Betty Urquhart Award for Community Service, June 14, 2012

This school has come a long way and more than once have I looked at these kids and just can't believe where we are now compared to when I first got here in 2007.  I can't believe it is the same place and I am constantly amazed at how far we have come.  The kids just continue to impress me on a regular basis.

We received the Betty Urquhart Award, and while that was very much an honor and we were so proud and excited, it also got me to think about everything that led up to that award.  While the Christmas morning event was probably the tipping point for the award, it would never have happened but for a long road and a team of people dedicated and committed to this community.

Three years ago, Frank and Eunice Royle approached me about starting the Senior/Teen events.  I was a bit skeptical at first (and so were the kids), but it did not take long for the groups to connect and we went from it being a required school event to a high level of excitement every time one was coming up.  Likewise, the Seniors loved it and we soon were packing the hall.  As a result, the youth were holding doors open for Seniors, helping them with groceries and doing odd jobs around their homes.  They now knew each other by name and were no longer "those kids" or "those old people".  It was amazing to watch that mtetamorphosis and see the relationship grow.  It was probably one of the best things that has happened to the youth who are involved.

The Legion was a logical next step.  There was not only some overlap in the membership of the Legion and the Seniors group, the events were held at the Legion, as was all of our fundraisers.  The Legion was giving us customized Remembrance Day activities and the bond just kept growing.  It did not take the kids long to figure out that the Legion really cared about ACE and genuinely liked the kids and supported their program.  It was only natural that the ACE kids would be there this year when the Legion now needed the support.  They gave up their own time to do the fundraisers, and will continue to do so.  They will also be the founding members of the new youth group when it is finalized.

The Library has also always been a place that the kids felt cared for and welcomed, and as a result, they also volunteer there when needed.  Whether it is physical labor to set up for the book sale or serving food, the ACE students are always willing to help out at their library.

They also volunteer with AHCS, food bank, the Lions, and anyone else who asks. 

What started out as a couple of simple fundraisers and a Senior/Teen event, has grown into a genuine appreciation for the community and the sense of pride they get from doing the work and getting the pats on the back. 

All of this is what led to us being able to even put on a Christmas event.  I didn't even come up with the idea until just over a week before Christmas.  The students thought the idea was great, the Legion supported it from the first phone call I made to them, and the community quickly rallied as well.  Three students said they would help with the actual brunch, a parent soon joined in, Jim Johnson offered to open the Legion building, Lesley Ward volunteered to cook, Frank and Eunice pitched in as well, and the ACE staff and students who would not be there would approach the community for donations.  The donations were overwhelming as the rest of the community rallied around the idea.  None of this could have or would have happened a few years ago because the relationships that have been built are what make this things possible.  It is one thing to plan an event, but to gather the team needed to make it special means that those relationships have to exist first.

The event was a success and well-received.  It was a great source of both pride and joy for those of us involved, but what was even more important to me is the relationships and partnerships that we have that make all of these things possible.  We may have won an amazing award this year, but I never take for granted the amazing rewards we get from the partnerships and relationships we have; none of this would be possible without them.