Community

Above and Beyond 2012

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For more than two decades, ABC7 has honored amazing tri-state area students, teachers, administrators and programs whose accomplishments go "Above and Beyond" in the classroom. Here's a glance at this year's recipients... and don't forget to watch our latest special at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 23!



Click here for a photo gallery of the recent awards ceremony!

Click here to watch the WHOLE SHOW here on 7online!

Good Jean Lau

GoodJeanLau400x268 School: P.S. 1 (Alfred E. Smith)

Location: Chinatown, Manhattan

Good Jean Lau was nominated largely for her work with getting her students at P.S. 1 in Chinatown and the surrounding community to run -- particularly with the with the New York Road Runners Mighty Milers program and the collective 80,000 miles that about 2,000 of her students have run in three years' time.
But as NYRR director youth and community services Cliff Sperber pointed out at the recent Above & Beyond awards reception, she's also involved in a wide variety of other community activities such as basketball, soccer and swimming.

"In terms of physical fitness and the city and the country that is so plagued by child obesity and adulthood obesity, Good Jean has made it a personal mission to get the children in her school and kids and adults and grandparents in her community more physically fit," Sperber said.

Lau, who has served as a teacher in the NYC school system for close to 30 years, accepted the honor in memory of her son, Michael, who passed away in May. "I decided I'm go to do it and dedicate this to my son because he always followed volunteer work and always [was] looking for a better future," Lau said.

POSSibilities Program

Posssibilities400x268 School: North Brunswick Township High School

Location: North Brunswick, N.J.

For years, the POSSibilities program at North Brunswick High School has been helping students with various disabilities gain real-world experience by helping them transition into the next chapter of their lives as adults. "It really puts all those skills that we work on in the classroom into action and the kids are able to be successful in new ways," said Laurie Miller, one of the teachers involved in the program.
POSSibilities has placed students as volunteers throughout the community at hair salons, retails stores, elementary schools, adult daycares and other area businesses -- while fostering a self-confidence in them from day one.

"The POSSibilities program has helped me get a real job, gives me more confidence, helps me be more friendly and makes me feel really good about myself. I know if I try my best and work hard and can be successful in life," said Alan Hall, a junior at the school, who later added that the program simply helped "bring out the inner me."

Hall started working as a volunteer front-end assistant at a local Shop Rite grocery store in the fall of 2011 and just a couple of months later he was hired as a part-time worker.

Caroline Duggan

CarolineDuggan400x268 School: P.S. 59 (Beekman Hill International)

Location: Bronx

Ten years ago, the students of P.S. 59 in the Bronx weren't sure what to make of Caroline Duggan's Dublin-raised Irish accent. "It was almost like I said I was Mars when I said I was from Ireland," Duggan said. "They were just really intrigued by it and then they saw a picture of [River Dance]. They said 'Is that you in the picture? I said 'No, but I can show you a few steps.'"
And so with no budget, the Keltic Dreams were born, an afterschool organization that has since performed across the country and even in Ireland for the likes of President Obama and the Irish president. "The message for the children is to dream big. There's nothing out there that's impossible," Duggan said.

And, based on the thoughts of Diamond Walker -- a program graduate who currently serves as an assistant -- they are listening. "When you're younger you don't realize the impact it has on you. When I was [young], it was fun … but now I realize how much confidence it gives us and how much hope it gives us for our futures, that we're not just like a little ant in the world. We can be somebody big."

Project Reservoir

Reservoir400x268 School: Christa McAuliffe School (P.S. 28)

Location: Jersey City, N.J.

When Project Reservoir began in October 2010, the large, local reservoir found in Jersey City was nothing but a collective afterthought to the surrounding community. "Most people didn't know what was behind the massive stone walls literally right behind their back yard," said one of the students involved in the effort from Christa McAuliffe School.
But that has all changed. Thanks to the efforts a group of concerned seventh graders, the site has been rejuvenated through many platforms. First, the students were able to curb the over infestation of mosquitoes by introducing the fathead minnow, a species that feeds on mosquito larva, into the waters. Then they were able to reintroduce cattails back into the environment, which have since thrived.

With the help of the Jersey City Reservoir Alliance, the group has been able to make the site an official field trip locale for New Jersey public schools. In addition, teachers at the school have helped create a multi-dimensional website -- with several other plans in the works, including an iPhone to help visitors gain a deeper appreciation for the site, and games that will be featured on the sites. "So instead of Angry Birds, it's going to be Fathead Minnows," principal Janet Elder said with a laugh.

StreetSquash

StreetSquash400x268 Location: Harlem

When it came to squash in 1999, most Harlem residents thought of the vegetable -- but that's not the case anymore.

Back then George Polsky, who had played on Harvard's squash team, had the idea of founding an afterschool program that would combine afterschool mentoring with one of the more lesser known racquet sports.
That idea would turn into StreetSquash, an organization which as enjoyed continual growth since its origins by combining 75 minutes of play with 75 minutes of studying. In 2008, it opened up its own squash center, allowing more students from local schools an easier means of going to college. "We ultimately see squash as a pathway to earning a college degree," said director of strategic development Sage Ramadge, who pointed out that that 100 percent of the program's graduates go onto college. He added that there are plans to expand into Newark (N.J.) by next September.

Some such as Elizabeth Gatling, the organization served as an avenue to foster a love of the sport. Gatling, who currently plays collegiate squash at Franklin & Marshall, said that the sport has "really given me great opportunities that a lot of people in my neighborhood would never have."