Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The "Angels in Charge" Scholarship Winners - Part 2

The recipients have been named and the awards presented.  

Two high school seniors from Newtown High School, Julia and Danielle, were chosen earlier in June as recipients for the "Angels in Charge" Scholarship Award.  Both girls received a $1250 scholarship that was generated from the sale of my children's story, The Little Lambs and the Very Special Mission. The girls were chosen by a panel of adults from Newtown High School. They met the academic requirements, were involved in school activities, and were very active in their community.  Both girls were influenced by kids and both plan to pursue careers in education.

Today, I'm going to tell you about Danielle.  Like Julia, Danielle just graduated from Newtown High School and is the other 2014 "Angel in Charge" scholarship award winner. 

In her application essay, Danielle said, "as a child, I was always playing school with my pointer stick and my dolls as students."  As she grew older, she said, "the goal of teaching in a school setting evolved to teaching on the [softball] diamond."  

Danielle is a softball player.  She helped out with softball clinics for young girls who "were always eager to learn" and other teenagers, like herself, who were "eager to teach."  One young, enthusiastic softball player was 6-year-old Grace McDonnell. 

Danielle's said, "The latest and greatest trend at the time was unique and colorful feather extensions.  My turquoise feather stood out through my ponytail as I tossed and threw ground balls to the future softball stars. Grace particularly admired this accessory, and couldn't wait to take part in the fad.  Grace's smile never filled her face more than the day she too arrived at the field with an identical turquoise feather extension in her hair.  It stood out prominently among the golden wavy strands tied back in her ponytail.  Of course, she wouldn't let me miss it.  When I pointed it out and complimented Grace on her feather, she responded, "I wanted to be just like you."

In her essay, Danielle stated, "There is no greater feeling than that of reward.  I would imagine that this is what teachers really aspire to achieve. That is the feeling I long for when I think about living the dream I have always had about teaching.  This incredible feeling was never more present than every Tuesday, when Grace showed up for softball, and made her way into my group, ready to improve her skills.  Having a child like Grace who looked up to and showed such respect for me is the type of assurance that makes everything I'm doing seem like it is right.  It makes me feel that this really is what my future is supposed to entail, that teaching is something meant for me.  There is such great importance in recognizing a symbol like this.  We are all meant to do something with our lives, and we need to see past the social expectations and find what our passion and calling is. 

Grace McDonnell
"Success is defined in one hundred different ways, relative to the person defining it; relative to their experience, their aspirations, and their dreams.  Through my experiences, I have learned that success should revolve around the betterment of the lives of others.  Your experiences define who you are, and who you will be.  My experience is through Grace McDonnell.  My aspiration is to teach, and my dream is to change children's lives, one classroom at a time."

"When tragedy struck my town on December 14, 2012, my aspirations for teaching had never been more solidified.  Grace McDonnell was my drive, and I knew I had to become a teacher in order to change other little boys' and girls' lives, and have them change mine, just like Grace had.  She may not have the opportunity to be the next Newtown softball star, but every night, when the sky gets dark, Grace is there. She is the star that shines the brightest, and that is the star that will continue to inspire me to change children's lives for the rest of my life."  

In my letter to Danielle, I told her:  As a recipient of the “Angels in Charge” award, you are being recognized for your leadership at school and in your community, in addition to being an outstanding student.  To me, it means you have emulated the legacy of the Sandy Hook teachers: you are a role model, a hero, and already, an “Angel in Charge” teacher.  I am so proud of you and your accomplishments.  Danielle Shine - keep shining your star light as you go through life.  I know you have a special little angel named Grace McDonnell on your shoulder and together, you are going to help make our world a better place!!  

Grace McDonnell, age 7, was one of the 20 children who parished in the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.  She was born on November 4, 2005, the beloved daughter of Christopher and Lynn McDonnell of Sandy Hook.  Grace died tragically on December 14, 2014 at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  She was a beautiful, artistic soul and was truly a gift from God.  She represented all that is good in this world.  Grace was passionate about painting and she loved the beach.  Her dream was to become a painter and to live on Martha's Vineyard. 

Author Rhonda Paglia with student
co-illustrator, Taylor Galaska
Rhonda Paglia is a children's author, a retired elementary teacher, and a "not so retired" grandmother from Pennsylvania. "Grammy Pags," as she is called, is the author of 4 children's books.  

"The Little Lambs and the Very Special Mission" was her first children's book to be released to the public.  This story came to her during her prayers for the children, teachers, and familes after the tragedy at Sandy Hook.  This gentle, sweet story is dedicated to the children and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School and offers the hope that the world will become a better place.  All the profits from the sale of this book go to the "Angels in Charge" Scholarship Award for students graduating from Newtown High School who meet the requirements and are planning a career in education.  

Other books by Rhonda Paglia: 

"Doonsey's Beach Adventure, the Great Rescue"  and "Doonsey's Beach Adventure, the Great Rescue, Coloring and Activity Book."  Doonsey is a little ocean crab that loves to explore.  His quiet exploring day becomes a great rescue day in the fun little adventure about a beach crab with a big heart.

Her newest books is, "Three Little Gnomes and a Boy Named Orion."  Three little gnomes discover that they have a big problem.  They look for the solution and make a new friend in the process. All books are appropriate for kids 2+, reading level grades 2 - 3