DoDEA Pacific names 2014 Volunteer Excellence Award recipients

DoDEA Pacific names 2014 Volunteer Excellence Award recipients

by Lawrence Torres III, Department of Defense Education Activity - Pacific

OKINAWA, Japan — DoDEA Pacific Director Dr. Linda Curtis recently announced the selection of the 2014 DoDEA Pacific Volunteer Excellence Award winners.

The annual DoDEA Pacific Volunteer Excellence Awards program recognizes significant volunteer contributions to the DoDEA mission of educating, engaging and empowering each student to succeed in a dynamic world. Nominees are considered through a formal and competitive selective process with winners named to the following categories:

• Individual Volunteer: provided exceptional service and support to their community school(s)

• Military Individual, Unit, or Command: provided exceptional service and support to their community school(s)

The selectees for school year 2013-2014:

Individual Volunteer Excellence Award (Area-level):
Dr. Emily Schaller and Dr. Jhony Zavaleta (Guam District)
Education & Public Outreach Office, NASA Airborne Science Program National Suborbital Education and Research Center

Individual Volunteer Excellence Award (District-level): 
Sarah Jones (Guam District)
McCool Elementary/Middle School volunteer

Military Unit/Commander Excellence Award (Area-level):
374th Force Support Squadron, Yokota AB (Japan District)

Military Unit/Commander Excellence Award (District-level):
Lt. Col. Jonathan Riley (Okinawa District)
Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

Military Unit/Commander Excellence Award (School level):
Joseph Vinch, deputy environmental engineer (Guam District)
36th Civil Engineering Squadron, Andersen Air Base

Nominations are made each spring by school administrators and forwarded to the DoDEA Pacific area office for final review and selection.  Award recipients must be approved by DoDEA Pacific senior leaders after careful consideration of the nominees’ total contributions and substantive impact on their respective school communities. The distinguished and enduring efforts made by the selected volunteers are testaments to what caring individuals can achieve through kindness, commitment, and collaboration.

Individual Volunteer Excellence Award (Area-level):
Dr. Emily Schaller and Dr. Jhony Zavaleta with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Airborne Tropical TRopopause Experiment or ATTREX, were selected for individual area-level DoDEA Pacific Volunteer Excellence Awards for their many positive contributions to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math support for all students in the DoDEA Guam District.

Earlier this year, a team of NASA researchers and a NASA Global Hawk unmanned aircraft traveled to Guam for eight weeks of atmospheric science investigations from Jan. 17 through March 14. NASA’s Global Hawk No. 872 based at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif., was flown to and based out of Andersen Air Force Base for two months.  

During their stay, the ATTREX team visited all four DoDEA Guam District schools, inspiring and igniting student interest in the NASA mission, scientific exploration and research. At the invitation of the ATTREX team, more than 200 Guam HS students and teachers had the opportunity to view the Global Hawk, learning about the aircraft’s instruments, talking to pilots and spending time in the laboratory facilities used to analyze data collected aboard the plane.

“It’s so important for our students to see the relevance of what they’re reading in their textbooks to real life problems in our environment,” said DoDEA Guam District Superintendent Dr. Steven Bloom. “I’m sure that we’re going to see the next generation of scientists and engineers come out of the work conducted by the NASA ATTREX Education and Public Outreach Program.”

Individual Volunteer Excellence Award (District-Level): 
Sarah Jones was selected for an individual district-level DoDEA Pacific Volunteer Excellence Award for her countless contributions of service and support as a McCool Elementary/Middle School Writing Club volunteer in Guam.

Jones assisted Gifted Education Teacher Mrs. Moore, each week, providing ideas for lessons to improve student writing. She also volunteered to co-coach the Academic Challenge Bowl and served on the AdvancED In-brief Team for school accreditation.

“Mrs. Jones strengthened the students’ writing skills and supported our continuing school improvement goal in English Language Arts,” said Geoff Fong, principal of McCool E/MS. “With her assistance, four student novelists were published this school year.”

Military Individual, Unit, Command Excellence Award, (Area-level):
374th Force Support Squadron, Yokota Air Base, was selected for the DoDEA Pacific area-level Military Unit Excellence Award for providing unparalleled support to high schools across DoDEA Pacific. Squadron volunteers hosted the 2013-14 DoDEA Pacific Far East Culinary Arts Competition for high school students seeking the equivalent of a state-level championship and the chance to advance to the national competition sponsored by ProStart.

In addition, 374th FSS took prompt action to support students and staff during a historic snowfall at Yokota AB in February. When all base food facilities closed due to snow, the squadron leadership opened the military dining facility, extended lodging support, and assisted with ground transportation for all students and employees.

“We’re very appreciative of the leadership and all the volunteers from the squadron,” said DoDEA Japan District Superintendent Lois Rapp. “The support they provided throughout the year was simply exceptional!”

Military Individual, Unit, Command Excellence Award, (District-level):
Lt. Col. Jonathan Riley provided exemplary student support to the schools on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, which helped him earn the district-level Military/Unit Commander Excellence Award.

Lt. Col. Riley amassed over 100 volunteer hours tutoring students at school, including evenings, weekends and holidays. Riley also provided special event activity support, instituted a supervised game lunch activity for 4th and 5th grade students, and helped one student raise their quarter grades by 60%.

“Lt. Col. Riley is committed to helping our students and school and he can be counted on to support us in any way possible,” said Kadena Elementary School Principal Tom Larue. “It has been an honor to have him as part of our Kadena Elementary School family.”

Military Individual, Unit, Command Excellence Award (School-level):
Joseph Vinch, deputy environmental engineer, 36th Civil Engineering Squadron, Andersen Air Force Base, earned the 2014 school-level Military Unit/Commander Excellence Award by providing Andersen Middle School students with multiple opportunities to interact with Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics professionals. Vinch’s affiliation as a board of directors’ member for the local chapter of the Society of American Military Engineers flourished into a partnership that supported the Andersen schools during Engineering Week, Career Day, and the Science Fair.

Vinch’s personal presentation on the “Flight of a Kite” instilled in every student an ability to understand that they are truly engineers. The engineers on his team also provided the students with a better understanding of the engineering design process and what recycling and ecology mean to their future.

“Under the mentoring and guidance of Joseph Vinch, Andersen Air Force Base civil engineers have established an exceptional educational outreach program,” said DoDEA Guam District Superintendent Dr. Steven Bloom. “His efforts to promote STEAM is commendable and has enabled our students to see the connections of mathematical and science concepts to real-world applications.”

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