Special Services thanks partners for support of students and programs

American Dreamer Awards luncheon puts a spotlight on those who've made a difference 

     Once a year, Principals and administrators in Southern Westchester BOCES’ Center for Special Services invite the partners whose contributions have benefited our students on a daily basis to a celebratory luncheon to say thank you. 

The American Dreamer Awards are a three-decades-old tradition marking the long history of community partnerships that make a difference in the lives of SWBOCES students with special needs. Students in the Culinary Arts program, under the direction of Chefs John Damiani and Omar Laaraj, prepared a buffet lunch and dessert. 

“Without your support we wouldn’t be able to do what we do for our students and their families,” Director of Special Services Jessica Walker told a packed dining room at the Career Services Campus in Valhalla. 

Honorees range from school district teachers and administrators, local police, crisis response teams, retail store management and parents. The common thread is a commitment to the work of supporting students and programs across SWBOCES. 

“Today we celebrate the best of our community,” Deputy Superintendent Dr. Brendan Lyons said. “The purpose of our gathering is simply to say thank you and to recognize that we cannot do it alone.”

The honorees:

Laurie Scipioni
Manager, Party City in Greenburgh
Nominated by Teacher Allison Waskiewicz for providing work-based learning opportunities for students in the store

Chief John Barbelet
Tarrytown Police Department
Nominated by Principal Phyllis Rizzi and Assistant Principal Francesca Fernandez for support and protection of students and staff at Tappan Hill School 

Carolyn Laskaj and Ann Marie Cellante 
President and Vice President
SWBOCES Special Education Parent Teacher Association
Nominated by  Principal Phyllis Rizzi and Assistant Principal Francesca Fernandez for their tireless efforts developing informational programs and networking opportunities for parents 

Eric Rauschenbach, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education and Student Services
Amy Cermele, EdD, Secondary CSE Chairperson
Scarsdale Schools
Nominated by Principal Phyllis Rizzi and Assistant Principal Francesca Fernandez for their partnership in developing including learning opportunities for Tappan Hill School students at Scarsdale’s Edgewood School

Kevin Smith
Security Guard
Irvington High School
Nominated by Principal Alberta Grant-Johnson for his engagement, encouragement and support of students in SWBOCES students and staff at Irvington High School

Carmen Ramirez & Lisseth Elena Cabrera Delgado
​Westchester County Mobile Crisis Response Team
Nominated by Julia Dolan for providing on-the-spot support, counseling and de-escalation to a student and family in crisis at Rye Lake Lower Campus

Pamela Tumminello
Supervisor of Special Education
Port Chester Schools
Nominated by Principal Eric Ford for being an unwavering advocate for SWBOCES students, going above and beyond to ensure each one receives the attention and resources they need to thrive and achieve their goals