Supervisor Kate Murray and members of the Hempstead Town Board honored nine women who live or work in the Town of Hempstead for their outstanding contributions to the community at the town's annual Pathfinder Awards ceremony Tuesday.
An inspiring keynote speech was delivered by Long Island's own Susan Axelrod, president and founder of Love and Quiches Desserts in Freeport. Ms. Axelrod has grown her internationally renowned quiche and dessert manufacturing business from a home-based enterprise started in 1973.
"Today's Pathfinder honorees are shining examples of women who have taken action to help create a better world," noted Murray. "Each of the women we are recognizing, as well as our keynote speaker, has worked hard to realize dreams and nurture those dreams into shining success stories. They believed in themselves and their vision and overcame challenges to accomplish great feats."
The winners of this prestigious award are as follows:
Arts & Entertainment: Just 17 years of age, Katy Miller of Atlantic Beach has already enjoyed a lifetime's worth of success. With a beautiful voice that reflects a charming personality, Katy has been entertaining audiences since childhood. Community groups, holiday celebrations, local fundraisers and award ceremonies much like this one have all benefited from Katy's inspiring performances. Commanding a remarkable stage presence, Katy has also starred in several musical productions. She has also been selected to the All County and All State Choirs and has performed at New York City's famed Carnegie Hall. Katy has been a vocal and visible presence at many neighborhood outings. Worthwhile causes and charitable concerns have welcomed Katy's musical talents to their programs. Countless audiences and venues have stood to applaud the sheer brilliance of this youthful entertainer.
Business: Tanisha A'see, manager of Bethpage Federal Credit Union's Roosevelt branch, started her mentoring career as a student at Columbia University. Knowing the true value of education, she volunteered her free time as a tutor at various schools. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban Studies, she continued tutoring students in local after school programs in Harlem. Starting a job at Covenant House, Tanisha united her vocation for helping people with her professional aspirations. She developed a mentoring program connecting run-away youth with local business owners. The program provided valuable work experience for at-risk kids while enriching the lives of the participating business owners.Two years later, Tanisha began working as an independent education and health program coordinator at Alianza Dominicana, an organization dedicated to serving the Latino and African-American communities in Harlem and Washington Heights. The programs she instituted led her to a position as an independent living coordinator at the Jewish Child Care Association. In 2008, Tanisha brought her special talents to the community of Roosevelt. As manager of Roosevelt's Bethpage Federal Credit Union branch, Tanisha helps customers plan for their future by advising them on savings and budgeting strategies. Recognizing the importance of teaching our youth financial independence, she also tutors students on finance and budgeting in local area schools. A true leader and mentor, Tanisha has empowered countless individuals.
Community Affairs: Community service is an essential part of Sister Christine Sammon's life. As the Director of Parish Social Ministry for St. Bernard's Church in Levittown, Sister Christine coordinates countless efforts to reach out to the less fortunate members of our community. Since joining the parish staff in 2003, Sister Christine has provided help for those in need and inspired many people to engage in works of community service. Among her many duties, Sister Christine works with the St. Bernard's Parish St. Vincent de Paul Society to coordinate outreach efforts. Under her guidance, a very active food pantry serves over 100 Levittown families a week, providing basic food and toiletries. Actively involved in raising awareness of food insecurity on Long Island, Sister Christine has been featured on two television programs concerning hunger in our area. Sister Christine has helped to set up a "meals-on-wheels" program in the parish as well as a youth group called "Charitable KIDZ" that involves school-age children in community service projects like hosting a senior prom for residents of an assisted living facility and raising money to help communities in need.
Education: Joining the Freeport School District as Principal of the Archer Street School in July 2000, Paula Lein was faced with the primary challenge of improving the academic performance of her elementary school students. At that time, only one third of fourth graders had passed state testing for English Language Arts and less than half had passed Math. Focusing on academics, Ms. Lein began to incorporate a number of new approaches to improve her students' performance. Ms. Lein arranged for volunteer tutoring services to be provided for students needing extra help, professional development programs were arranged for staff, lending libraries were established, technology was integrated into all aspects of the curriculum and a Parent Center was developed. Ms. Lein initiated programs like Coffee with the Principal to increase parental participation. In order to increase literacy skills and encourage students to become lifelong readers, Ms. Lein kicked-off her Book of the Month Program, which was named a "Program of Excellence" by the NYS English Council. Each month, a book is selected for the entire school to read and its theme is incorporated into language and math activities. Paula has also integrated her love for the arts and dancing into programs that cultivate a love for learning and enjoyment of the arts among her students. Through her agenda, student performance scores steadily improved. In 2009, 98% of fourth graders passed the English Language Arts test, while 99% passed the state Math tests. Ms. Lein has been the dynamic force behind the success and academic achievements of Archer Street School. Under her direction, the school was recognized for its academic achievement and being among the most improved schools.
Health Services: Suzanne Kornblatt of Woodmere- Twice a week, as many as 25 children with parents or siblings who are seriously ill attend the SIBS Place program at South Nassau Communities Hospital. SIBS Place empowers children to face painful experiences while helping to make their world a happier place. It takes a talented, resourceful and committed individual to lead this program and South Nassau Communities Hospital is lucky to have Suzanne Kornblatt fulfill this role. Suzanne has tirelessly devoted herself to supporting children and families during very difficult periods in their lives. As a Mental Health Supervisor at South Nassau, Suzanne provides support to the program participants and plans the SIBS Place therapeutic curriculum as well as special events for the children. She also supervises a free six-week summer program for SIBS Place that engages children in an array of enriching activities while helping them to cope with a time of family crisis. Many parents have said that the SIBS Place program was a life changing experience for their children. Suzanne also worked with the South Nassau Communities Hospital's World Trade Center Family Center from 2005 to 2008, facilitating a bereaved parents' support group. She has been recognized throughout her professional career for her work with children and their families.
High School Senior: As a senior at Baldwin High School, Regina Zick has not only participated, but led in many student activities. She is President of Key Club, a volunteer organization dedicated to helping those who are less fortunate. Regina is the stage manager and student leader of stage crew and is an officer on the Executive Board of Leadership Council. What's more, this role model for other students has resurrected the school's Blue Marble Environmental Awareness Club. She is making a difference in all these areas while still excelling in Advanced Placement courses. And, while all these accomplishments are impressive, looking at the letters of recommendation that Regina received for this award, what stood out most of all was her compassion and desire to enrich the lives of her fellow students. As one of her advisors wrote, "Her organizational skills are exemplary, but are overshadowed by her special and unique talent for making people feel comfortable and getting them committed to causes she believes in. She is a special human being who comes along once in a while and everyone she touches is better off for it." Another one of Regina's teachers writes, "She brings out the better side in whomever she's around." Another teacher related stories of her helping other students who were struggling or falling behind, in a sensitive manner, enhancing the students' confidence rather than hindering it. He describes Regina as an unofficial teacher's aide who inspires other students to strive to achieve.
Humanitarian: Bernadette Smith of Floral Park has been reaching out to assist fellow residents for many years. A close-knit community, where everyone seems to know one another, Floral Park has had to cope with heartbreaking tragedy in the past few years. Floral Park was home to three beautiful young angels who lost their lives on the way to work at our Camp ANCHOR Program last summer. The grief and sorrow that follows such a tragedy can cast a shadow of despair that grips a community for days on end. The healing process often involves the compassion and commitment of true difference makers like Bernadette Smith. She has truly become a beacon of humanitarian service in her beloved village. A board member of the Hance Family Foundation, a group founded in the memory of the three precious daughters of Warren and Jackie Hance, Bernadette is committed to the mission of happy, healthy and safe children. Bernadette works tirelessly to provide food and clothing for children in need, she collects Christmas presents for underprivileged kids and she has worked with the Hance Family Foundation to secure new playground equipment for local schools.
Volunteer: There are few areas of the Bellmore community that have not been touched by Nina Lanci's commitment and generous spirit. She is currently President of the Bellmore Lions Club, the Community Parent Center and the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School Board of Education. She is also the treasurer of General Building Laborers' Local 66 Charitable Trust and a trustee for the North Bellmore Board of Education. Nina's commitment to education has spanned more than a decade, as she has served as President of the Martin Avenue PTA, the North Bellmore Coordinating Council of PTAs and the North Bellmore Board of Education. Nina has also served as President of the Central High School District Board of Education. One of her earliest projects that benefited the children of Bellmore was securing a grant for the construction of the Martin Avenue Elementary School playground, which has been enjoyed by thousands of children over the last ten years. In addition to her work with the schools, Nina volunteers for the Bellmore Family Street Festival, the Strawberry Festival, the Bellmore Tree Lighting ceremony and various toys drives in the community. She does all this while working full-time as the Director of Administrative Services at General Building Laborers Local Union 66. And, since it is said that volunteering begins at home, it is little wonder that her husband and children are her most enthusiastic cheerleaders as Nina Lanci continues to be a Pathfinder who is making our town a better place in which to live.
Town of Hempstead Employee: Judy Zeitlin, of Bellmore, began her career in the Town of Hempstead fourteen years ago as a member of the Town Attorney's office, and has been a dependable and dedicated staff member of Councilwoman Cullin's staff since 2005. Judy uses her extensive knowledge and experience to serve the residents of the 5th Council District, answering questions and responding to constituent requests in an expedient and professional manner. Judy takes each challenge as her own responsibility and follows through until the matter is resolved. A mentor to the Town Board interns, Judy eagerly helps students transition to young professionals. Judy is always willing to lend a helping hand or kind, compassionate ear to others and is admired and respected by her co-workers for her phenomenal work ethic and team-player attitude. A woman of great courage and grace, Judy has persevered in the difficult year since being diagnosed with Breast Cancer, never wavering in the fulfillment of her commitments in her professional and personal life. Treatments, doctor appointments and surgeries have not stopped her uncanny humor and way of getting things done. Judy's dedication to her work is only matched by her commitment to community service. Having long-served as a volunteer at Temple Beth-El of Bellmore, Judy began volunteering at Hewlett House 1 in 9 upon her recovery, compassionately providing hope, reassurance and great insight to other women facing a diagnosis of Breast Cancer. Judy and her twin sister Elaine have devoted countless hours raising over $8,000 for the Cure for Cancer Walk and were asked to travel to Israel as ambassadors in their Walk for a Cure.
"Each of these women is truly extraordinary," concluded Murray. "They are true pathfinders and as such they inspire the next generation of great young women to continue blazing paths in their own unique ways."