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Sensei Andrew Cornell and 4 Other Advocates Recognized

The Coalition named a martial arts instructor, a social worker, a school superintendent, and two school districts as 2013’s top advocates for children. The Washington County Coalition for Children presented the five awards at its annual Children’s Issues Forum Wednesday, May 22nd in Narragansett.

Sensei Andrew Cornell named 2013 Champion for Children

The Coalition chose Gabrieles (Narragansett) Martial Arts Instructor Andrew Cornell to receive its Champion for Children award, given to an “unsung hero who displays exemplary efforts to make a difference in the lives of children and families in Washington County,” explained the Coalition Secretary Shannon Cassidy.

“Sensei Andrew Cornell’s work with young students includes discussions and actions to prevent drug & alcohol abuse, dealing with bullying, overcoming physical, emotional & sexual abuse, as well as teaching them practical and real-life self defense,” she noted.

“He does presentations to local schools about the impact of bullying.  He has organized several fundraisers for local organizations, including the Domestic Violence Resource Center of South County, Jonnycake Center, and victims of Hurricane Sandy.  He works closely with the Autism Project and gives free lessons to their students.”

Cornell has a 5th degree black belt in karate, a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and is a two-time world champion. He is the chief instructor of the South Kingstown Dojo.

“Sensei Cornell is a true leader, teacher, and daily champion for the children in his community,” Cassidy concluded.

Humbled by the honor, Cornell spoke about how he is a product of Washington County.  “I grew up here.  I had great parents, coaches, and mentors guiding me all along the way. . .I’m so happy to be able to share this honor with my students and show them what they can do, too,” said Cornell.

Social Worker Joseph Carr named “Champion for Community Change”

The Coalition recognized social worker Joseph Carr, LICSW, with its Champion for Community Change award. It’s presented to a member who “serves as both catalyst and facilitator for improved services” and collaborates “to make things happen,” said Coalition Co-Chair Sean Walsh.

Joe Carr with Susan Orban“Besides serving on the Coalition’s Children’s Mental Health Advisory Board, Joe has been an integral part of a number of Coalition initiatives over the years.  He administered the Coalition’s B.E.S.T. (Behavioral Emotional Support & Training) Program, an effort to manage young children with challenging behaviors in childcare settings.  He promoted the program with area child care providers, matched consultants with centers and parents, and facilitated regional training for local providers.

“Joe was also a key player in the Coalition’s Community Consultation Program at Curtis Corner Middle School in South Kingstown. He met monthly with the school’s mental health team to offer professional consultation and guidance for struggling students.

“Joe has also been an ardent ambassador for the Coalition’s Feelin’ Groovy Project,” Walsh continued.

“Throughout his career, his commitment to doing what is best for children and families has been clear. We’re pleased to recognize it.”

Community Partnership Awards to area schools, South Kingstown school superintendent

With their daily influence on the County’s children, it was little surprise that the Coalition also recognized two school districts and South Kingstown School Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow, EdD, for their leadership. Each received the Coalition’s Community Partnership Award.

The Chariho School District was honored for partnering with the Coalition since 2008 to promote emotional literacy among its students, Walsh announced.

“Second grade teachers in all four of its district elementary schools have participated in Feelin’ Groovy, carrying out “The Way I Feel” lesson plan and engaging students in designing bookmarks about their feelings. Students at the Chariho Vo-Tech School have then printed the children’s bookmarks for distribution to participating schools and local public libraries. Everyone from classroom to art and vo-tech teachers, from School Nurse Lynn Larned (Hope Valley) to all the principals have contributed to the project’s success over the years,” he said.

Kristen Stringfellow, EdD, superintendent of the South Kingstown Schools was singled out for enabling hers to be the first school district in the state to pilot the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, at Curtis Corner Middle School. Dr. Stringfellow has further committed to rolling out the program over the next three years in the district’s other elementary and middle schools.

“Dr. Stringfellow has been steadfast in her commitment to making students feel safe at school so they can learn and thrive,” Walsh stated.  “In the midst of mounting academic accountability pressures, not to mention budget constraints, she has prioritized bullying prevention and taken a bold stand for what’s best for our children.”

The Coalition similarly acknowledged the Westerly Public Schools for partnering on key initiatives to improve the lives of the town’s children and their families, said Walsh.

“District staff have been involved in Feelin’ Groovy (the Coalition’s emotional literacy initiative), the Westerly Infant & Child Health Partnership, Collaborative Office Rounds, our School Success Initiative, and most recently the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program,” he reported.  Last year, the district launched the Westerly Parent Academy.

“Community partnerships are a bold and proactive approach to helping students and families succeed. For this reason, we believe strongly that their unwavering commitment to the children of Westerly deserves public recognition.”

RI State Representatives Donna Walsh & Teresa Tanzi and Senator Dawson Hodgson presented all the award winners with citations from the RI General Assembly.

Past Champion for Children award winners include:

  • Olympic Physical Therapy, Community Health & Fitness Programs
  • Pediatrician Celeste Corcoran, Coastal Medical/Narragansett Bay Pediatrics
  • Candy Lodge, North Kingstown Special Olympics
  • South Kingstown School Superintendent Dr. Robert Hicks
  • Tammy McNeiece, Special Education teacher at Curtis Corner Middle School
  • Deedra Durocher, foster parent and business leader
  • Kim Bossian, Head Start Health Coordinator for South County Community Action
  • Mark Hawk, Special Education Director for Westerly School Department
  • Wilburn Logan of the Family Advocacy Project