endeavors; progressive ideals and expressions; betterment of education and citizenry; and cultural growth.”
Those who know Palmieri cite evidence of such qualities through Palmieri’s dedication to the children he works with.
“Chris is certainly the embodiment of [our] motto,” said Chapter Vice-President David Zoni, referring to UNICO’s pledge of “service above self.”
While an assistant principal at DePaolo Middle School, Palmieri also serves on the Southington Community Theater Board of Directors, under which he is responsible for producing and directing the yearly town-wide middle school drama production.
This past year, the production involved approximately 140 middle school students.
“I try to make a difference in the lives of young adults, and I take that commitment very seriously,” said Palmieri.
Palmieri’s efforts have not gone unnoticed before. Palmieri was honored as the 2013 Connecticut Assistant Principal of the Year, and also was honored as the YMCA Person of the Year in 2010 and Jaycees Educator of the Year in 2002.
Event speaker Dr. Joseph Erardi, former superintendent of Southington public schools, called Palmieri one of the best people he has known in his 40 year career in education.
“It is my belief that very few folks in my career are as humble, as smart, as relentless, and as giving [as Chris],” said Dr. Erardi. “[He is] the most loyal soldier you could ever have in an organization.”
Palmieri, who in his acceptance speech thanked his parents and his colleagues for their support, said he would not be where he is today without the help of others.
“I learned at a very young age that nothing is accomplished in isolation…It’s not anything I do alone that I’m being [recognized] for [tonight],” said Palmieri. “I am extremely humbled by this evening.”