NEWPORT — Deb Stevens went from the greenhouse at Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center in Newport on Friday all the way to a national television appearance in New York City Monday afternoon.
Her sendoff before approximately 400 students who filled the Newport Middle and High School gymnasium to capacity was exciting. Everyone knew why they were there.
Stevens had been selected to appear on the Strahan, Sara and Keke Show on the ABC Television Network at 1 p.m. on Monday.
When she flew to New York City on Sunday, Stevens probably recalled the thunderous roar of approval that group of students gave her on Friday.
“I absolutely love working with students,” Stevens said during an interview on the television show.
And there was more good news coming out of New York City. Deb was presented two checks for $5,000 each from Barbara’s Wholesome Cereals, to be used by the Food Pantry and the second to make repairs to the school greenhouse.
As important as the two monetary gifts were, it was the cheers of the students and their signs of love for Stevens that stood out.
Shannon Howe of Newport nominated Stevens for an appearance on the show. Howe’s letter told of her charitable work such as buying clothes and providing food for students.
Within four hours after receiving Howe’s letter, a show official responded and indicated they would like to have Stevens appear on their Thanksgiving themed show Monday afternoon.
The show was filmed on Monday at 11 a.m. in the ABC studios in New York City.
Jennifer Opalinski, CTE Director at the Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center in Newport headed the Friday morning assembly.
“Deb has been invited for their Thanksgiving themed show to share the great work she does as a horticulture teacher at SRVRTC along with the generous contributions she makes to the Newport Community,” Opalinski stated.
“Deb’s horticulture program provides plants to our local department of corrections. The plants are grown to maturity and produce amazing food that is distributed to our local food pantries and shelters.
“This is one of many generous things that Deb and her students do through the horticulture program to give back to our community and we are really proud of her work and so happy she is being recognized for it,” Opalinski stated.
Stevens’ speech at the Friday morning assembly follows:
I am truly humbled and honored to stand before you this morning. As I look out over the audience, I wonder how did I get here? Why me? My mind flashes over the past 20 years here at Newport High School.
Those years have been filled with many joys and yes, some sorrows, but times like this make me realize the importance of community. No, not just the town in which we live, but the people who fill this room and my life. You represent my past, my present and yes my future. You are and have been the reason I became a teacher and have chosen to make a difference every day.
Some of you have been the support, the foundation of my teaching career, guiding me in the art and science of teaching. Some of you were my students during those early years of teaching and you too have returned to make a difference here. Thank you all for what you do each day.
Now, fast forward to the present, Nov. 22, 2019.
As you look around the room, Stop...remember who is standing next to you. We are a community of learners. We are making connections with those around us. We have a choice whether that is a positive or negative one. Do not discount your power of influence.
I tell my students in class almost daily, “ I teach because I choose to make a difference every day- one student, one person at a time.” I also tell them, “Life is not a straight road. There are things that we can’t control, curves in the road that takes us to places we could not see or plan for, but we can choose to change lanes and make a difference. One small act of kindness can open a highway of opportunity.” I believe this is the reason we are here today.
On Sunday, I will be traveling to New York City and will be a guest on the GMA 3rd Hour Show, featuring Michael Strahan, Sara, & Keke that will air on Monday. I will be talking about Newport, Career and Technical Education and how our horticulture students and FFA chapter make a difference in our community.
Growing vegetable plants for the SISU garden and Sullivan County House of Corrections was the connection to opening this door of opportunity. This connection and community partnership has provided thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables to our local food pantries in Newport, Claremont and Unity. We also grow and plant flowers in our downtown area. Giving back to our community has provided students just like you the opportunity to make a difference and receive this recognition on a local, state and national level.
Today, we have had an opportunity to reflect on where we have been, celebrate together our accomplishments and see where our connections will take us. You can choose to make a difference today and change the world around us. What will you choose?
Thank you for this honor to travel and represent you, our school and community and receive this recognition on your behalf.