GRAFTON, Mass. - Some were teachers who went the extra step to make their classrooms a welcome place. Some were students who offered a smile, friendship and a goofy dance. Some represented an entire tribe of specialists who worked together to help a child get ready for an educational career.
All, for one night, were recognized as Grafton's Everyday Heroes.
The Grafton Special Education Parents Advisory Council introduced the 2012 Everyday Heroes Thursday night to a packed Grafton High School auditorium. In its fourth year, the event this year brought in 74 nominations, representing students and staff from all of Grafton's schools, members of the community and several out-of-district staff.
A team of 12 staffers from the Elmwood Street Community School in Millbury represented the nominations for a single student. The parent's nomination noted the saying that "it takes a village to raise a child" and modified it: in the case of this single young child with multiple special needs, it takes an entire tribe.
"The tribe has taught us not to be discouraged," the nominiation read. "They persevered."
Several nominees were students. Lily Maley, a Grafton Elementary School student, was nominated by a tearful Leslie St.Jean, a member of the Everyday Hero Committee, for her kindness to her son, Joe.
Maley, however, considers Joe to be simply her friend. The pair have lunch on Thursdays outside the lunch room, which Joe finds too noisy. she calls him on the phone to talk, despite the fact that Joe has few words.
"Whe you have a son with significant special needs such as these, you wonder will he have any friends," St.Jean said.
Several students were members of Grafton High School's Best Buddies program and participants in its after school Games Club. Others were part of Grafton Middle School's Peer to Peer Action Group and its Circle of Friends.
"He's patient and understanding and, on a recent occasion, has had to stand up for students who were picked on because they were misunderstood," Committee member Teri Turgeon read from Grafton Middle School student Andrew Alper's nomination.
As the crowd ahhed, Turgeon turned away from the letter to address Alper directly. "Good for you, Andrew."
Several teachers were proclaimed the best in their class by students and parents for their efforts with students. Grafton Elementary School teacher Martha Hanley, for example, has adapted lessons for a student with dyslexia, not only allowing for presentations that highlight his strengths but also driving one and a half hours, on her own time, just to attend a workshop with the child.
Superintendent of Schools James Cummings said the event highlights "everything that is right and good about us as a community."
"Our Everyday Heroes model something that is important about character," Cummings added. "How we treat others when no one is watching."
Introducing Grafton’s 2012 Everyday Heroes:
Grafton High School students: Amber Litterer, Austin Gerrie, Brendan Noronha, Connor Rynning, Erica Carlson, Hailey Hospod, Kelsey Barksdale, Morgan Sutton, Nicki Bolt, Robert Quist.
Grafton Middle School students: Andrew Alper, Elizabeth DeCosta.
Grafton Elementary School students: Bradley Palmer, Lily Maley.
Grafton High School teachers: Beth Lambert, Francis Graves, John McKeon, Judy Dadah, Lois Rossiter, Thomas Morris.
Grafton Middle School teachers: Brandon Thompson.
Grafton Elementary School teachers: Deb Fasold, Hilary Kreisberg, Martha Hanley, Amy Salsman, Sarah Fontaine.
South Grafton Elementary School teachers: Cecila Phillips, Joy Sala, Karyn Lewis, Linda Colette, Linda Page, Megan McPartland, Rebekah Mahoney, Joanne Stenbuck, Chris Tamborra.
North Grafton Elementary School teachers: Mary Chojnicki.
Instructional Assistants: Ellen Mirarchi (NGES), Jackie Henault (SGES), Lori Lauria (GHS), Mary Brosnan-Quilliam (GES), Paula Anderson (GHS), Terri Crowley (GMS), Thersa Monteith (GHS), Anne Runne (Behavior Learning Assistant, GES), Cathy Carew (Speech and Language Pathologist, GES), Deb Gonzalez (Behavior Learning Assistant, GHS).
Grafton Community: Teri Turgeon (School Committee), Maureen Clark (town clerk), Peggy Forbes (Grafton SPED PAC Treasurer).
Grafton School District: Donna Poitras (NGES secretary), Doreen Parker (SGES principal), Maureen Molloy (Assistive Technology Assistant), Michael Breault (computer technician), Thomas Spurgeon (computer technician), Kimberley Cahill-Sabourin (out of district placement specialist), Kelli Derosiers (GHS vocational coordinator), Lauri Jankowski (SLP, GES), Diane Blessing (Department Head of Family & Consumer Science, GHS).
Elmwood Street Community School, Millbury: Karla Belliveau (teacher), Kate Tetzel (music teacher), Kelly Sauriol (registered nurse), Krissy Ghiz (physical therapist assistant), Laura Newhall (occupational therapist), Maria Tessier (teacher of the visually impaired), Melissa Richard (assistant teacher), Michelle Desrosiers (phys ed teacher), Carol Cooney (SLP), Patricia Cormack (physical therapist), Stephanie Seifert (speech assistant), Diane Muzzy (assistant teacher).
Out of district: Marcelle Monfredo (teacher, David Prouty High School).