On March 9, the Somers Point Foundation for Education greeted school faculty, police, business, community and city council members to their 19th annual dinner dance and silent auction at Greate Bay Country Club.
The event was set to a 1980s prom theme, with festive, bright decorations and centerpieces made up of vintage candy to bring its more than 100 guests back to that decade.
"The night was a great success and an overall good time," said Sydney Perkins, the community education and recreation director for Somers Point schools.
For three hours, attendees dined and enjoyed music as three people with connections to the town were honored for their contributions in education, community and health care. Each year, the honorees are chosen by members of the Foundation for Education.
Northfield resident Devon Kallen, the health and physical education teacher for the Jordan Road School, received the education award for her dedication to volunteerism relating to school events and programs.
"Kallen has really stood out this year in her amazing efforts to keep Somers Point students healthy and strong," Perkins said.
Since 2000, the certified exercise specialist has taken the initiative to better the health of her school community.
Beginning in January, Kallen partnered with her coworker, family and consumer science teacher Mimi Lynch, to bring a health-related dinner and movie series to the Jordan Road School.
Kallen also helped to develop a life-skills enrichment program for young girls, Developing Individuals with Victorious Attitudes, or DIVA. On March 13, almost 30 girls attended her first meeting, she said. DIVA will will meet every Wednesday through May.
"It will help to develop the self-esteem of young girls by changing their outlook on life, strengthening their physical and emotional health, and helping them empower themselves," she said.
With the announcement of her recognition, Kallen thanked the administration and staff for their support and for allowing her to do what she loves each day.
And the honor, she felt, came as a shock.
"I was very surprised, yet honored, to receive the recognition," she said. "Teaching health and wellness is my passion, and it is so exciting to feel like those around you also see the benefit of all of your hard work."
Lt. Anthony DiSciascio, of the Somers Point Police Department, received the community award for his contributions to the school district and the surrounding community.
"He has an amazing community spirit and works hard to ensure our safety," Perkins said of the honoree. "The police department has been a great friend and supporter of the school district, and we wish we could have honored every single officer."
Over the past several months, the department has increased its visibility within the schools to ensure the safety of its students, faculty and staff, DiSciascio said.
"It was a great honor," he said.
Dr. Bennett Ojserkis, originally of Margate, received the health care award.
Although he found the recognition to be unusual, he still said it was "very much appreciated."
Since 1985, Ojserkis has worked in Atlantic County, practicing as a pulmonary doctor. He became the director of Shore Medical Center's Advanced Pulmonary Diagnostic Center in 2012.
To be granted the opportunity to work in a hospital setting, he said, has allowed him to provide a type of assistance that he could have not performed on his own.
"It's the dedication of the hospital to this very important work - to give me the opportunity to do this - that is particularly gratifying," he said, following the event. "(The hospital is) getting the award. It's not just me."
The fundraiser for the Foundation for Education also recognized a prom king and queen, to follow suit with the year's theme.
Joe Schmidt, secretary for the Foundation and school guidance counselor, and sixth-grade teacher Jackie Wooton received the crowns.
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