FORT MILL — The 54th annual Fort Mill Education and Volunteer Awards Program recognized community leaders Monday at Fort Mill High School.
The Lifetime Achievement Award went to former Fort Mill Mayor Charlie Powers, who has been a resident of Fort Mill for 57 years. Powers spent 24 years as mayor and another six as a Fort Mill Town Councilman, and he has been an active member in many local groups and organizations during the years.
Powers was recognized on a state level in the past with the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor.
Janice May was awarded Citizen of the Year for her work on the Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Commission, and the 2012 Comprehensive Plan. May was also recognized for being a member of the Fort Mill Economic Council, where she helped create a farmers market that launched last year. She is currently serving as chairwoman of the upcoming S.C. Strawberry Festival.
Young Citizen of the Year went to Jeremy LaShombe for his work in Nation Ford High School’s Heath Occupations students of America Club and the Health Science Department, where he works to positively impact lives of those suffering with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
The Public Safety and Awareness Award was given to Jonathan Gilbert, a Fort Mill Police officer, who serves as School Resource Officer at three schools. In his role as SRO,Gilbert is a teacher, guidance counselor and coach to the children he comes in contact with. On top of his duties, Gilbert has given back to the community through his work with the Junior Police Camp and the Do The Right Thing program.
This year’s event was the first time the Murray B. White Preservationist of the Year award was given to a group rather than an individual. White presented the award to Board of Managers of the Anne Springs Close Greenway because its members recognize that “preservation is just as important as development” and for the service they provide the area.
“The Greenway is committed to meeting the outdoor needs of this region, not just this community, but this region, in the future,” said White, a former county councilman and champion for the environment.
Patrick White was awarded the Civic Volunteer of the Year award for his work in serving 12 years on the Fort Mill School Board. He has been the board’s chairman since 2009. On top of his efforts in the school district, White also serves on the Board of Directors for SC Future Minds, the Fort Mill Area Council, The Rotary Club and was a Deacon and Elder at Unity Presbyterian Church.
“I always thought if I could ever get out of Fort Mill I’d never come back,” White said. “But it’s not so bad to come back. It’s a great place to raise a family and I thank God for that.”
The education portion of the ceremony recognized some of the top students in the district.
The top five seniors at Fort Mill and Nation Ford high schools recognized for their work were: Jessica Brugh, Matthew Case, Shuler Cotton, Bridget Luckie and Vanessa Zarubin of Fort Mill, and twins Ben and Jonathan Drake, Clara Gleason, Andrew White and Courtney Williams of Nation Ford.
Paul Kutz, who spoke on behalf of the presenting sponsor Comporium, addressed these students about their dedication and how it will be important to the future.
“Comporium is proud to be a sponsor of this because we need a skilled and educated workforce to pursue opportunities to advance technology,” Kutz said. “Comporium is looking to the future and we need smart, well-educated employees to help us continue to be successful in this new world.”
The event also recognized the work of the faculty and staff in the district by presenting awards to the school winners for Teacher of the Year and Support Staff Employee of the Year.
Teachers honored were: Adrienne Bynum, Chuck Walker, Rachel Webster, Yvette Senesi, Kathryn Beebe, Audrey Culp, Jessica Wiggins, Mary Gover, Erin Martinez, Lindsay Dillon, Ashley Mantel, Krista Taylor and Jill Fuller. Lipi Pratt, 2013 winner of the District Teacher of the Year was also recognized for her work at Sugar Creek Elementary School.
The staff awarded Support Staff Employee of the Year were: Sally Harvey, Rob Johnson, Tanya Hudson, Anne Navarro, Neena Hudson, Kathy Beach, Wendy Matherly, Trish Caruso, Kelly Sittloh, Andi Brown, Sarah Doran, Robin Mabry, Terri Misenheimer, Rick Austin, Bonny Sandy, Margaret Buckaloo and Mandy Carter. The ceremony also honored Debbie Morshead of Fort Mill Elementary, winner of the 2013 District Support Staff Employee of the Year for her work as a kindergarten assistant.
Trudi Heemsoth, a former Fort Mill School Board member who retired last year, after 11 years as Fort Mill Area Council Director, was recognized for her service.
S.C. House District 26 Rep. Raye Felder, a longtime Fort Mill resident, said this program is important because it celebrates the people that make Fort Mill “a great place to live, a great place to work and a great place to raise a family.”
Felder also said, “The Fort Mill District excels because the backbone of the schools is its citizens.”