Brooke student earns FEA honor

WELLSBURG – A Brooke High School senior was honored at an international conference Saturday for a community service project involving students with special needs.

Angie Smith was presented the Future Educators of America’s Leadership Award at the organization’s international conference Saturday in Orlando, Fla.

“The award is given to an FEA member who has made a notable, voluntary contribution to education and in so doing, demonstrated outstanding initiative,” said Diane Lucero, instructor and adviser to the Brooke County FEA chapter.

Lucero added the award “is the highest honor an FEA member can earn.”

Smith, who lives with her grandparents Richard and Donna Smith, also was presented a $1,000 scholarship by the San Antonio, Texas, chapter of the Phi Delta Kappa international educators fraternity.

Lucero explained it’s an annual tradition for the chapter to award a scholarship to a Leadership Award winner.

Smith became one of more than 900 students from throughout the U.S. and Canada competing in this year’s conference after placing first at the state level for establishing the Friends Helping Friends club at the school.

Through the group, Smith and nine friends have taught several students with special needs to cook spaghetti and other dishes and learn other life skills, with the cooperation of teachers Shari Buffington and Kelly Hannaoui.

Lucero added the group also has helped the students to hone their social skills through such activities as joining the school’s football team at a practice and attending the Sadie Hawkens Dance together.

She said following the dance, “One of them told me, this is the best school ever.”

Smith said the students’ cheerful nature inspired her to work with them. She recalled having a bad day once when she was greeted by student Brad Maderia in the hall.

“His smile picked me up,” she said. “They’re so happy and fun to be around.”

Lucero said Smith was required to submit a 20-page portfolio documenting her efforts as well as photos for illustration.

“She continued even after surpassing the required 40 hours. She just kept it going,” Lucero said.

Lucero said she hopes Smith’s younger classmates will keep the club active following her graduation.

Smith is planning to study special education and early education at Glenville State College.

She credits two teachers, Morgan Kent and Jami Packer, for helping Smith come to like high school in her freshman year. The two were among many who helped her to raise money for the trip to Orlando.

Lucero said she and Brianna Kowalsky, who represented the school and West Virginia at the conference as the state’s FEA vice president, solicited contributions from various sources for airfare, lodging, the registration fee and other expenses for the conference.

Kowalsky placed first at the state FEA conference in a competition that involved students submitting resumes and participating in mock interviews. But she didn’t earn enough points for the written portion of the competition to make the cut for the national event.

Lucero added the fundraising efforts also received a boost through a dance held at Wellsburg Middle School that raised $700 and a spaghetti dinner held by students led by English and drama instructor Nathan Marshall that raised $350.

To complete requirements for the career education program, which is for students interested in becoming teachers or working at day care centers, she is observing and teaching in Judy Fowler’s class at Beech Bottom Primary School.

Smith is the third student from Lucero’s career education classes to place at the international conference. In 2010 Ruth Plunkitt placed second in the competition’s impromptu speaking category; and Ryan Cipoletti placed third in the lesson plan category in 2011 and first for the same category in 2012.