MMI Preparatory School students completed community service projects at six locations throughout Greater Hazleton to honor a late MMI alumna for the inaugural Athena S. Ford ’01 Day of Service.
Athena S. Ford was a 2001 MMI graduate who passed away on October 23, 2016, as a result of complications sustained in an automobile collision where she was a seat-belted passenger and suffered a traumatic brain injury. The Athena S. Ford ’01 Endowed Fund for Community Service was established in 2017 by members of the MMI Class of 2001 as a way to honor Ford. “Athena was one of the most self-less individuals I had ever met. She was always the first to help someone in need, to advocate for those who could not speak for themselves or to be part of an environmental or global cause,” said Nina C. Zanon ’01, a classmate of Athena’s. “This fund is a perfect way to keep Athena’s passion for serving others alive right here in her home community.” This fund is restricted by MMI to be used solely for expenses needed to establish and perpetuate The Athena S. Ford ’01 Day of Service. Each fall, on a designated day of service, all MMI students will volunteer in the community to accomplish service projects by grade level in Athena’s memory.
For the inaugural Athena S. Ford ’01 Day of Service, students visited six locations to perform clean up and maintenance projects under the direction of MMI faculty advisers. The sixth grade class gathered at MMI’s athletic fields and completed jobs that included leaf raking, trail clean-up, garbage and trash pick-up and sweeping up the bridges on the trails. They worked along with MMI’s maintenance staff and under the direction of faculty and staff members Stella Boosalis, Laurie Mele, Stephanie Shandra and Amanda Shonk. Seventh and 12th grade students attended to four separate work sites on the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails. The students worked under the guidance of Anthony Cusat, Tim Garvey, Kate Green, Syra Dewar, Jason Tribbet, Grete Floryshak and Gerry Pierotti along with several volunteers from Rails to Trails.
Eighth grade students headed to the Valley East Little League complex at Freedom Park in Drums for projects that included raking and bagging leaves, removing signage from the field, replacing playground mulch, and cleaning up trash and garbage. Faculty advisers were Robert Olive, Mike Scarlato, Lisa Ferry and Katie Zucco. Ninth grade students visited Country Heart Farm, a therapeutic animal sanctuary, in Hazle Township where they completed deck and shed repair work, did yard work and barn work, and groomed horses. The students worked alongside Patty Medvecky, Gabriela Moustardas, Christina Spencer, and Justin Vincent.
Tenth grade students traveled to Eckley Miners Village to help prepare the Village for its annual Haunted Halloween Lantern Tours and do basic maintenance, cleaning, and yard work. The students were under the direction of Maddie Below, Roger Legg, Todd Ronco and Donna Titus. Eleventh grade students gathered at Freeland Park and YMCA to do projects that included park and building clean up; leaf raking and trash clean up. The students were under the guidance of T.R. Laputka, Michael Mele, Susan Moyer and Jennifer Novotney.
MMI Head of School D. Scott Wiggins said, “One of MMI’s four educational pillars is service. Our students, faculty and staff tend to be a very community-focused and engaged group on their own but, as a school, we know that service to others is important to character and leadership development. Today’s activities are an excellent way to honor the memory of one of our alumna who led an active life of service to others and it has been an excellent learning opportunity for our current students.”
Athena Ford’s entire life was marked by sincere empathy, care and concern for, and service to, her fellow man. While a student at MMI, she started a chapter of Amnesty International, served on the Regional Planning Board for the Mid-Atlantic Region and initiated a Yellow Ribbon Club to prevent teen suicide. After graduating in 2007 from Kenyon College, she was a community organizer in Philadelphia for Working America. She worked tirelessly in the field of health insurance reform, first for the support and passage of the ACA with the Philadelphia Unemployment Project and then as the statewide advocacy director for the Pennsylvania Health Action Network. In addition to honoring Ford’s memory at MMI, Kenyon College has awarded her its most prestigious honor, the Kenyon Alumni Council Humanitarian Service Award, and the Keystone Research Project has permanently named their annual Citizen Activist Award after her.
Kim McNulty, MMI Director of Advancement, said, “As a school community, we are pleased to be able to honor Athena in this way. A school-wide day of service really rings true to our mission and philosophy for student development. We are looking forward to continuing this event each year going forward.”