MONROE, CT — When the COVID-19 pandemic forced students of Monroe’s public schools to learn remotely from home, Jason Goldfarb reached out to families in need to offer free revamped laptops with functional internet access to get them through it.
Whenever parents needed someone to step up and take leadership roles for events and programs benefiting Monroe’s children, Tammy Julian came forward time-and-time again, being a key organizer for everything from Masuk’s annual Prom Fashion Show to the health fairs at Masuk and Jockey Hollow Middle School.
The Monroe Parents’ Council recognized both of these volunteers with the Regina Ogden Friends of Education Award during a ceremony in the Masuk media center Monday night.
Poonham Sahani, co-president of the Monroe Parents’ Council, shared a famous quote on volunteers from DeAnn Hollis:
The heart of a volunteer is never measured in size, but by the depths of commitment to make a difference in the lives of others. Volunteers show up with dedication and unwavering commitment. They are the agents of change in our society. They show up when needed without any expectations of recognition or reward.
Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza spoke at Monday’s ceremony. He praised Goldfarb’s contributions, assisting families with technology needs, as “absolutely amazing.”
Kobza, who also served on the Monroe Rotary Club, recalled how he immediately texted Julian and Jennifer Aguilar when Reality Check, the personal finances simulation for Masuk finance students, only had around 35 volunteers this year.
“I think before I went to bed Sunday we had over 60 volunteers,” he said. “It amazes me how much gets done with so few people.”
The Regina Ogden Friends of Education Award recognizes volunteers who put their time and effort into the public schools of Monroe. Assistant Superintendent of Schools Sheila Casinelli and several Board of Education members attended the awards ceremony.
Julian and Goldfarb both received plaques and bouquets and had their names added to one of the large plaques recognizing all of the award winners through the decades.
Sahani introduced Julian as someone with a vision to create an alcohol and drug free environment in Monroe’s schools through her efforts as president of ADAM (Alcohol and Drug Awareness of Monroe). Its programs focus on mental health, raising awareness and offering education to help children make positive decisions.
“Her unwavering love for our district’s students remains at the forefront of her efforts to reinvent the Health Fair at Jockey Hollow Middle School and Masuk High School,” Sahani said.
Among Julian’s volunteerism, she has served on the Monroe Playground Foundation Committee and as president of the Parents Council twice.
Julian was nominated by Aguilar, who said Julian has taken on multiple tasks when no one else will, such as PTC co-president for three years, Fashion Show Silent Auction chair and ADAM president for the past four years.
“Tammy has endless energy, handles herself with poise and professionalism and is loved by all she works with and she always brings a smile to everything she is doing,” Aguilar said.
“Jason has independently given his time and efforts for many years to spearhead the districtwide computer refurbishment program for any child who would benefit,” Sahani said of Goldfarb. “There is no application process and he expects no payments or donations.”
“With a true heart of a volunteer he remains committed to making a difference in the lives of our town’s children by finding outdated and unwanted devices and converting them into functional gadgets,” she said. “Thanks to him, countless families in Monroe receive refurbished technological devices free of cost. His sole goal was and remains to help as many families as possible.”
Sahani recounted how Goldfarb helped families in need during the pandemic, at a time when the district relied on technology more than ever before.
Goldfarb was nominated by Jennifer Read, who stressed her admiration for his selflessness.
“Devices are expensive, break and become outdated,” Read said in her nomination for Goldfarb. “Jason has been volunteering his time to help supply technology to families. Even if laptops are offered through the schools, the devices Jason supplies are an additional way for the schools to lighten the dependency on the devices used through the schools.”
“Not only that, he is recycling devices to expand the availability and access for those who may be less fortunate,” Read said. “This is an exemplary mission of both sustainability and philanthropy and I wanted to be sure those connected with the schools knew of his generosity.”
Kobza praised both women who made the nominations, Jennifer Read and Jennifer Aguilar.
“I think so highly of the two of them,” he said. “Jen (Read) and I grew up together and Jen (Aguilar) and I worked on a number of things. I know the content of their character, so to be nominated by either one of these two individuals is a very special thing. I think that’s awesome.”
About Regina Ogden
Theresa Oleyar shared the story of the award’s namesake, Regina Ogden, who she knew as a PTO member who was kind to her when Oleyar enrolled her children at Stepney Elementary School years ago.
Oleyar shared a blurb about Ogden:
To her family, she was protective gentle and loving, often putting the needs of others before her own. Regina would have it no other way. She set a strong foundation for her children to build upon and left a lifetime of memories for everyone to smile on.
Her friends knew her as a warm, giving person who was there for them as they were for her whenever anybody needed someone to listen, laugh or cry. She loved to get together with them at the local coffee shop or at a mutual friend’s house.
Sadly, Ogden died in 2011 and Oleyar said the Friends of Education Award was renamed in her memory the following year.
“Since then, I have to say some of the absolutely best people I have known in Monroe have been recipients of this award,” Oleyar said, “so I’m honored today to be part of the ceremony.”
Kobza said he worked closely with Ogden, who was responsible for the mini-grants program at Masuk when he was principal.
“She was an absolutely fantastic woman,” Kobza said. “She did everything we ever asked and way above. I think it’s beautiful that these awards are named in Regina’s honor. She was just such a lovely person. For our recipients tonight, I also think you did some great things.”
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