MADISON — Two individuals and three organizations that are working to improve education and the lives of young people in Wisconsin schools and communities will receive 2017 Friends of Education awards during the State of Education address Sept. 21 in Madison.
“The willingness of those who volunteer to mentor our youth, develop their cultural roots, and give them solid foundations for becoming civic-minded adults means so much to our kids and the future of Wisconsin,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers in congratulating the 2017 Friends of Education. “These organizations and individuals make outstanding contributions to support children and young adults in our state.”
Evers will present his Friends of Education awards to
- 100 Black Men of Madison Inc.;
- Thomas W. Boelter, education and culture director for the Forest County Potawatomi, Crandon;
- Door County Civility Project;
- Maysee Yang Herr of Wausau, associate professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point; and
- Reach Out and Read Wisconsin: An Initiative of Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin.
The awards ceremony follows the noon State of Education address in the Capitol Rotunda on Sept. 21. Additional information about each recipient follows.
Established in 1994, 100 Black Men of Madison Inc., strives to make a positive difference in the lives of area youth, especially African American males, through mentoring, education, and health and wellness programs. The organization sponsors the Annual African American History Challenge Bowl, which engages students in learning history, and hosts the annual Back-to-School Celebration. In the past 22 years, 100 Black Men of Madison has provided more than 32,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to area youth. Through mentoring relationships, members help young people see how they can be a success in life. Receiving the award on behalf of the organization will be founding member Enis Ragland, President Floyd Rose, and Vice President Chris Canty.
Thomas W. Boelter, director of education and culture at the Forest County Potawatomi, has both lived and worked in Indian Country for over 20 years. An enrolled member of the Forest County Potawatomi, Boelter has gained wisdom over this time by working with Tradition Elders and in his social work career. Under his leadership, the education of Forest County Potawatomi students is improving. Within the last five years, the attendance rate for students has increased from 60 percent to 90 percent, the graduation rate has increased from 60 percent to 95 percent, and 80 percent of students are pursuing higher levels of education or the trades. Earlier this year, Boelter was recognized as the Wisconsin Indian Education Association Educator of the Year.
The Door County Civility Project is a volunteer initiative working since 2013 to strengthen the culture of civility within homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, churches, civic organizations, and government bodies in Door County. Through multiple presentations, trainings, newspaper articles, and distribution of educational resources, the project has promoted “Speak Your Peace,” using the nine simple tools for practicing civility: pay attention; listen closely; be inclusive; don’t gossip; show respect; be agreeable; apologize sincerely; give constructive comments, suggestions and feedback; and accept responsibility. Beginning in 2015, Civility Project volunteers worked with Southern Door County School District staff to develop Speak Your Peace activities to promote a culture of civility within schools and prepare students for future civil engagement. The Civility Project’s work has resulted in a variety of high school student led publications on civility, such as poetry anthologies, class projects, and musical performances. Expected at the ceremony to accept the Friend of Education award for the Door County Civility Project are Steve Bousley, Shirley Senarighi, Diane Slivka, and Patti Vickman.
Maysee Yang Herr grew up in Wausau and was part of the Early Identification Program (EIP) while in high school. After graduate school and teaching elementary students in Indianapolis for a few years, she returned to Wausau. She is an associate professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, serves as the board vice president for the Marathon County Child Development Agency as well as board secretary for the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin. In addition, she serves as a committee member on the Marathon County Diversity Affairs Commission and the UWSP College of Professional Studies Diversity Taskforce. Herr is co-founder and director of the Hmong Phoojywg Enrichment Program, which is a Hmong language and culture experience for children in grades K-12. Phoojywg, which translates as friend in Hmong, just completed its fifth summer with about 200 participants. She also works on the Toward One Wausau Project, which encourages people to talk about racial and ethnic differences with the goal of building community relationships through understanding.
Reach Out and Read Wisconsin: An Initiative of Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin prepares our state’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with clinicians to model read-aloud time, encourage families to read together, and “prescribe” books from the library for children to develop a lifetime love of reading. The program begins at the 6-month checkup and continues through age 5, placing special emphasis on children who are growing up in poverty. Clinicians at 200 plus clinics are showing parents simple, fun, and effective ways to engage with their babies and toddlers. By the end of 2016, 152,000 books had been distributed to Wisconsin families through Reach Out and Read Wisconsin. Accepting the award during the ceremony will be Project Manager Karin Mahony.