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Norwich students receive superintendent awards, feted by Norwich Rotary

Norwich — These are the students who make the teachers smile, guide their younger peers to the school bus, help classmates with tough math problems and rake leaves for their neighbors in their spare time.

Every year in November, Norwich schools honor one student from each school with the top student awards, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents’ Awards. On Tuesday, Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow handed each recipient an award certificate and placed a medal on a ribbon around each of their necks.

The 11 award recipients will be honored again at noon next Wednesday with a luncheon at the Holiday Inn hosted by Norwich Rotary.

Susan Lessard, principal of the John B. Stanton School, described the award to recipient Jacinda Wright as: “a very prestigious award, and one that is earned by being an outstanding student and a model citizen.”

Stanton fifth grade teacher Kerry Sas described Jacinda as a serious student, who quietly completes her schoolwork, is very responsible and works with kindergarten students to make sure they get to the right bus each day.

“Each and every day, I observe Jacinda patiently helping her classmates with that beautiful smile,” Sas said.

Board of Education members greeted each winner as they crossed the stage following the award presentations, but for departing board member Dennis Slopak, that wasn’t good enough when Uncas School recipient Sebastian Melendez arrived on stage. Sebastian is a member of the Uncas School math team, co-coached by Slopak. Slopak placed the medal around the boy’s neck.

“Today is my last day as a member of the board,” Slopak said. “For the past five or six years, I have been pitching in at Uncas and helping the kids with math. Sebastian is one of the brightest boys I’ve seen. He sees numbers. He doesn’t need a pencil and paper; he just sees the numbers.”

Sebastian’s teacher, Megan Campbell, said he “truly enjoys learning,” and his curiosity and love of learning are contagious among his classmates.

At Kelly STEAM Magnet Middle, Sawyer Barile is active in the Student Council and helps run food and coat drives for needy families and for homeless people and helped with a fundraiser for a fellow student whose family lost their home in a fire. He recently helped another family clean out a house after a death in the family.

In the Norwich Transition Academy, special education high school graduates attend vocational preparation classes and are paired with employers throughout the region for post-graduate jobs. Program Director Thomas Dufort said employers are pleased to see his superintendent’s award recipient, Charles Dickens, come to work.

“He has become a favorite of our employers, because of his strong work ethic and exuberant personality,” Dufort said. “Charles has grown into a leadership role at the job sites this year, providing an excellent model of how it’s done, all day every day, to our newer students.”

Adult Education student Esther Vivier entered the credit diploma program with very few high school credits but determined to graduate and go on to college. She took classes day, night and online. She met her husband, Alexander Vivier, while the two of them worked at McDonalds, and they married in 2011.

Vivier is now a straight-A student and in spring will enroll in the certified nurse assistant program at Three Rivers Community College while still enrolled in Adult Education. Vivier said she hopes to continue her nursing studies and become a registered nurse in a neo-natal intensive care unit.

“Esther is a leader and mentor for both newer and older students at Norwich Adult Education,” Adult Education Director Jody Lefkowitz said at Tuesday’s award ceremony. “She willingly offers help, encouragement and sometimes rides. She always greets teachers and students alike with a pleasant smile.”

Other Norwich superintendent award recipients were:

  • Samuel Huntington School: Fifth-grader John Horwath.
  • Thomas Mahan School: Sonia Pearce.
  • Moriarty Environmental Sciences Magnet School: Mirielle Discola.
  • Veterans’ Memorial School: Colby Simons.
  • Wequonnoc Arts & Technology Magnet School: Leonardo Chiocchio.
  • Teachers’ Memorial Global Studies Magnet Middle School: Samara Rivera.

c.bessette@theday.com

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