The Hope Spot 2: Our 2017 Award Ceremonies


WV Awards Pic 2Our cards lined up at the Waltersville Ceremony. Photo by Jessra Photos.

Last week, TCCI wrapped up its programmatic year in its Bronx and Bridgeport partner schools by hosting award ceremonies to recognize and honor over 250 students for their excellent work. Honorable mentions and first place awards were also given to those students who demonstrated outstanding growth in character and mindfulness. These were truly wonderful and inspiring celebrations.

Below are the comments I made at each ceremony and I would like to share them with you along with some great pictures of those two awesome events. Enjoy!

WV Awards Pic 3UN Speaker, Jalene Rivera and her mom join over 150 other attendees at Waltersville School in Bridgeport, CT. Photo by Jessra Photos 

We started the year with Dr. Martin Luther King’s Quote: “Intelligence plus character, that is the true goal of education.” Dr. King’s words are truer today than when he said them over 50 years go. But they are not always followed in our nation’s classrooms. When you come to school, you’re given the intelligence part of the equation. You come to learn ELA, social studies, science, and math, and then you’re tested. You’re tested repeatedly and the focus on those tests might make you feel like you’re nothing but a number or a rating on a piece of paper. Don’t get me wrong, learning all of this is important. Grades are important. But there are deeper questions often ignored: Who is the person behind the name? How is it that this person in this 7th or 8th-grade body can find the time and the space to be who they truly are? And how can they show the world that person and finally, how can they make a difference by helping others?

BX Awards Pic 2Our Bronx 8th graders waiting for the awards ceremony to begin. Photo by Tracy Bacigalupo.

That’s where TCCI tried to help you out a bit. And here was our recipe: We honored who we were no matter what, we worked to be our best and we shared our wisdom. With TCCI anyone can be the teacher because we are still learning. Every one of you in some way has taught me something this year. That’s why I do what I do. I am the teacher who gets to learn what it means to be his best from his students. Because guess what, even I haven’t figured it out.

To put it simply, you guys were THE BEST and going from October giving weird looks to this dude with his iPhone meditation timer to just knowing exactly what it meant to do your Mindfulness Check-Ins made me one of the happiest guys around. I knew in some small way it changed you and made you a little bit happier or better. The same way it did for me.

WV Awards 1It was a make-your-own-tacos award ceremony for Walterville. Photo by Jessra Photos. 

BX Awards Pic 3Dalton Grant, 8th Grade teacher at St. Simon Stock School, speaks about our programs in her classroom. Photo by Tracy Bacigalupo. 

WV Awards Pic 4Carrie Ramanauskas, Waltersville English/Language Arts teacher, speaks about the importance of parent involvement.

If you look at our nine character words, you’ll see that two of the most important words bookend our list: Mindfulness and Compassion. Mindfulness to help you recognize all the great stuff that is going on right now in life. Not what’s already happened or what’s going to happen. RIGHT NOW! It helps you to be calm, to be focused and just enjoy what is. The goal of that practice is to make you a person of compassion. A person that can turn around with this awesome knowledge of now-ness and care for yourself, for others and for the world. Imagine if everyone lived from this place? Imagine how different our world would be?

Well, it can start with you. I would like to share something that was shared with me. It’s a powerful example of just how transformative compassion can be and I do think it’s the whole point of our time together.

In certain regions of South Africa, when someone does something wrong, he is taken to the center of the village and surrounded by his tribe for two days while they speak of all the good he has done. They believe each person is good, yet sometimes we make mistakes, which is really a cry for help. They unite in this ritual to encourage the person to reconnect with his true nature. The belief is that unity and affirmation have more power to change behavior than shame and punishment. This is known as Ubuntu-humanity toward others.

BX Award Pic 1Bronx student, Ciara Dominguez, reads from her essay:  “The greatest challenge in life is discovering who you are. The second greatest is being happy with what you find.” Photo by Tracy Bacigalupo. 

WV Awards 6Emmanuel Vega has a classmate read his essay to the group at Waltersville: “I use and need perseverance when I am thinking about some of the hard things that I have been going through in my life.”

WV Awards 7Johncarlos Gonzalez wrote and recorded an awesome song he courageously presented at the ceremony: “I am a person of survival.” Photo by Jessra Photos.

WV Awards 10Cristal Ortiz-Santana wrote about living with cerebral palsy: “I want people with disabilities or obstacles in their way to have enough courage to push forward.” Photo by Jessra Photos. 

Humanity toward yourself and others. What else is there? And if you get off track like we all do, take the words with you and keep them in your mind and heart. If you’re feeling anxious and unfocused remember to breathe, remember to be mindful. If you’re facing a challenge remember courage. If you’re bored or stuck, remember curiosity. If you’re not sure what’s right, remember integrity. If you’re feeling like taking the easy way out, remember best effort. If you just want to give up, remember perseverance. If you’re feeling like something is unfair or you’re not getting your way, remember gratitude. If you’re feeling like you don’t have enough, remember generosity, and if you’re feeling like you’re the only person out there in the whole wide world and no one cares, remember compassion. Someone always cares.

You have the tools go out there, be good to yourself and be good to others.

WV Awards 9Many thanks to everyone who made this an amazing school year for TCCI! Photo by Jessra Photos.