YMCA bestows honors on community members

The Southington-Cheshire YMCA announced the award recipients for the Person of the Year award, the Reaching Out Award and the Unsung Hero award at a press conference on Nov. 10.
Town Councilor Dawn Miceli will receive the Person of the Year award, the Southington Education Foundation will receive the Reaching Out Award, and Southington High School teacher Nancy Chiero will receive the Unsung Hero award at the annual event at the Aqua Turf on Jan. 28.
Executive Director John Myers shared the accomplishments and character of each award recipient to explain why each was so deserving of an award for their efforts in improving the town of Southington.
Miceli, who has served on the Town Council for the last three terms, has also served on other town boards including Planning and Zoning and the Cable Advisory Council.
However, through her role on the Town Council, she also serves on several town committees.
Miceli was recognized for her work on the committee that brought back the Southington Drive-In, which has successfully brought in crowds since it reopened.
“I understand how important the drive-in is to Southington and when you guys brought it back that was huge,” said Myers. “To see literally hundreds of families out there on a Saturday night coming together, all packed up for a good affordable family fun, and connecting is cool.”
The drive-in has also been successful because the committee was able to get volunteers each week from local non-profit organizations and then at the end of the season give those groups some money back, said Myers.
Myers recognized Miceli for her contribution to another seasonal activity that encourages family fun, which is the ice skate rink at the back of the YMCA.
Even more notably, Miceli was recognized for being a founding board member for the Southington Community Cultural Arts. Miceli worked closely with SCCA President Mary DeCroce to make the group’s vision of having a local arts center in Southington a reality.
Earlier this year, SCCA successfully secured the old Gura building for this project.
Another initiative that Miceli took on this year was spearheading the ACT On IT Anti-Vandalism Campaign, which is a town-wide effort to end vandalism in Southington with the help of the community.
She was also acknowledged for being a founding member of the SEF, her work on the Open Space Preservation Committee, Blue Ribbon Park Committee, Turf Field Facilities Advisory Committee, Economic Strength Committee, Chamber of Commerce Central Business Alliance, UNICO, a judge for the Connecticut ICON each year, and serving on the Thalberg School PTO.
“As your family knows, it’s a 24/7 job,” said Myers. “Your community impact is truly amazing. In each case, when you look at it, they’re all successful and one common denominator is you.”
Miceli said that she has been able to manage all of these roles by including her family. According to her, whether she’s at the drive-in or the ice skating rink her family by her side helping and it makes her job a lot easier.
“It’s a partnership with my husband and myself,” said Miceli. “Everything I volunteer for, I rope my husband and my son into and so we try to make it a family thing.”
Myers presented SEF with the Reaching Out Award. President Jan Galati and several board members attended the press conference.
Myers praised SEF for their simple yet effective mission statement, “instilling a love of learning.”
He also commended the groups fundraising efforts because SEF is not funded by the town or the Southington Public Schools at all.
“It’s a bunch of volunteers who are really dedicated and focused on the mission,” said Myers.
At SEF’s recent Fan of the Foundation Gala last month, the foundation was able to raise $30,000 with the help of the community.
“It’s a tremendous evening for the community getting together because they believe in what you’re doing and knowing that they money you get is just going to go right back out into the community,” said Myers.
He also commended the group on already having given out 54 grants and having had an impact on every school in Southington.
One of SEF’s initiatives has been taking a five-prong approach to the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) enrichment plan, according to Myers. SEF has begun its approach by collaborating with the YMCA through the Science-At-Sloper program, which gives fourth graders the opportunity to learn hands on at Sloper,
“It’s great to have Sloper alive all year round and in the summers it’s a given, but when you see these fourth graders out there it’s amazing,” said Myers.
Another way that SEF has supported STEM learning has been through the Virtual STEM University, a website with STEM lessons to benefit all age groups.
Myers also acknowledged SEF’s donation of $20,000 to the Southington-Cheshire YMCA for a year round nature center. Additionally, SEF has financially supported the Lewis Educational Agricultural Farm.
“When you put it all together in just a short period of time, $130,000 has gone back in to the community,” said Myers. “But the work is way more than $130,000 for what you’ve done so far in giving kids that gleam in their eye.”
Galati said that she was overwhelmed and surprised that SEF was recognized.
“We go out there and we’re doing what we can for the betterment of our students and giving our wonderful school system enriching programs, but we were surprised by this” said Galati.
Chiero, who has been teaching for over 30 years, was also recognized by the YMCA for her influence on students in Southington with the Unsung Hero award.
Myers said Chiero’s energy and interest in children makes her a unique individual.
“If Nancy is in your group you’ve got a whole new life,” said Myers. “You bring such energy and enthusiasm and you are certainly the epitome of the glass being half full. You don’t look at any of the barriers that could be there. You say, ‘what can we do to get it done?’”
Chiero was acknowledged for her role aligning schools and the business community through the STEPS Advisory Board and also encouraging the development of Asset Based Classrooms throughout the school system.
She also was recognized for being a board member of the Construction Education Center, co-chair the Technology Advisory Board, which provides job shadowing at the high school, being a member of the town-wide committee to support LEAF, an Architectural Construction and Engineering (ACE) club member, co-coordinating the Chamber Internship Program, helping to start a mentoring program at SHS, and starting a parent support group with students with disabilities.
Myers said Chiero has been recognized in the past as the Teacher of the Year in 2001-2002 and being a part of the Superintendent’s Profiles of Professionalism years ago.
“Your legacy is really the connection that you’ve made personally with a countless amount of kids,” said Myers. “Chiero said her philosophy has always been to help every student find their path and build their self esteem.
Whether it’s complimenting a student on their hair or encouraging children to have a voice through STEPS, Chiero said that she tries to go out of her way to acknowledge students in positive ways.
“As a teacher, I just feel making connections with kids and helping those kids reach their fullest potential is the best thing I can do for them,” said Chiero. “Anything you can do make a student feel good is what it’s all about.”
Comments? Email lcarey@Southingtonsouthington YMCAObserver.com.

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