Two local leaders and one international business person whose efforts have improved the education of children locally, nationally, and abroad will be honored at this year’s Kids’ Best Friend Awards Benefit.
Awards will be presented at The Education Center’s annual Kids’ Best Friend Benefit and Awards Dinner on Friday, Oct. 18, in the Lisle/Naperville Hilton Grand Ballroom.
This year’s awards and winners are:
• Kids’ Best Friend Award – Dawn Newman, Principal at Newman Architecture
• Business Partner Award – Molex Incorporated
• Making a Difference Award – Dr. Kathryn Birkett, Superintendent of Schools, Indian Prairie School District 204
The Education Center, located in Naperville, is a nationally recognized children’s organization that for more than 30 years has been helping kids succeed in school and in life. With a 97 percent success rate of graduating students who are diagnosed as learning disabled and underachievers, The Education Center offers area families a place of hope and help.
The annual Kids’ Best Friend benefit directly supports the many programs of The Education Center.
“This year we are honoring two exceptional individuals who have devoted many years supporting the education of children,” said Dr. Michael Litow, founder and executive director of The Education Center. “We are also recognizing the outstanding efforts of a local, international business and its employees who supported our work by providing employment opportunities for one of our students. The leadership of our award winners inspires others to improve the education of all children.”
For many years, Dawn Newman has dedicated countless hours to helping kids in Naperville and around the world, both professionally and as a volunteer. She is beginning her sixth year as a member of the Naperville Education Foundation’s (NEF’s) Board of Trustees and is currently serving as chair. Newman has been involved in all aspects of NEF during her years of service. She was instrumental in developing the foundation’s new Governance Committee, chairing and supporting fundraisers, and increasing NEF’s visibility through her dynamic public speaking and networking skills.
She also served on the Ellsworth Home and School Board for seven years, including one year as its president. One day each year, she works with Naperville North High School students at her office, teaching them math and scaling skills. The students learn to design dog houses to scale. The kids are quite creative with their designs, and Newman Architecture recently earned an Outstanding Partner Award from Naperville North High School for this annual program.
In 2004, Newman was awarded the State Board of Education’s “Those Who Excel Award.” The awards program annually honors people who have made outstanding contributions to public and nonpublic elementary and secondary education.
As a former president and member of the Rotary Club of Naperville – Sunrise, Newman assisted with fundraising and provided technical support for a new school in Tikondane, Zambia.
Professionally, Newman is an interior designer who has served as the lead designer for many award-winning projects with Newman Architecture, always working to create better learning environments for students. She has also provided support for Newman Architecture’s leading role in Schools for Children of the World, in which they design and build schools in poor areas in numerous countries.
“For many years, Dawn has generously shared her time and talents to improve the education of children through the local schools and through her work as a principal in an architectural firm that designs schools in the United States and abroad,” said Dr. Litow. “We are happy to honor her and showcase her efforts so that others will be encouraged to also give of their time.”
Graham Brock, president, global sales and marketing, will accept the Business Partner Award on behalf of Molex Incorporated. The award recognizes the support the company has provided by employing a student from The Education Center.
“We are honored to receive this award as it reflects our commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workplace,” said Brock. “We are extremely pleased to be able to support The Education Center in their endeavor to help students with disabilities gain valuable work experience.”
Molex is a leading one-source supplier of interconnect products and is located in Lisle.
According to Dr. Litow, “Their employment of this young man goes beyond the invaluable opportunity afforded to him to gain work experience at Molex, both in the Customs Department and the Global Sales Division. His employment is a unique demonstration of corporate citizenship that not only makes a different in the life of the student but makes a difference in the lives of others who face societal struggles due to disabilities that create employment barriers. It gives hope for a brighter future to others like him.”
Litow added, “Their endorsement to hire this young man shows their understanding of and appreciation for the unique value each individual can bring to the work place when they focus on ability, not disability. We appreciate their openness to accept one of our young men who needed a helping hand to make the transition into employment.”
Dr. Kathryn Birkett began serving as superintendent of schools for Indian Prairie School District 204 in July of 2009. She currently oversees the third largest school district in the state of Illinois, with 33 schools serving approximately 29,000 students.
She has dedicated her career to District 204, beginning as a teacher at Waubonsie Valley High School in 1979. Over the next three decades, she advanced through the district, serving as assistant principal at Waubonsie, principal at Indian Plains and Steck elementary schools, principal at Neuqua Valley High School, and then as assistant/deputy superintendent for District 204.
During Birkett’s tenure as superintendent, she has taken communication approval ratings to all-time highs, driven increases in academic achievement that have outpaced surrounding districts, and led District 204 effectively through financial challenges that included $40 million in budget cuts. The reach of her impact stretches far beyond the local schools.
Birkett is one of 28 superintendents selected from across the nation to serve on the League of Innovative Schools as part of the Digital Promise Initiative of the Department of Education. As part of this cutting-edge technology leadership group, Birkett has implemented “Bring Your Own Technology” in local classrooms.
In addition, Dr. Birkett is a member of the Rotary Club of Naperville and serves on the executive committee/board of directors of the Metropolitan Chicago YMCA. She is a board member of Large Unit School District Association, Naperville Heritage Society, and Naperville Development Partnership. She previously served ten years on the Edward Hospital Board of Directors.
“We are honored to highlight the achievements and contributions Dr. Birkett has made to the education of children locally and nationwide,” said Dr. Litow. “Her dynamic, positive energy and leadership truly make a difference in the lives of children and their families. Many communities are stronger because of her dedicated work.”
Members of the community are invited to join The Education Center in honoring award winners. Tickets to the October 18 Kids’ Best Friend Benefit and Award Dinner are $125 per person and include a lavish cocktail reception, dinner and dancing. The reception will be held at the Hilton Lisle/Naperville and begins at 5:30 p.m. Please contact the 630-420-7807 or visit www.TheEducationCenter.org.
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