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Aw Shucks awards presented to Lalancette, Neeld

Since 1996, Connecting Youth in Chittenden South (CY) has honored community volunteers who have dedicated their time to supporting youth and families. The evening is called the “Aw Shucks” Awards Night because often this is what recipients say when they are told that they are being recognized. This year the event was held on April 2 and honored nine individuals, bringing the 16-year Aw Shucks total to over 200 honorees committed to youth and families in Charlotte, Hinesburg, St. George, Shelburne and Williston.“With as much as CY does in our communities, we are far from the only program or people to have a positive impact on the lives of our youth,” said CY Director Christine Lloyd-Newberry. “The number of suggestions we received this year as we prepared for the event was inspiring. There is no shortage of committed individuals in our midst, but on April 2 we recognized a group of exceptional people who have gone above and beyond in so many ways.”

This year, awards were presented to the following Williston residents:

Cheryl Lalancette (left) and Liz Neeld were honored with Aw Shucks awards at a celebration on Monday, April 2. (Courtesy photo)

When asked what Lalancette does to be deserving of an “Aw Shucks” award one community member said, “I can’t think of anything other than everything people ask of her.” When a student wanted to learn how to sew and needed some extra attention, Lalancette stayed after school for many sessions of one-on-one sewing projects; when another student who loved to knit was struggling, Lalancette put aside her own agendas and knit with her.  Her whole family has mentored a family through the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. As CY Mentor for the last eight years, she helps recruit other mentors. Lalancette is described as always going way above and beyond on behalf of students and doing so quietly without drawing special attention to herself.

Liz Neeld

Neeld has been described as an “ideas person with the confidence to get things done.” As Chair of Williston Central School’s “Families as Partners” team, she is highly engaged in the school community and deeply involved in the many fundraisers created to help support students, staff and school activities. Her fundraising efforts are appreciated not only because of the money they generate, but because they are undertaken with teachers in mind. Her volunteerism comes with a family package frequently involving her daughters. When Hurricane Irene hit and a Williston Central School teacher’s home was flooded, Neeld and her children stepped forward to set up his classroom getting it ready for the year and she guest taught for the first week. This is only one of many examples of how Neeld is not only able to make people feel special, but how she shares her talents with others for the benefit of the community.

Each year at the Aw Shucks Celebration, one dedicated volunteer from the CY Mentoring program is presented with an award in honor of Dr. Brian O’Regan; past CSSU Superintendent.  Dr. O’Regan was a long-time believer in fostering caring, supportive youth-adult connections and was a mentor at Shelburne Community School. When he retired from CSSU, he asked community members to contribute to a “CY Mentoring Program Trust” as a lasting gift to the children of our district.  This year’s recipient was Mike Grillo for his eleven years with CY Mentoring.  He began in 2001 at Williston Central School and when he moved to Hinesburg in 2008, transferred to mentoring at the Hinesburg Community School. He currently mentors an eighth grade boy who he has been with for four years. One of the reasons that Mike is so successful is that he comes to mentoring with no expectations, but to find a way to connect with his mentee through lightness and fun. Mike understands that mentoring can be rewarding as well as hard work, and he is committed to the mentoring relationship, wherever it may lead. Mike has mentored four boys to date, and plans on mentoring a fifth student next year.

CY serves the communities of Charlotte, Hinesburg, St. George, Shelburne,and Williston. For more information, visit www.seewhy.info and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/connectingyouth.