WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (SEPTEMBER 25, 2023) — The Williamsport Area School District Education Foundation (WASDEF) held its first Cherry & White Appreciation Night, an evening dedicated to honoring the invaluable contributions of WASD educators.
Held at Lycoming College’s Trachte Music Center on Sept. 21, the event was marked by the induction of this year’s Williamsport Area High School Distinguished Alumni and a presentation by keynote speaker Michael Bonner.
“On behalf of the education foundation board of directors, I want to express our appreciation to the educators in this room and for recognizing us as a vehicle by which to help enhance the educational experience,” said WASDEF Executive Greg Hayes.
Hayes reported the education foundation provided $172,000 in grant support to district programs and scholarships in the 2022-2023 school year, benefiting an estimated 4,100 students. Additionally, it received nearly $215,000 in contributions from more than 400 donors.
Over the past five years, Hayes added, WASDEF has granted nearly $1.2 million to programs and scholarships, while also securing about $1.7 million in donations.
“These numbers embody more than just the data displayed on the screen behind me,” Hayes said. “They symbolize the driving force that brought to life programs, expanded access or created opportunities, and they represent your colleagues’ vision for an enhanced learning experience and passion for the work you do. Your dedication shapes the lives of thousands of graduates who go on to achieve remarkable success, like the individuals we’re about to honor.”
WASDEF President Dr. Brooke Beiter presented this year’s cohort of Distinguished Alumni: Alan Eck ’87, Ruth Perry Hodge ’54, Jerah Reeves ’16, and Mary Sieminski ’61.
Eck received the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. Excelling in the field of accounting before retiring as the senior tax manager for a prominent $5 billion construction company, he has made a name himself as an NFL football officiator, earning significant recognition in the sports world.
Throughout her career, Hodge, who received the Distinguished Alumni Humanitarian Award, dedicated herself to public service, working at the US Army War College and the US Army Military History Institute. She also played a crucial role in preserving and celebrating the contributions of African Americans during World War II.
Reeves received the Distinguished Young Alumnus Award for his significant impact in the field of leadership development, particularly in higher education, by pioneering the Transformational Leaders Program and founding Level Up Gen-Z, an information and technology company focused on empowering young people.
Sieminski received the Distinguished Alumni Service Award for being a passionate advocate for women’s rights and for playing a pivotal role in preserving the history of local women through her work with the Lycoming County Women's History Project.
A dynamic keynote speaker and advocate for self-care and leadership development, Bonner has made a significant impact on the field of education. His journey, featured on national platforms like “The Ellen Show” and “NBC Nightly News,” showcases his ability to empower leaders and educators to build genuine relationships, foster positive organizational cultures, and enhance team development.
His message left educators in attendance inspired and feeling motivated to create positive changes in both their professional and personal lives.
“Such an incredible night,” said Brooke Nenadal, a gifted enrichment teacher at Cochran Primary and Curtin Intermediate schools. “The teachers who were there felt a renewed sense of purpose, energy and appreciation. I hope the foundation continues to do these types of things because word was spread and it was felt in the hearts of us who needed it the most tonight.”
From Jennifer Wright, a music teacher at Williamsport Area Middle School: “Tonight’s speakers, the Distinguished Alumni and Mr. Bonner, were a shot of adrenaline to continue on with passion, purpose, diligence and relationships.”
WASDEF also gave away $2,000 in classroom grants as prizes to the following winners: Kelsie Buckwalter, a special education teacher at Cochran Primary School, and Linda Snyder, a Title 1 reading specialist at Jackson Primary School, each won $500, while Rebecca Loffredo, a third grade teacher at Jackson Primary School, won $1,000.
WASDEF is a recognized nonprofit affiliate of the Williamsport Area School District. The education foundation facilitates charitable giving and permanent legacies based on individual areas of interest in educational innovation, the arts, athletics and scholarships. For more information, visit www.wasdeducationfoundation.org.