Support staff connect, energize, and recognize exceptional student champions at 2019 PWCS Student Services Symposium
Posted on 08/29/2019
Dr Walts, Superintendent of Schools on stage with six staff members from the Office of Student Services.

Whatever the need, PWCS students have a host of compassionate supporters to help connect them with the resources they need to achieve. PWCS attendance officers, school nurses, social workers, psychologists, counselors, resource officers, security personnel, and other support staff came to together at the recent Student Services Symposium, held on August 14, 2019, at Hylton High School, in anticipation of the start of the new school year.

Several students stepped forward to help kick off the Symposium’s focus on resilience and strength by sharing their stories. Nirian Lucas, recent graduate from Stonewall Jackson High School; and Ciniya Gary, rising junior at Woodbridge High School, read pieces from their “Origin Project” journals.

Reuben Adams Jr., rising senior at Woodbridge High School and accomplished student athlete and leader, provided introductions for the Symposium’s two keynote speakers: 

  • Robert Scheer, founder of the Comfort Cases nonprofit organization, inspired the audience with his story of resilience in his presentation, “Life in a Trash Bag: Restoring Dignity to Youth in Foster Care.”

  • Bruce Bushnell, vice president of training for the Why Try program, discussed his efforts to promote youth success in his presentation, “Resilience Can Be Taught! Tools to Motivate and Engage All Students.” 

As is the tradition, several staff in the Office of Student Services were singled out for extraordinary efforts to assist and support student success. “Champion of Children” awards were presented to:

  • Mallory McKnight, substance abuse prevention specialist in the Office of Student Services, for her achievements in bringing substance abuse prevention resources to PWCS schools and students;
  • Sue Cerrone, professional school counselor at Springwoods Elementary School, for putting children first and always being an advocate for children and families;
  • Mar Tortajada, school nurse at Gainesville Middle School, for always “encouraging students to improve their own health by reiterating safe health practices;”
  • Erin Hancock, school social worker at Freedom High School, for her exceptional work with teen parents to provide education, support, and resources; and
  • Christie Kargbo, director of School Counseling at Porter Traditional School, for being an invaluable part of the school and its efforts to support all Porter families and make them feel welcome.  

Dr. Steven L. Walts, Superintendent of Schools, expressed his appreciation for the support staff in PWCS, who, he said, “are crucial to the overall well-being of our students.”