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Record Number: 8624
Displayed from: Mar 19, 2012 , until: Apr 30, 2012
Retired high school administrator Leon Youngpeter has been selected to receive the 2012 Father Tom O'Connor Light of Christ Award. This award, sponsored by St. Mary's Catholic Church and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, was created in memory of Father Thomas P. O'Connor, considered by many to be an icon of Catholic faith in action. Father Tom died on St. Patrick's Day 2004 after serving as pastor of St. Mary's for more than 34 years. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will present Youngpeter with the award during a ceremony at noon, March 21, at St. Mary's Catholic Church. Youngpeter worked for Fort Wayne Community Schools full-time for nearly 20 years, retiring in 1998. Since his retirement, he has frequently been asked to return to serve as a temporary administrator as needed. He is well-known for his administrative and classroom expertise and was selected by the award committee for his work outside the classroom encouraging the next generation of Father Toms. For 24 years he managed the St. Mary's Christmas Box distribution program, enlisting the help first of Snider High School's concert band and homerooms, and then expanding the youth involvement to include the Bishop Luer's High School Key Club, South Side High School English classes, North Side High School's Honors Program, New Tech Academy at Wayne High School and Windsong Pictures. His work with teens provided resources to increase the Christmas distribution program to serve more than 1,000 families each year and has given young people the opportunity to learn how to give of themselves to help others. The award comes with a cash gift given in the recipient's name to the project or charity of his or her choice. Youngpeter has requested this year's stipend be divided between Miss Virginia's Mission House and retired Snider teacher Francis Mustapha's school for girls and boys in Sierra Leone. Finalists for the 2012 award will also be recognized at the ceremony and luncheon. This year's finalists include Michael Floyd, a teacher at South Side High School, for providing unique volunteer student learning opportunities through Windsong Pictures. His work has involved more than 50,000 students and 30,000 adults across 50 states. Rev. Leonel and Sybel Pech were nominated for their work with Hispanic families in Fort Wayne through Hispanic Development, an English as a second language program, and for their advocacy on behalf those learning to adapt to new lives in Fort Wayne. Pech is a district parent coordinator for Fort Wayne Community Schools and serves the Amistad Cristiana New Church Development for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Other finalists were Elizabeth Keen, school counselor at St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth Seton School, and Michael Sturm DDS, founder of Pathways, Inc. The Father Tom O'Connor Light of Christ Award is given each year in one of three categories: Peace and Justice, Diversity and Inclusiveness, and Education. In 2013 the committee will accept nominations for those whose efforts promote Peace and Justice. Nominations are open to people of all faiths.

With nearly 30,000 students, Fort Wayne Community Schools is one of the largest school districts in Indiana. FWCS proudly allows families to choose any of its 50 schools through its successful school-choice program creating diversity in each school, including some with more than 75 languages spoken. FWCS offers seven magnet schools focusing on areas such as science and math, communication, fine arts or Montessori at the elementary and middle school level. In high school, students can choose from the prestigious International Baccalaureate program, Project Lead the Way or New Tech Academy as well as other rigorous academic and specialty training programs.