Riverview IU6 Students Receive Academic Service Awards; Local Businesses Recognized

TITUSVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – It was a special day for the students of Riverview Intermediate Unit 6 on Wednesday, as students, faculty, and local businesses gathered at the Cross Creek Resort in Titusville to celebrate all who were involved in the Intermediate Unit’s community, vocational, and service training program.

(Graduating seniors pictured above: Alexander Tundell, Michael Sockey, Charles Norcross, Wesley Maskell, Austin Myers, Jonathon Myers, Edward O’Neil, Shannon Steffy, Riley Livingston, and Mackenzie McGriffin. Not pictured: Zachary Brown, Haven Fay, and Hannah Johnston. Photo by Michaela Williams.)

The ceremony is a way in which students and IU6 teachers can thank the local communities for their participation in the school’s program, which enables special needs students the opportunity to learn “real world” work and social skills that will help them gain employment opportunities and be productive members of the community at large.

Currently, the program employees the services of over 300 businesses across Venango County, but that wasn’t always the case. As Deanna Sintobin, incoming CBI/CBV Consultant for the IU6 program, notes, the partnership and vocational program wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of the program’s founder Christina Keener. Keener, who is currently serving her final year as the program’s CBI/CVS Consultant after 30 years of service, has worked diligently to bring both special needs kids and the community together, which Sintobin says has been the driving force for the program’s success.

“(Keener’s) a trailblazer. She’s the person who saw the vision and then went out and sought the funds to get the vision going and then persevered and plotted along all for the sake of kids,” Sintobin said.

“Businesses benefit, we benefit as adults, but it’s crazy good what she started. And, she’s handing over a program that is well-established. A lot of times, you get a program that doesn’t have all the pieces together, and it’s amazing when you look at how huge this is, and it covers every single aspect of what a student needs.”

Wednesday’s ceremony began with welcoming remarks and a reading entitled “Some People are Very Special” by Riverview student Tobias Rounds. Following the introduction, representatives of several of the businesses gave brief presentations of their experiences with the students, highlighting their accomplishments and the work they put into their assigned duties.

Those present for the day’s event were the First United Methodist Church of Titusville; Auto Divide; the Titusville Food Bank; YWCA Fun Factory; the Goodwill of Cranberry; the Benson Memorial Library; the University of Pittsburgh in Titusville; South Woods Assisted Living; Two Mile Run County Park; Associated Charities; and Billie Brown Building/Titusville Housing.

Afterward, a special award entitled “The Special Friend Award” was presented to Rachel Fry, who committed a total of 102 hours of service to earn the honor.

Immediately afterward, 46 of the IU6 students were presented with Service-Learning Awards, with each student having completed one or more of the Community and/or Vocational learning programs available.

Thirteen graduating seniors were also recognized for their achievements for IU6: Zachary Brown, Wesley Maskell, Austin Myers, Jonathon Myers, Charles Norcross, Edward O’Neil, Haven Fay, Hannah Johnston, Shannon Steffy, Alexander Tundell, Michael Sockey, Riley Livingston, and Mackenzie McGiffin were all awarded with certificates for their labor and hard work and for the completion of their academic program with Riverview Intermediate.

Finally, the local business representatives were presented with plaques for their partnerships with the program and for allowing Riverview students the opportunity to grow and thrive in working environments.

Amy Sines and Faith Brown

(Amy Sines (center) of the YWCA Fun Factory and IU6 student Faith Brown (left) give a presentation about the works of service Brown has done for the organization. Photo by Michaela Williams.)

Through it all, both Keener and Sintobin maintain that it has been the efforts of everyone involved that has made the program such a success, and that community fellowship is the key to maintaining the program’s future.

“It’s all about relationships and community,” Sintobin said. “You have to believe in the students and have a presumed competence motto. We believe they can do it, and when you set that bar, they do. You have to love the kids, love the kids above and beyond every single thing.”

All in all, it was a bitter-sweet day for Keener, who will step down from an organization she both envisioned and created. But, with promising students, devoted faculty, and the aid of the community at large, Kenner knows that the program is in good hands.

“My big thing is – always give back to the community, but let our special students learn how to do that, and then they become a productive part of the community,” Keener said.

“I’m leaving with a sense of loss, but also knowing that there are people in place still that will take it over and work hard to continue to make it be successful.”

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