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Awards honour York Catholic school and staff

A York Catholic elementary school in Woodbridge and two school board staff members were among the 16 award recipients, recently honoured by the Character Community Foundation of York Region for their role in acting as a catalyst for positive change and citizen engagement.

Helen Reaume, Program Consultant, Special Education; Matthew Kavanagh, Teacher; and St. Margaret Mary Catholic Elementary School were winners among the 137 individuals, schools, groups and businesses nominated for consistently demonstrating exemplary “community character” traits at school, work, home and in the community.

“We’re very proud of our all our award winners and nominees,” says Susan La Rosa, Director of Education, York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB). “Our Catholic school system takes a holistic approach in education, so that we consistently produce not only great students, but great citizens for our communities. The character attributes esteemed by the Character Community Foundation mirror the Catholic virtues our staff and students strive for on a daily basis, such as compassion, courage, integrity, hope and responsibility. It’s great to see our staff and schools recognized at this level.”

Helen Reaume took home the prestigious award for Educator of Character. Throughout her 33-year career in education she has successfully engaged students, including an initiative where she used music as a vehicle for teaching children with Down syndrome to read. In 1997, Reaume helped found the YCDSB Integrated Track and Field Event, which fosters the participation of students with disabilities with their non-exceptional peers, promoting inclusion and optimism, inside and outside the classroom.

“I was really surprised and honoured to receive the Educator of Character award as there was such an amazing group of people who were also nominated,” says Reaume. “Our Catholic Learning Community truly sets the foundation for everything I believe in as an educator; striving for inclusivity and belonging for all students, which is rooted in our faith.”

Matthew Kavanagh, Teacher at St. Theresa of Lisieux CHS, received the Change our World, Environmental award for his work developing student leaders at the Richmond Hill school where he serves as a staff advisor to the student environmental council. He has coordinated several student programs including park clean-ups and the planting of over 3,000 trees. Kavanagh also worked with the school board to implement a ban of single use plastic water bottles at the school, selling reusable stainless steel water bottles instead. His passion for the environment continues to inspire new generations of students, providing hope for the future.

“Receiving this award was a surprise,” says Kavanagh. “Even though I received the award that evening, that award really reflects the hard work that so many St. Theresa of Lisieux's students, both past and present, have committed to environmental stewardship. I couldn't be more proud of them.”

St. Margaret Mary Catholic Elementary School in Woodbridge was presented with a School of Character award for its continuous ability to empower its students through a variety of initiatives, positively impacting the climate and culture of their school and community.

Through its work with Free the Children charity, the school raised over $25,000 to build a school in Kenya, a water sanitation project and various alternative income projects so that communities in Kenya can become more self-sustaining.

Angela Lomuto-Corriero, Principal, St. Margaret Mary CES credits her staff for receiving the “Character Community” award. “I could not be prouder of our school community,” says Lomuto-Corriero. “Teachers Sonia Fiorucci and Diana Febbraro have been instrumental in shedding light on social justice issues and they’ve truly empowered students to take on the call to make the world a better place and follow in Jesus’ footsteps.”

The school has held toy drives, food drives, market fairs and coat drives to help both communities across the world, as well as its local communities. St. Margaret Mary CES is currently operating a charity penny drive. It is a member of the York Catholic District School Board, which delivers quality educational programming to over 56,000 students in 101 schools throughout the Regional Municipality of York.