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Brighton Believers Awards for the 2019-20 School Year

Last school year, the Brighton Believes Council selected 22 nominees to receive a Brighton Believers Award at its meeting in February. However, the awards were not able to be presented due to the COVID pandemic shutting schools down in March. We didn’t forget about these members of our school community and wanted to make sure they were recognized for demonstrating the Brighton Believes character traits of Integrity, Respect, Responsibility, Kindness, and Self-Control. These award winners are parents, students, teachers, staff members, coaches, and community members. They were each recognized at a Board of Education meeting this winter.

Steve Bottcher, a crossing guard, was nominated by Eileen and Ella Lyons. Eileen and Ella wrote: Steve safely crosses students at the corner of South Winton Road and Greenwich Lane. He does so much more than that, though. He is cheerful and kind every day. He engages kids and adults in thought provoking and funny conversations. He is the kind of person you want in your community because he demonstrates wonderful qualities and he seems to do so effortlessly. He is just a genuinely nice person and we will miss him after graduation.

Daphne Cohen, a Brighton parent, was nominated by Gabrielle Nozik. She wrote: Daphne exemplifies generosity and grace – she gives her time, resources, and her heart. Whenever there is a need, Daphne is there to help. People know they can count on her. But it’s not just the things that Daphne does that makes her special; it’s also the way she does it – with warmth, kindness, respect, modesty, responsibility, calm, and with a smile. Daphne has two children, and she is a constant role model for them in her community involvement, continually volunteering for the Brighton Central School District and several other local organizations. She has chaired or been a representative on several District committees, volunteers at many events, volunteers her time to teach Syrian refugees how to read, chairs the JCC Gala, serves on committees at Temple B’rith Kodesh, and has been a volunteer at the hospital through the Better Day Buddies at the Cancer Wellness Center.

Christina Davidson, the Brighton High School varsity girls swimming and diving coach, was nominated by Betsy Vinton. Christina has led the team to multiple sectional and divisional championships, but Betsy said there is so much more to her than a winning coach. She works with students of different skill levels and makes all members of the team feel valued and tells them it’s not only important to place first, but also second, third and fourth since they all contribute to the final score of the meet. Davidson leads by example and encourages cross training and holistic wellness in her athletes. She asks swimmers to keep a journal documenting how they feel during meets and practice to help them track their progress toward individual fitness goals. Her greatest strength, Betsy wrote, is that she teaches the girls to be leaders. Last year, Brighton received the sportsmanship award for Section V Swimming, determined by a vote of meet officials.

Peggy Dempsey, a community member was nominated by Town Supervisor Bill Moehle. Bill wrote: Peggy Dempsey is a long-time Brighton resident, who is engaged in many community activities, including music, dance, nature, political, and photographic activities, but she is best known for her role as the leading authority, photographer, and chronicler of the Brickyard Trail, and the organizer of the community group, Friends of the Brickyard Trail. Peggy walks and photographs the Trail every day. Her photographs are often extraordinary and she has shared those photos on Facebook for the public to enjoy. When she is on the Trail, Peggy always takes the time to stop and talk with people who have questions about the Trail or about animals found along the Trail. She and the Friends of the Brickyard Trail protect and preserve the Trail. They have sponsored public talks about the Trail, as well as social activities and work projects, to encourage people to engage in nature activities in Brighton and specifically along the Trail.

Mary Feola, a teaching assistant at Council Rock Primary School, was nominated by teacher Judy Wegman. Mrs. Wegman wrote: Mary has smiled, sung, hugged, and knitted her way into the hearts of countless children and adults! Describing Mary as a teaching assistant does not do justice for all that she has provided children over her 10 years in Brighton Schools. A kind, gentle light guides her every move. Our children are so lucky to have Mary as part of their day. Mary pays attention to details, and she often asks a child about something they shared with her the day or week before. Mary loves lunch duty as it gives her an opportunity to connect with children in an informal way. Kindness, gentleness, meeting a child where they are at are Mary’s specialties. I once asked a child who struggled with social/emotional issues who his best friend was at school. Without skipping a beat, the child announced, “Mrs. Feola!” Mary Feola is truly a rare treasure. Brighton is so lucky to have found her.

John “Jack” Festenstein, now a TCMS eighth grader, was nominated by TCMS counselors Catherine Liebel and Victoria Mosetti. They wrote: Jack is a kind and friendly young man. He participated as a mentor for a group of sixth graders in a support group. His friendly, gentle demeanor helps his peers feel valued and comfortable. Jack shows self-control, integrity, responsibility, kindness, and respect in all aspects of school. He is a leader among his peers exhibiting self-control behaviors in and out of the classroom setting. He teaches younger students integrity. He is a responsible young man who cares for his school device, materials and follows school rules. He is respectful to all adults he works with and greets peers with a kind smile. Jack demonstrates the Brighton Believes character traits every day and is a perfect candidate for this recognition.

Quinn Huefner, who was a FRES fifth grader last school year, was nominated by teacher Rick LaPaglia. Mr. LaPaglia shared: Quinn’s positive attitude, strong work ethic and ability to consistently demonstrate the FRES Star Qualities are the characteristics I witness each physical education class. He is a strong role model for his classmates to emulate. Quinn is always a great teammate during PE activities as well as an opponent who shows good sportsmanship at all times. Mr. Simmons stated if he could put a student on the Star Qualities poster as an example for others, Quinn would be his overwhelming choice. He doesn’t try to be a Star student, he IS a Star student. Ms. Maszerowski shared that Quinn shines daily as a kind and courteous classmate. His essence is the definition of respect. He is a friend to all and ensures that those around him feel accepted at all times. Quinn speaks with consideration and dignity. Best of all, he is always smiling.

Jaz Koft, a 2020 Brighton High School graduate, was nominated by TCMS teacher and musical choreographer Jessica Padilla. Mrs. Padilla said: Jaz is a truly amazing human! I’ve known Jaz since seventh grade when he played Simba in our middle school production of “The Lion King Jr.” and have had the opportunity to work with him in our BHS show choirs and musicals. Over the past four years, I’ve observed Jaz mature into one of the most hard-working, authentically kind, and successful students I’ve ever taught. Honestly, he makes me want to be a better educator every time I work with him because he is the kid that will conquer any obstacle in his pathway with grace and a smile on his face. Jaz is incredibly respectful toward every adult and peer in his life; he displays integrity by never backing down from his beliefs; kindness is Jaz’s middle name; he is incredibly responsible; and Jaz displays great self-control.

Jyothi Mandaleeka, a FRES teaching assistant, was nominated by counselor Ashley Ellis. Mrs. Ellis wrote: There are people that can come into your life and there’s just a connection there. Through a smile, interaction or even just being in their presence. Mrs. Mandaleeka is very special; it’s the way she cares for her students, her teachers and the overall role she has here at FRES. She’s just always there. She goes out of her way to check on you and the warmth in her smile creates a sense of peace. People feel that. How lucky we are to have that Peace Person at FRES. Even in the hardest of times, you found the strength to smile for all of us, especially those kids. You checked in and you understood how important it was to just be you, the best way to be, our Peace Person.

Ardis Mangione-Lindley, a community member and founder of Straight-A-Coaching, was nominated by Madelyn Garcia. Madelyn wrote: We have all heard stories of ‘turnarounds’ and inspirational figures who make life changing impacts on the life of a child, turning their fates around. Ardis is that figure for our family and for the community. I firmly believe that Ardis Mangione embodies all the character traits celebrated by Brighton through her dedication to teaching. She does more than just tutor children in specific subject matter; she inspires, expects, supports, and teaches children how to learn and succeed. She doesn’t hand them fish; she transforms her students into fishermen for life. Her work supports our schools, teachers, parents, and our children. She is an asset to Brighton and would be a wonderful, well-deserving recipient of the Brighton Believers Award.

Lisa Martin, a parent and volunteer, was nominated by Joy Pansari. Joy wrote that Lisa is an example of Brighton Believes with her responsibility and service to her community. Lisa has served as basketball team treasurer and serves Sleep Heavenly Sleep, an organization donating bunk beds to children, Food Link, and other volunteer organizations. When I first met Lisa, I was impressed with her willingness to promote service within our community. She helped foster opportunities to connect Brighton service day back to the community, including having students help with a local garden project in Rochester.

Katie Massey, the Brighton Support Center coordinator at BHS, was nominated by Dr. Tom Hall. Dr. Hall wrote: Katie goes above and beyond the call of duty. She puts in countless hours at night and on the weekends communicating with parents, teachers, and students about how to best support students and their unique needs. She advocates for students, provides them with the resources, supplies, and food (many times out of her own pocket) to help them succeed and TRULY loves what she does. She is the epitome of KINDNESS and RESPECT for everyone. She loves kids and strives to make each and every student feel good about themselves. She lives Brighton Believes!

Lanni Maszerowski, a FRES fifth grade teacher, was nominated by counselor Ashley Ellis. Mrs. Ellis wrote: When you think of someone who can captivate others by just their presence and when you think of someone who just pours love, acceptance and community and when you think of someone who wakes up knowing they are living their purpose, you think of Miss Lanni Maszerowski. Whether you experience her in person or just spend some time in her sweet space, you FEEL the magic! Miss Masz provides every child with permission to feel safe in their own skin and to feel a level of acceptance and belonging that everyone seeks to have. She is the teacher you will always remember, the friend you hope to have, and the person that will leave a legacy for lifetimes to come.

Rachel Mattern, a TCMS occupational therapist and the Nordic ski team coach, was nominated by parent Katie Mousaw and BHS student Bridget Mousaw. Katie wrote: I am in awe of her exceptional skills she demonstrates working with these young athletes. She is warm, kind, positive, consistent, organized, and most importantly, joyful. She is able to discuss difficult situations with the kids regarding sportsmanship and resilience without laying on feelings of guilt or negative feelings. Bridget wrote: Rachel is always ready with encouraging words, extra mittens and a hug. Something really special about Rachel is that she can make you feel like the most important person in the world at any moment. She makes new skiers feel welcome and always checks in with them making sure they have the best experience possible. She is a huge part of what makes Nordic skiing an enjoyable sport for Brighton students. 

Andy Pappalardo, a parent and athletic director for the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish basketball program, who was nominated by Dr. Kevin McIntyre. Andy has been coaching teams for 17 years and has been the athletic director for the past nine years. He also served on parish council at Our Lady of Lourdes for three years, was a hospitality minister for 21 years, is a board member of the Brighton Field Hockey Booster Club, and is the stats and scorekeeper of the varsity field hockey team. Dr. McIntyre wrote: “He always makes a point of accepting all comers from the Brighton community, and even beyond, to play on the Lourdes teams. He strongly promotes the concepts of teamwork and sportsmanship with insistence on equal playing time for all participants, respect for other teams and referees, and an emphasis on children growing as individuals and having fun.”

Jeffrey Reichman, a FRES special education teacher, was nominated by FRES school counselor Ashley Ellis. Mrs. Ellis wrote: Being “one” with the process and providing unconditional care and support is the secret sauce to a program’s success. Having that “way of being” throughout your life is very rare and Mr. Reichman offers this unique and necessary approach to our kids and families. The life education that Mr. Reichman provides is so much bigger than the classroom … he’s ALWAYS planting these seeds that will have an opportunity to grow even beyond the school years. Mr. Reichman demonstrates all he does with great care and integrity. He’s a man of his word and we are so fortunate to have him within our school community. He loves his family, his chickens, his woods, mushroom hunting, the earth, and the ability to celebrate each day.

Doug and Shari Schmidt, community members were nominated by Patricia Hall. The Schmidt’s are Brighton residents. Doug, an enrichment teacher at Victor Primary School, suffered a heart attack in 2008 at the age of 49. Together, Doug and Shari researched and learned how to improve Doug’s heart health so it wouldn’t happen again. He adopted a whole food plant diet and lost 60 pounds over three years. In 2016, they shared their knowledge and offered the 10 Day Jump Start Your Health Challenge to Victor schools’ staff and 65 participants took part. In 2018, the 10-day challenge was adopted by 35 school districts around the area and over 1,300 participants took part. In 2020, over 3,500 people participated after it was opened to the general public. The Schmidt’s recently published a cookbook and are on Facebook where they provide recipes, tips, encouragement, and resources. Hall said Doug and Shari have created a supportive and positive environment for those looking to take control of and improve their health.

Kamaria Shepard, a 2020 BHS graduate, was nominated by Principal Dr. Tom Hall. Dr. Hall wrote: Kamaria lives the Brighton Believes traits of respect, responsibility, kindness, self-control, and integrity! Kamaria leads our Black Student Union and has participated in numerous events like Roc2Change and panel discussions to talk about race and diversity. She is a member of Brighton High School’s Culture Climate Leadership Team where the goal is to improve the culture and climate of BHS and make it a safe and caring place for all students and staff. She is a leader on our track and field teams and is a model BHS student who gives up her time for the betterment of her community at BHS. She lives Brighton Believes!

Lynn Staropoli Boucher, a community member, was nominated by Aimee Senise Conners. Aimee wrote: Lynne has done a tremendous service bringing Yoga to Brighton residents. She created and has filled a much needed resource in the Brighton Recreation department where she offers weekly classes. She also regularly works with Brighton High School teams in yoga team-building and community building workshops and classes. Lynne was the founder of the Rochester Yoga Service Network, dedicated to bringing yoga to underserved populations. She works regularly with Teen Empowerment in Rochester and continues to lead Yoga Revolution for college students at Nazareth College. In addition to her local efforts in the town, Lynne serves as President of the national Yoga Service Council. Lynne has been a long-time Brighton resident, Director of the Center for Spirituality at Nazareth College, and an all-around good person. She exemplifies the qualities of Brighton Believes!

Mattie Valinsky, now a senior at BHS, was nominated by Rita Bannister, a librarian who worked with Mattie at the Aberlard Reynolds Elementary School in the Rochester City School District. Rita wrote: Mattie worked tirelessly to secure over 1,000 gently-used books to distribute to every student each year, for the past three years! Her dedication to helping our students have their own books to take home and keep, as you might imagine, made a significant impact on our student body. In addition to the books, she secured backpacks from SUNY Geneseo, St. John Fisher College, and Nazareth College. Her genuine interest in helping the students was not only gratifying, it was inspiring. Mattie’s work encompasses all of the character traits of Brighton Believes. Mattie’s interaction with students was always respectful and kind. Students quickly realized she was someone who cared about them and wanted to help them. Mattie is a mature, responsible young woman who has made a positive impact on hundreds of students. I can only imagine what a wonderful difference she will make in the lives of people as she continues her journey.

Olivia Weiser, who was a FRES fifth grader last school year, was nominated by physical education teacher Rick LaPaglia. Mr. LaPaglia wrote: When I observe Olivia during my PE class, I see a bright, energetic and happy girl. When she is running around with her classmates, her smile lights up the gym. Olivia is always kind and compassionate to the other students in her class. Having students like Olivia brightens my day and serves as a reminder of why I enjoy teaching so much. Her classroom teacher, Mrs. Close, remarked that she is a very hard worker and is a good friend to all of her peers. As a role model for her classmates, she is a member of student council and safety patrol. Her art teacher, Mrs. Burtner, shared that Olivia is the first student who will offer to help another classmate with a project and even assists special needs students in her class.

Dr. Richard Lee Wolfe, a community member and clinical psychologist, was nominated by Tonya Jacobs. Tonya wrote: Dr. Wolfe is an incredibly hard working individual and he goes way above and beyond what anyone in his position would do. Dr. Wolfe is also one of the most kind people I have ever met. Dr. Wolfe’s work does not end in his office. His work gets spread throughout the community and world. He is changing people’s lives for the better. Dr. Wolfe’s work not only changes the person’s life he is directly working with, he is also changing people’s lives he never met, because his work continues through so many people.