By Lisa Maguire
The sense of community in Hockessin continues to amaze me. I was born in a small town, where our little league’s opening day featured a parade and each team had their own company-sponsored float, and nearly the entire town showed up to encourage the young players. Fast forward to my teen years, when I moved to Wilmington, and even in our relatively small city, the size and number of people were fascinating, and the homey “everybody knows everybody” seemed to become a distant memory.
In my role at HAC, I’ve had the opportunity to join many community functions in Hockessin, and with becoming an official resident here in town last year, I’ve been even more privy to the sense of pride and belonging within Hockessin.
One of those community-supported gatherings, the Cooke Elementary Awards, was grown and led by entrepreneur (a few times over!), HAC Member, and Cooke Parent, Soraya Gutman.
The brand-new school opened its doors for the 2015-2016 school year with much excitement surrounding it’s beautiful and kid-friendly design and its adorable mascot, the Cooke Cardinal. The building features an array of primary- and secondary-colored features, as well as half a school bus with a fish tank and a floor-to-ceiling Lego wall, and the hallways are color-coded according to where the different grades of children reside.
The school drives all its activities around its “Positive Behavior Support” (PBS) system which features the three qualities of a Cooke Cardinal. Cooke Cardinals are ready, responsible, and respectful. Children have the opportunity to earn Cardinal Code Cards throughout the school week, which they can redeem for an array of rewards, activities, and trinkets, many funded by the schools active PTA. These behaviors are also rewarded and encouraged at an awards ceremony after each the first, second, and third marking periods. Additionally, children receive recognition for academic achievement, community service, and a very special “Cooke Superhero Award,” which is delivered by Master Corporal Edwin Maxwell on behalf of the Hockessin Police Athletic League (PAL).
Soraya saw a need in these awards to aid in the positive reinforcement of all these desirable behaviors by helping the school secure community businesses as sponsors. Principal Linda Ennis and Soraya worked together to build a wonderfully supported and consistently growing group of community businesses who not only provide goodies for gift bags to each award recipient but often attend the awards ceremony to show support for the school and help hand out and encourage the children.
As a thank you for the continued support of the school, Principal Ennis thanks the sponsors by reading each business name aloud before each grade’s awards – each grade, second through fifth, has an individual ceremony – as well as proudly displays a poster in the main office with each sponsor listed. This recognition is often followed by an email and social media post with appreciation to the sponsors after each ceremony, complete with pictures.
While running two businesses, being a full-time mom and wife, and somehow making time for the gym, Soraya organized the sponsors, goodie bags, teachers’ gifts, ceremony refreshments for sponsors and parents, and advocated for Cooke by soliciting additional sponsors each and every ceremony.
Soraya’s daughter (and awesome awards ceremony DJ!), Mila, is moving on to H.B. DuPont Middle School next year to begin sixth grade, which has left very large shoes to fill at Cooke. HAC has been a proud sponsor for the last three years, and we are honored that Soraya and Principal Ennis have asked us to take over the organization. As a proud Cooke mom of a second-grader, and a soon-to-be-kindergartener, I am excited to aide in fostering this wonderful event that lends an opportunity for the community to come together to support our up and coming youth.
If you have questions about the ceremony or would like to learn how to get involved, please contact me at email@example.com.