An Honor for Tonight

Lillian G. Tillman (DeWitt), from 1981 Street Academy of Albany yearbook.
Lillian G. Tillman (DeWitt), from 1981 Street Academy of Albany yearbook.

This evening will be a very special personal moment in time.

One of the guides in my life – a person who helped build a pathway out of despair and into achievement for hundreds of young men and women – will be honored tonight, as Lillian Tillman-DeWitt joins six other honorees as members of the Albany City School District Hall of Fame, Class of 2016.

The enshrinement ceremony and fundraiser will take place at the Italian-American Community Center on Washington Avenue Extension this evening.

Our lifelong journey is filled with twists and turns, a pathway that is sometimes paved with gold and other times pitted with potholes.  It’s easy to wander off that pathway and it’s hard to get back to the road.

The teachers and administrators at my high school, Street Academy of Albany, helped kids get back on the road.  They knew and accepted this challenge.  They saved us.  They showed us that we were not just Albany High School’s leftovers and castoffs.  They made sure that we weren’t just counting time until the school district no longer had to legally educate us at 18.  They made sure we were able to thrive, to grow, to build.  They didn’t give up on us, even when everybody else did.  Even when we almost gave up on ourselves, they were still there for us.  Every time.

Those efforts are now appearing in the Albany City School District’s Hall of Fame, as Street Academy’s teachers and administrators are now receiving long-overdue enshrinement in that august body.  Along with Mrs. T, the Hall of Fame members with Street Academy connections include Milton Horne (teacher-coach, 2010), Harriet Gibbons (teacher-principal, 2012), Edward Trant (principal, 2012), Don Prozik (assistant principal, 2012), Mike Sgambelluri (assistant principal, 2014) and Eileen Kawola (teacher, 2015).

Oh yeah, and this guy in 2011.

As you can see, the Albany City School District Hall of Fame has made great strides in recognizing students and teachers outside of the Albany High School / Philip Schuyler High School sector.  The achievements and guidance of those from Street Academy (as well as from School 21 and from the Abrookin Vo-Tec) deserve consideration and recognition.  They are as much a part of Albany as are the Capitol, the Armory and Nipper.

I know that several of my high school friends will be at the event as well, so this almost acts like a 35th reunion of sorts.

And what better way to get a reunion together…

Than to do it while honoring someone who helped us, 35 years ago, to reach this moment today.