Return to Headlines

CSIU staff honor students memorialize colleague

Appeared in the Milton Standard Journal
By Lauryn Longacre

SELINSGROVE — Students who are enrolled in programs to help them transition from their school years to adulthood received special recognition Thursday by the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (CSIU).

The annual Northumberland County Transition Conference, held on the Susquehanna University campus, included an emotional awards ceremony with a tribute to the late Andrew Hergan.

The conference gave junior and senior students in special education a look into college life, and beyond, after a select few received recognition for their accomplishments.

Hergan, a beloved retired Transitions consultant, passed away unexpectedly on March 6, at the age of 69. Jessica Harry, CSIU special education and off-site facilities support program supervisor, spoke highly of her friend and colleague’s compassion.

“He lived the values that he was teaching everyone else about,” she said. “He provided us with this wonderful model for what special education and transition should look like for students, and every student was the most important student to him. He gave 110% with everyone.”

Nominees of the Andrew M. Hergan Transition Education Award demonstrated independence and growth to overcome obstacles and prepare for their futures.

Out of the approximately 200 attending students from the Shikellamy, Shamokin, Warrior Run, Mount Carmel, Milton and Midd-West school districts, two were called to the stage and presented with the Andrew M. Hergan Transition Education Award.

The winners were Mount Carmel High School junior Kaden Hine, and Shikellamy Area School District junior Micah Shively.

Hine has been attending protective services classes at the Northumberland County Career and Technology Center.

During his senior year, Hine plans to complete a cooperative education program (co-op) with the Colonial Park Fire Company. During the co-op, he will be living at the firehouse throughout the week.

Elysburg Fire Department Chief Dennis Kroh said Hine displays a strong work ethic and dedication to serving the community. After high school, Hine plans to join the military.

After high school, Shively is hoping to major in art education at Bloomsburg University, with a minor in theater. He has previously won awards for theater and forensics, and has been involved with jazz and concert band.

The Dr. Cynthia Schloss Transition Education Awards were also presented to students with a strong personal work ethic and commitment to preparation for their adult lives.

The winners were: First place, Connor Harris, a Midd-West School District student who studies at SUN Area Technical Institute; second place, Va’Czan Cooper-Longer, Milton Area High School; and third place, Tyler Roberts, Warrior Run School District.

Other nominees for the award included: Destiny Welch and Nathaniel Hagenbuch, Milton Area School District; Hunter Stahl, Selinsgrove Area School District; and Lainee Gather, Shikellamy School District.

Cooper-Longer had been struggling with attendance after entering his senior year. After enrolling in a delivery program, he started to thrive and is on track to graduate in May.

“He’s overcome many personal and academic obstacles to become a model student dedicated to creating a positive future for himself,” Milton Area High School Learning Support teacher Carla Rishel said, of Cooper-Longer.

After high school, Cooper-Longer plans to attend a secondary school to work towards a career in the automotive field. Currently, he is working on a welding certification.

“I didn’t really think I’d (receive this),” Cooper-Longer said, recounting his surprise at receiving the award. “It just shows that I actually worked hard enough.”

Cooper-Longer thanked a slew of educators who helped support his journey throughout the year, including Rishel.

Harry said members of the CSIU are “exceptionally proud” of all the students for their hard work over the past year.

“All these kids here have had so many challenges and obstacles and have had the door like smashed in their face so many times.” said Harry. “But every single one of them has refused to give up, refused to take no, and has found other ways to get to where they are today. It’s remarkable.”

Students heard a presentation on social media safety by the Shikellamy High School Police Officer Shawn Williams.

Laura Taylor, of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, presented on making first impressions.

The final speaker, Evangelical Community Hospital Wellness Educator Ann Dzwonchyk, spoke about the long-term health effects of nicotine and vaping products, warning of its addictive properties.