Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — For Joanne Basta, Tuesday night served as a gratifying moment in her 27-year teaching career.
As the recipient of the YWCA of Niagara 2013 Education Award, Basta was recognized for her time spent both as a teacher at Edward Town Middle School in the Niagara-Wheatfield School District and as an adjunct professor at Niagara University.
Though she recognized her own tireless dedication working with 5,000 students over her career, she remains humble and willing to continue to make her mark on the students who walk through her doors every class day.
“It keeps you young,” Basta said. “(This award) is a great culmination to my career. To know the community supports education the way it does is wonderful. It really is a way up, a way out of poverty. It really is an honor. There’s so many dedicated teachers out there.”
Basta, a Youngstown resident, said she particularly enjoys working with middle-school age youths, noting that even those awkward moments when she runs into a former student at the supermarket makes her happy.
She said teaching allows her to help mold the positive people that the students become when they’re older. It’s a task she enjoys because the students seem to look forward to learning when they’re with her.
Basta was one of seven recipients of the YWCA of Niagara’s annual awards Tuesday, during a ceremony emceed by WKBW anchorwoman Joanna Pasceri at the Conference Center Niagara Falls.
The organization, which promotes furthering the lives of all women through outreach efforts and educational opportunities, received 24 nominations for the seven awards this year. Winners were announced after all 24 nominees were called to stand, their biographies summarized and their contributions to community recognized. In addition to Basta, the 2013 winners are:
• Entrepreneur award, Ellen Martin, owner-operator of several small businesses and the driver of two ongoing arts-oriented events, the Sweet Harmony piano display and a chalk festival, in downtown Lockport this year.
• Front Line award, Jennifer Hoyt, a Niagara Hospice and Habitat for Humanity volunteer and a United Way Pledge Member for youth mentorship. Hoyt is a teller supervisor for First Niagara Bank in Niagara Falls.
• Health & Human Services award, Laura Kelemen of Lockport, a Community Missions Aurora House intake committee member who also is executive director of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center’s Child Advocacy Center.
• Management award, Wendy Roberson of Newfane, Niagara County First Deputy County Clerk, who stays involved voluntarily with various municipal professional associations, the Niagara County and Sanborn Area historical societies, Leadership Niagara and the Niagara County Federation of Republican Women.
• Public Service award, Deborah Boyer of Lockport. Boyer is a volunteer for Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, the Food Bank of WNY and the YWCA of Niagara’s domestic violence program who started the Tina Marie Boyer Charity in memory of her daughter, a victim of domestic violence. Boyer is the head trainer at Walmart’s Lockport store.
• Youth award, Ashley Pascuzzi of Niagara Falls. Pascuzzi is the extended day program director of the Boys and Girls Club at Maple Avenue School and a United Way volunteer.
Elizabeth Phillips of Canandaigua, formerly of Lockport, received the YWCA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The retired realtor gave a lifetime of community service to myriad causes including PTA, the League of Women Voters, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Lockport Housing Authority and the city’s Human Relations Committee, of which she was the first chairman in the late 1960s.
Phillips, 90, attended the dinner with her children, Braden and Mary, and gave a brief, cheerful speech that brought a standing ovation from the crowd.
“It’s nice to see everybody appreciating the value of women here in Niagara County. ... I told my children they had to come to this; they didn’t have to come to my funeral,” she joked. “This is a highlight of this 90-year-old woman’s life.”
The first-ever Friend of the YWCA Award was presented to state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, for the work he’s done as a legislator to advance causes of women and children including combating domestic violence.
The awards presentation and dinner serves as the YWCA’s largest fundraiser of the year, with proceeds going toward sustaining Carolyn’s House, a 19-apartment residence for women and children who are rebuilding their lives, and other programs meant to enrich the lives of women and their families.Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.