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WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, May 11, the White House recognized twelve school support professionals from across the country as “School Support White House Champions of Change.” These individuals were selected by the White House for their leadership and tireless work to ensure that students in our nation’s schools receive the support and motivation they need to be succeed.
“What an amazing moment for CSEA as school support staff were honored on a national level for the first time as part of the Champions of Change program,” Association President Ben Valdepeña said. “This honor has been a long time coming and I am so thrilled that CSEA was a partner in this effort.”
Three of the twelve school employees who received this honor are CSEA members: Gary Cooper of San Jose/Evergreen Colleges Chapter 363, Debbi Partridge of Yosemite Community College District Chapter 420 and Margaret Warder of Laguna Beach Chapter 131.
"Our school support professionals do an amazing job each and every day of helping to care for our children," said Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett. "We choose to honor you because of what you do to make our country better."
The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. In addition to honoring education support professionals, the White House has honored Champions of Change for climate equity, living wage, the Affordable Care Act, expanding fair chance opportunities, among others. This is the first time school support professionals have been honored as part of the program.
Read More: White House Blog: Champions of Change
“I am humbled to be able to pass my story on to the next generations so that they, too, can aspire to walk in my shoes. For years, I have been able to teach Black History to people who may not know our past. Now, as I mentor young black men, I can show how I have been able to live my dream.”
For nearly 40 years, Gary Cooper has been nurturing more than trees at the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District. As a groundskeeper/arborist, Cooper is responsible for keeping the grounds attractive and healthy at San Jose City and Evergreen Valley colleges in San Jose, Calif. The only arborist at the district, Cooper leads a team in maintaining the college district’s many trees, grounds, irrigation systems and a lake, getting athletic fields ready for a number of uses, and preparing the campuses for a variety of special events—all with the least amount of impact to students, staff and faculty. Cooper takes great pride in keeping the campus safe and attractive, especially with the added challenge of drought-related water conservation efforts.
Cooper is also a mentor to Evergreen Valley College students as part of the AFFIRM program, which assists students in developing a positive self-image and provides an opportunity to acquire a solid foundation of basic skills in a supportive environment. Cooper’s efforts have positively impacted many students, who have noted that his support and friendship motivated them to achieve their goals. Cooper also volunteers in numerous community-building efforts and civic engagement activities, embodying his belief that working together makes the world a better place.
“Between work and my personal life, I hope I personify a commitment to service. I do not perform my job for the recognition; I do it to help others. I’ve worked for the college district for 38 years and have always been proud of my career, and this is definitely the cherry on top.”
Debbi Partridge, a multimedia technician for Modesto Junior College, is described as a true leader by coworkers and students alike. Her work is crucial to helping students learn. Partridge works tirelessly to ensure that the computers, projectors and other high-tech devices in nearly 200 smart classrooms are ready for students to use when classes begin. She keeps current with mainstream and emerging technologies to find new ways to foster learning.
While it often seems the work orders and requests on an average day are neverending, Partridge always finds a way to get everything done. She sets up sound and multimedia systems for campus events, records video for lectures, speeches and athletic events, and provides technical support to the college’s faculty and staff.
Partridge is the epitome of a true leader. She takes great pride in knowing that what she does directly supports student success, and she is committed to doing whatever is necessary to enable effective student learning. Partridge shows the same dedication off the job. She assists with or attends school fundraisers and field trips. She was also a T-ball coach for nine years, and served the sports boosters club as a volunteer at the snack bar for athletic events.
“As an Intervention Paraeducator, my satisfaction comes from working with young students to help them excel in their reading, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. This is such a gratifying experience!”
Margaret Warder, an intervention paraeducator for the Laguna Beach Unified School District, stands out among her peers, thanks to her attention to detail when it comes to education and caring for her students. Coworkers and school administrators say Warder always gives 100 percent to any task she undertakes, is quick to volunteer when needs arise, and serves on several school committees. On the job, Warder often works with students one-on-one. She coordinates programs that help students reach their full potential.
Warder has the keen ability to relate to students on their level while also challenging them to reach new heights in their education. Through these connections and her astute observations, Warder ensures that the school is meeting the changing needs of her students. In her community, Warder is civically engaged, serving on a number of city committees, and is a staunch advocate in women’s and children’s issues.