During Commencement 2012 ceremonies, Hobart and William Smith Colleges will honor two special educators for the role they played in the lives of a Hobart and a William Smith student who will graduate on Sunday, May 13. Hobart senior Isaias Garcia will recognize Chris Middleton, social worker and guidance counselor at the Frederick Douglass Academy, and William Smith senior Lucia Berliner will honor her art teacher, Maureen Beck of Randolph School, with the Touching the Future Award.
The award is given during Commencement each year as the Colleges celebrate those who have touched the future of HWS graduates. The Touching the Future Award celebrates and honors the many early childhood educators – those with whom our students interacted in elementary, middle and high school — who have led graduates to Hobart and William Smith and to crossing the stage for Commencement.
To recognize the educator who had the most significant impact on touching the future of a Hobart student, Garcia nominated Middleton for the award, crediting him with being an influential adviser throughout his educational career.
“In middle school, I would come into his office and talk about my aspirations to be a businessman someday,” Garcia says of Middleton. “He would encourage me to continue my education because a middle or high school diploma will not be enough.”
They stayed connect in high school and Middleton encouraged Garcia to play baseball, connecting him with a coaching mentor. As a result, Garcia was a member of a team that competed for the Public School Athletic League Championship at Shea Stadium. Most significantly, after his mother died in his senior year, Middleton helped him with the college process and applications. “He told me to make my mother proud by graduating from college no matter what it took.”
A writing and rhetoric major, Garcia is a member of the Chimera Honor Society. He also helped start a non-profit that feeds less affluent families during Thanksgiving called, “Project Feed Me.” He and co-founder Patrick Alvarez were featured in the New York Times last fall for their efforts. Some of his previous experience includes working as a site monitor for Children’s Aid Society, which advocates for teens in the inner city, and as a clerical assistant at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. He is a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity.
Middleton, a licensed master social worker, has been with Frederick Douglass Academy for 11 years. For the past nine, he has also served as a guidance counselor. He earned his bachelor’s in social work from Mercy College and his master’s in social work from New York University. He is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and a trustee of the Caldwell Temple AME Zion Church, where he is also a former youth director.
A media and society and psychology double major, Berliner has helped to plan numerous events and programs on campus meant to improve social awareness including a Japan relief fundraiser ArtFest, and the EcoFusion fundraiser, which nurtures environmental stewardship in middle school children. She was the Fisher Center’s 2011 Woodworth Fellow and has been accepted into Teach for America.
Berliner explained Beck’s role in her life as significant. “She not only changed my outlook, she also gave me a gift that helps me make a difference. I cannot think of Ms. Beck’s impact on my life without tears of gratitude, because she exposed a part of me that no one else had accessed and it changed my soul and equipped me with a new tool to achieve my goals. For me, art is a way to bond communities, to explore interests, to unify passion, to teach respect for one another’s ideas and to share emotions ranging from sorrow to hope-Maureen Beck lovingly gave this to me, and in turn I give it to others.”
Through Teach for America, Berliner will teach in a pre-K through eighth grade classroom in the Delta Region of Arkansas and Mississippi next year.
Beck first joined the Randolph School in 2000, working with the Children’s Media Project and leading a filmmaking workshop. She returned several years later as an art teacher for all grades, first through eighth, and remained with the Randolph School until 2010. During her time there, she conducted a number of summer programs, several of which Berliner assisted with. She recalls “Meaningful Masterpieces,” which was targeted toward 3 to 6 year olds, as the most notable and relevant to her.
The Touching the Future Award was established by the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Board of Trustees in 2004. It derives its name from the famous words of Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher selected to participate in the space shuttle program who died in the explosion of Challenger. McAuliffe expressed the sentiments of many teachers when she said, “I touch the future, I teach.”