Eight schools and 28 individuals were honored on April 29 at the UFT’s annual Academic HS Awards ceremony, held virtually, but those honors represented much more. “You are the ones that have been highlighted for tonight’s event but we know this hard work and this commitment are happening across the city all day, every day,” said Janella Hinds, the UFT vice president for academic high schools.
Hinds thanked educators for their “willingness to keep on pushing even when things seem insurmountable. You keep it together and you keep smiling.”
A technical issue that delayed the program’s start also was representative: Educators have faced these issues since the pandemic began. “We all have this stuff right now and that’s what makes it so amazing what you have all pulled off,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.
Flushing HS in Queens was a Team High School honoree for demonstrating excellence in education and unionism. Marked for closure by the Bloomberg administration, a UFT lawsuit kept Flushing HS alive and, in spite of having eight principals in eight years, Flushing is now out of state receivership and its students are thriving.
The Community Champion Award for school-related professionals who demonstrate dedication and commitment went to six honorees including Nakesha Clarke, a social worker at the Manhattan Alternative Learning Center. Clarke has forged a partnership with community-based organizations to bring in workshops on issues including depression, self-care and substance abuse — just one way she helps support students.
Kirstie Camacho, a special education teacher and the work-based learning coordinator at Richmond Hill HS in Queens, received one of 13 Excellence in Education Awards, given for work in the classroom. Camacho teams with Commonpoint Queens to provide students with hundreds of employment and career training opportunities.
And Outstanding Union Activist Aladji Sow, one of nine honorees and the chapter leader at the HS of World Cultures in the Bronx, worked to create a spirit of collaboration and support in a divided school. Now, staff retention at the school is at an all-time high, the COPE contribution rate is 99% and UFT membership is 100%.
“As a school system it has been quite amazing what we have accomplished,” Mulgrew said, “and each and every one of you has passionately helped guide us.”
Academic HS Awards
Team HS Award
- Bronx Academy of Letters
- West Bronx Academy for the Future
- Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment
- El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice, Brooklyn
- The College Academy, Manhattan
- Flushing HS, Queens
- Frank Sinatra School for the Arts HS, Queens
- Staten Island Technical HS
- Toyin Ajasin, social worker, Hostos-Lincoln Academy of Science, the Bronx
- Nakesha Clarke, social worker, Manhattan Alternative Learning Center
- Lizzette Colon, school counselor, NYC iSchool, Manhattan
- Tina Giammarrusco, school secretary, New Dorp HS, Staten Island
- Theresa Gonzalez, school secretary, Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day HS
- Yvonne Smith, paraprofessional, Bronx Aerospace HS
Excellence In Education
- Julia Baskin, Bronxdale HS, the Bronx
- Kirstie Camacho, Richmond Hill HS, Queens
- Jessica Henck, The Scholars’ Academy, Queens
- Jamel Holmes, East Bronx Academy for the Future
- Zuleika Martinez, HS for Health Careers and Sciences, Manhattan
- Meghan Moretti, Port Richmond HS, Staten Island
- Carmine Pulera, Grover Cleveland HS, Queens
- Lauren Rocco, Brooklyn HS of the Arts
- Ramdat Singh, HS for Health Careers and Sciences, Manhattan
- John Sandrowicz, Theatre Arts Production Company School, the Bronx
- Laginne Walker, City College Academy of the Arts, Manhattan
- Liaisha White, Brooklyn Preparatory HS
- Nicole Viertl, HS for Contemporary Arts, the Bronx
Outstanding Union Activists
- Seva Amos, paraprofessional rep, Boys and Girls HS, Brooklyn
- Hector Colon, chapter leader, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis HS, Manhattan
- Paula Duffy, union delegate, Francis Lewis HS, Queens
- Sandra Flecha, paraprofessional rep, Susan E. Wagner HS, Staten Island
- Monique Lee, chapter leader, HS of Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture, Queens
- Georgia Lignou, chapter leader, William Cullen Bryant HS, Queens
- Katrina Long, paraprofessional rep, Manhattan Alternative Learning Center
- Michael Myers, chapter leader, HS for Sports Management, Brooklyn
- Aladji Sow, chapter leader, HS of World Cultures, the Bronx