Recognizing the Excellence and Promise in our Communities

Extraordinary Leaders, Teachers and Counselors

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By Dr. Debra Colley

We often speak of education, human services and transformative programs and as systems initiatives – knowing that the creation of sustainable change is complex and interdependent.

However, just as a small pebble creates a ripple in the river, so can be the impact of just one single educator, counselor or community leader.  The powerful impact individual teachers and leaders have on young people within their communities is immeasurable. Given our focus on success for all students (beginning with young children and extending across the educational continuum),  the outstanding work of our superintendents, teachers, counselors, and community leaders is what truly makes the difference … and this is most often not recognized amidst the crises, controversies, and challenges we face in education and human services.

It is because of the leadership and outstanding commitment of extraordinary individuals that we are able to meet the needs of all children, inspire the best results from young people, and address the multitude of issues that affect us during our lifetime.  Education requires the commitment of many individuals…as we build systems one person at a time … as we transform our communities one child at a time.

This past week, the College of Education hosted its 33rd annual professional recognition dinner wherein educational leaders, teachers, mental health counselors, and community leaders from both Ontario and Western New York were recognized for their outstanding contributions.  It was with great pride that the faculty and administration at Niagara University paused to recognize the truly amazing commitment of educators and professionals in our communities who bring their knowledge, skills, excellence and hope to children and families every single day. We took time to celebrate the partnerships we have with these outstanding honorees and to thank them for their dedication and commitment.

A record crowd joined us for the celebration of excellence – over 230 attendees joined us to applaud the honorees for their great contributions and untold stories of remarkable inspiration and success. It was my privilege to embrace this unique moment to thank those who work so hard on our behalf, to recognize the truly outstanding people in our community, and to celebrate the hope and commitment to change that was so evident in their comments throughout the evening.

Click here for information about the honorees

It is from our Experience that Possibilities and Responsibilities Emerge

photo (2)By Dr. Debra Colley

Over the last few months, as I have traveled to witness the persistence of one family in the hope for children in Haiti, to study St. Vincent de Paul in France, and to embrace educational partnerships in Vietnam, I have experienced the lasting imprint of one mission – the charism of the Vincentians in their commitment to transformative service and in their far-reaching influence.

This Vincentian heritage inspires a call to action to develop sustainable strategies to address core issues of poverty… a footprint that is uniquely represented through the three Vincentian Universities in the United States – Niagara, St.  John’s, and DePaul. The cycle of scarcity and poverty endured by so many people throughout the world is at the heart of the work we do as Vincentians. The graduates of Niagara University participate in this shared experience through their studies, their community engagement in service, and their research – experiences which will shape their contributions and leadership throughout their lives and careers. Experiences which will become the distinguishing difference in their life’s journey and the opportunities the future holds for them.

photo (3)From these experiences, challenges and responsibilities will emerge as well.  No one has said that this commitment to serving those most in need would be easy.  They have said it must be done; we must regard aid to the poorest and most vulnerable in our world as a fundamental duty.  We will bring our experiences to the question of how it must be done. Our mission calls on us to strive for innovation and excellence in the work we do as advocates for those in need and to support the development of programs and strategies that will make a difference in local communities and the larger world. Let’s, therefore, extend our experiences – domestic and global – in a strategic way so that actions emerge and we develop the persistence to stay the course and truly make a difference in our world.