Lynda Steele, Abilities United Executive Director, accepts
her “Sweetheart” award from PAUSD.

Congratulations to fourAbilities United employees, including Executive Director, Lynda Steele; Computer Education Manager, Pamela Newman; After School Socialization Manager, Misty Accristo, and After School Socialization Specialist, Erica Davis for receiving the “Sweetheart” award at the Palo Alto Unified School District’s Community Advisory Committee (CAC) 10th annual Sweetheart Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, February 26. The Sweetheart awards are given to honor local PAUSD employees and community members who have made a positive difference in the lives of special needs students.   “Sweethearts” are nominated by students and their families for their exemplary service, friendship, and for helping students feel connected and competent in their respective areas.  The nomination letter describing their kindness is read for the audience at the awards where they are publicly recognized for going above and beyond.

Palo Alto resident Rachel Paley, nominated Lynda Steele, who is retiring from her position as Executive Director of Abilities United in 2014;  “From the entire special needs community, we wish Lynda health, happiness, rest, and pursuit of new interests, with the deepest thanks for all of her work on our behalf in the past”.
The nomination letters for Pamela Newman, Misty Accristo, and Erica Davis described the team as “flexible”, “accommodating”, and describes their work as “trains her to have stamina and orientation as a future desk worker.  These skills will open doors to be gainfully employed and enjoy a higher quality of life.” 
“It’s a very public thank you and a big party celebrating wonderful people” shared founder of the awards Tina Underwood. “The world at large needs to hear, know, and understand that kindness can make a huge difference to a child with a special need.  Truly, saying ‘Hi’ to my son and acknowledging him as a person seems like a small thing, but it is huge for my son.”
The Sweetheart Awards is a wonderful way for parents, teachers, and students to honor the generous, gracious, and supportive spirit in our schools and our community.  Often, people do not feel they have a suitable way to say thank you to those who support our students; this is an annual celebration of these dedicated people,” described Special Education Director Holly Wade.
Nominations have been collected from PAUSD parents for the past few months and more than 80 nominees were recognized at the ceremony. Each nominee received flowers and a certificate.  A reception in their honor followed the ceremony. The event was held in the PAUSD Board room at 25 Churchill Ave. at 7:30 p.m.