Luzerne County Head Start awards scholarships, honors community partners and staff at 59th Anniversary Luncheon - Luzerne County Head Start
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Luzerne County Head Start awards scholarships, honors community partners and staff at 59th Anniversary Luncheon

May 16, 2024

Luzerne County Head Start, Inc. (LCHS) held its 59th Anniversary Luncheon on May 13 to celebrate its longstanding commitment to enhancing the quality of life for low-income children and their families. Along with recognizing its staff for milestone years of service, LCHS awarded college scholarships to former Head Start students and honored its community partners. Geisinger was this year’s exclusive Diamond-level sponsor.

Staff, community partners and scholarship students gather at Mohegan Pennsylvania for the LCHS 59th Anniversary Luncheon.

Now in its 38th year, the LCHS Alumni Scholarship Program – funded by businesses, organizations and individuals in the community – honors the achievements of former Head Start preschool students set to graduate from high school and continue their education. LCHS awarded $22,000 in scholarships this year to 16 seniors from seven school districts in Luzerne and Wyoming counties, bringing the total to $355,450 since the program’s inception. This year’s scholarship recipients were:

  • Heidi Knoss, Tunkhannock Area High School, $5,000 Fran Williams Memorial Scholarship. 
  • Bara’a Kamal, Wyoming Valley West High School, $2,000 Benco Family Foundation Scholarship.
  • Isabel Vazquez, Wilkes-Barre Area High School, $1,500 Eugene Hogan Memorial Scholarship.
  • Lucy Obrzut, Wyoming Area High School, $1,500 Tomalis-Gatusky Family Scholarship.
  • Jacinda Miller, Wilkes-Barre Area High School, $1,000 Tomalis-Gatusky Family Scholarship.
  • Ibraheem Latifou, Wilkes-Barre Area High School, $1,000 PNC Bank Scholarship.
  • Tina-Pearl Nghotambo, Wilkes-Barre Area High School, $1,000 Navient Community Fund Scholarship.
  • Katelyn Tereska, Lake-Lehman High School, $1,000 George R. Evans Memorial Scholarship.
  • Joseph Souder, Wyoming Valley West High School, $1,000 Mary & Tom Sewatsky Family Scholarship.
  • Marie Popielarz, Dallas High School, $1,000 LCHS Board of Directors Lena Taylor Memorial Scholarship.
  • Emily Jacien, Wyoming Area High School, $1,000 Luzerne County Bar Association Charitable Foundation Scholarship.
  • Ivy Visneski, Northwest Area High School, $1,000 Church of Christ Uniting Scholarship.
  • Shirley Samanta Bermejo-Calle, Wilkes-Barre Area High School, $1,000 Friends of Head Start Scholarship.
  • Julitza Cazares Gaspar, Wilkes-Barre Area High School, $500 LCHS Policy Council Claudia O’Boyle Memorial Scholarship and $500 Delaney Family Scholarship.
  • Michelle Muñoz-Cordero, Wilkes-Barre Area High School, $500 Coombs Family Memorial Scholarship, $250 Pittston Tomato Festival Committee Scholarship, and $250 Benco Family Foundation Scholarship.
  • Jadon Tlatenchi, Wilkes-Barre Area High School, $500 Cross Valley Federal Credit Union Scholarship and $500 Travis Black Scholarship.
Luzerne County Head Start, Inc. awarded $22,000 in scholarships to former Head Start preschool students set to graduate high school and continue their education. In the front row, from left: Heidi Knoss, Bara’a Kamal, Isabel Vazquez, Lucy Obrzut, Jacinda Miller and Tina-Pearl Nghotambo. Back row: Joseph Souder, Emily Jacien, Ivy Visneski, Shirley Samanta Bermejo-Calle, Julitza Cazares Gaspar, Michelle Muñoz-Cordero and Jadon Tlatenchi. Not pictured: Marie Popielarz, Ibraheem Latifou and Katelyn Tereska.

LCHS established the Outstanding Community Partner Award 40 years ago to recognize those who have made significant contributions to the agency. Since then, more than 120 businesses, organizations and individuals have been named Outstanding Community Partners based on nominations from LCHS employees. This year, the agency honored three Outstanding Community Partners:   

  • Sergeant James Sheridan, Wilkes-Barre City Police Department 
  • UGI Utilities, Inc. & UGI Energy Services 
  • Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Wyoming Valley 

Additionally, LCHS gave special recognition to Luzerne County Community College President Thomas P. Leary, who will soon retire from LCCC after 50 years of service. LCHS operates four preschool classrooms between LCCC’s campuses in Nanticoke and Hazleton, and President Leary’s support of the Head Start mission has been instrumental in this partnership.  

LCHS Assistant Executive Director Beth White received the Bold Leadership Award. This award acknowledges and celebrates exemplary leadership that has a significant impact on the children, families, and staff at LCHS. It recognizes those who demonstrate initiative, serve as outstanding role models, and inspire others to work collaboratively and creatively, while serving as a champion for the children and families LCHS serves.

LCHS also recognized 40 staff members, Foster Grandparents, bus drivers/monitors and board members for milestone years of service to the agency. This year’s honorees were: 

5 Years

Staff recognized for 5 years of service were, seated from left, Priscila Andrade, Crystal Avalos-Hendrickson, Kelly Bartron, Jane Chakiris, Irma Rosado, Angela Dube, and Giselle Cotto. Standing: Maria Urena De Santos, Deborah Tavaglione, Stacey Sturdevant, Jeimy Quezada, Jamie Lee Feliciano, Lourdes Duverge, Deanna Lange, Eneida Lugo Cardona, Dana Weidman, and Rosalie Winiewicz. Not pictured: Bonnie Natt, Donna Thubbron, and Ery Turbi.
LCHS Director of Operations Dawn Smith, left, presents 5-year certificates to Barry Lockavich, Ruth Coughlin, and Cheryl Lupher from WVW Transport. Not pictured: Gail Culver and Carol Prebish (15 years).
LCHS Director of Operations Dawn Smith presents a 5-year certificate to Ahmad Ali, a member of the LCHS Board of Directors.

10 Years

Staff recognized for 10 years of service were, from left, Deborah Buchanan, Colleen Baird, Kate Borton, Melissa Janick, Karen Laidacker, and Cheryl Wallitsch.
LCHS Human Resources Manager Lynn Watters, left, presents a 10-year certificate to Foster Grandmother Gwendolyn Vieney.

15 Years

Staff recognized for 15 years of service were, from left, Christina Shovlin, Tanya DeWolfe, Victoria Lucas, and Madeleyne O’Brien.

20 Years

LCHS Director of Operations Dawn Smith, right, presents Lorrie Williams with a staff certificate and gift for 20 years of service.

25 Years

Staff recognized for 25 years of service were Aimee Schneider, left, and Keira Radginski. Both received framed drawings by Head Start children.

By Brooke Williams, Community Advocate

All photos by Katerina Que Photography