Indiana County Chamber of Commerce and Colonial Family of Dealerships Announce the Indiana County Excellence in Education Awards

The Indiana County Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce a brand-new initiative to recognize in a very big way the excellent work being done by Indiana County teachers and students.  The initiative, in partnership with the Colonial Family of Dealerships, will highlight various students and teachers from each of the seven county public school districts as well as Indiana County Technology Center (ICTC) throughout the school year, and will culminate with the Indiana County Excellence in Education Awards in the spring.  One student and one teacher will be selected at this banquet, with each being awarded a brand-new automobile donated by Colonial.  Charles “CJ” Spadafora, owner of Colonial Motor Mart and Colonial Toyota, stated that he had been looking for a way to give back that would help to shape the future members of the community.

“Our company wants to give back to the community and felt as if the next generation and the teachers who are educating them do not get a lot of recognition,” Spadafora explained.  “This is our way of saying thank you for allowing our family to be here for over 75 years, and we hope that we will be here for at least 75 more.”

 Mark Hilliard, President of the Chamber, said that this program will be more than just another awards banquet.  It will be a major way to improve the workforce development in the county.

“Career Readiness and workforce development are such important elements to the economic future of our area,” Hilliard stated.  “I am so excited to again be working with our county schools as well as Colonial to be able to take career readiness and some of the other wonderful things that are happening in our schools to a whole new level.”

The program, which will kick off in the fall of this year, will see a senior student nominated each month from each school district, with all of those nominees being invited to the awards banquet in the spring with a chance to win the car.  Dr. Barbara Parkins, Superintendent at United School District, shared the sentiment of her superintendent colleagues in her admiration for the generosity of Colonial in helping to recognize their students.

“This incredible opportunity goes to show that there are folks out there, through their generous works and deeds, who demonstrate their commitment to public education and the success of our students,” Dr. Parkins commented.

Phillip Martel, Superintendent of River Valley School District and Curtis Whitesel, Superintendent of Homer-Center School District, echoed those words and added that this is another example of what an amazing area that Indiana County is.

“This extreme generosity and unbridled support of education in Indiana county is unparalleled,” Martell stated.

“The business leaders and school districts in Indiana County never cease to amaze me,” Whitesel added.

In addition to the students, one teacher in each school district, grades Kindergarten through 12th Grade, will be chosen as that district’s Teacher of the Year and will be invited to the banquet with an opportunity to win a vehicle of their own.  ARIN Intermediate Unit 28 Executive Director Bridgette Matson said that this initiative is truly special as it helps to improve the morale of individuals who are helping to shape the future of our county.

“What an opportunity this provides us with to recognize the dedication of teachers within Indiana County as they work to educate our citizens of the future who will someday lead our country, run our hospitals, create new inventions and teach our children,” Matson stated.

Superintendent Daren Johnston at Penns Manor School District added that this is a chance to reward so much of the hard work that is done in the classroom that many do not notice.

“Our county school districts are blessed with excellent teachers who are committed to students’ success,” Johnston said. “In turn, we have amazing students who are working hard in our schools and communities preparing for their future.”

Students will have the opportunity to be nominated based on a combination of a number of factors including academics, extra-curricular activities, community involvement, technical skills, work experience, and essential skills.  Hilliard said that the Indiana County READY™ essential/soft skills program will also be an important part of the nomination criteria.

“Students can excel in many ways that are not all related to academics and it is important to consider all of these areas in determining overall achievement and workforce readiness,” Hilliard explained.  “We will also be asking these students to enroll in the Indiana County essential skills program to be eligible for nomination as these skills a truly essential for these students to become integral members of the workforce and of society.”

Hilliard stated that plans for the banquet itself are currently underway, but his team plans on making it a very special event for all of the nominees and one that each one will surely remember.

“We plan to have a red carpet, photographers, and more to make each of these nominees truly feel special and to let them know that we appreciate all of the work that is being done,” Hilliard said.

Once the nominees are all chosen by the school districts, an independent panel will review all of the nominations and choose one individual to be Colonial’s Indiana County Student of the Year and one to be Colonial’s Indiana County Teacher of the Year.  The panel will not be affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce, any of the seven school districts, or Colonial but will instead be comprised of out-of-county educators, human resource directors, and county leaders.  Superintendent Michael Vuckovich with Indiana Area School District feels as if this is the perfect time for an event of this magnitude given the challenges the past few years have presented.