Class Notes 06.18.15

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+ Three Ocoee teachers to retire

Ocoee Elementary bids a fond farewell to three teachers, JoyNielsen, TomBrooks and LindaFlynn, who areretiring from education. 

Nielsen has taught multiple grades (from third to pre-K) at Ocoee Elementary for the last 26 years but has spent most of her time teaching kindergartners. Flynn has worked as the speech and language pathologist, touching and changing the lives of thousands of students in her more than 25 years at Ocoee Elementary. Brooks has worked with students in fourth and second grades, blessing students and staff with his skill and humor for 10 years. Each of these special educators will be missed by the families and staff of the Ocoee community.

+ MVA scores well on national exam

Several Montverde Academy world language students attained national recognition for excellent performances on their 2015 national Spanish examinations. Spanish language students earned six gold, six silver and 12 bronze medals and 37 honorable mentions.

The exams are administered each year in grades six through 12 and are sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.

Gina Gattuso-Espinel, MVA upper-school Spanish teacher, said students have a strong history of high achievement on these annual exams. Students were taught and prepared for the exam by EmybiCaballero and Gattuso-Espinel, Montverde’s ESL Spanish teachers.

+ YMCA receives $25,000 grant

The YMCA of Central Florida Teen Achievers, a program focused on inspiring teens from low-income communities to pursue post-secondary degrees and certifications, has received a $25,000 grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation to help prepare youth for higher education and future employment opportunities.

 “We truly appreciate the Bank of America Charitable Foundation for their donation to the YMCA Teen Achievers program,” said Mina Ford, Y Teen Achievers executive director. “With their support, we will not only be able to reach more Central Florida students, many of whom will be first-generation college students, but we will also be able to expose them to career opportunities in the banking industry and highlight the importance of financial literacy.”

The program is currently available at eight schools, including West Orange High School.

The award, part of Bank of America’s Workforce Development and Education initiative, is one of 11 grants issued this year to Central Florida nonprofits to help connect the unemployed, underemployed, homeless, youth and individuals with disabilities to training and employment opportunities.

Launched in 1999, the YMCA Teen Achievers Program is a college preparatory and career awareness program, designed to increase college enrollment among disadvantaged youth. It pairs minority high school youth with successful adult achievers who, through volunteer service, serve as mentors and role models providing educational, cultural and career guidance. The program also offers mentoring and tutoring sessions on weekday afternoons with adult volunteer leaders — including Bank of America employees — to explore and learn about various career fields and opportunities. 

+ Holy Family team visits prisoners

Holy Family Catholic School in Orlando is reaching beyond its school walls to show its students a unique way to make a difference. Through Holy Family Catholic Church’s prison ministry, Kairos, students discovered how important it is to open their hearts to even the most hardened of men.

Recently, the Kairos adult retreat team visited the inmates of Lake Correctional Prison in Clermont, armed with not only the inspiring message of God but also with hand-drawn posters and placemats and hundreds of cookies donated by Holy Family students. These gifts touched the heart of these inmates during this four-day retreat, full of prayer, sharing and reflection. Upon their return, students learned many of these men never experienced this kind of closeness to God, and some were moved to tears.

+ W.O. students complete college

John D. McCrickard, of Winter Garden, earned a master’s degree with a major in curriculum and instruction from the University of Scranton at its graduate commencement May 30. The Jesuit university is in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Kendra Ross, of Windermere, graduated from Wake Forest University May 18. Comedian and late-night television host Stephen Colbert gave the commencement address. Wake Forest is in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Lorenzo Azarcon and Mustafa Kothawala, both of Orlando; Justin Eng, of Windermere; and Derek Lewis, of Winter Garden, earned degrees at Georgia Tech during May 1 and 2 commencement exercises. Azarcon earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering; Kothawala received his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering; Eng earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering; and Lewis received his master’s degree in mechanical engineering.