Above and Beyond Award Goes to Avondale Middle School Employee

Avondale Middle School Social Worker Recognized for her Work Supporting Students with Autism

Avondale Middle School Social Worker, Meridith Cervenak has received the Oakland Schools Special Education Above and Beyond Award for her commitment to students as demonstrated by her participation in professional development that benefits the student at her school. Cervenak is being recognized for her work with the Oakland Schools ASD-Oakland Regional Collaborative Network (RCN), a group focused on training educators about issues related to Autism Spectrum Disorder. As an RCN member for more than two years, Cervenak received extensive training in the best practices for supporting students with Autism and then shared her training with her Avondale School District colleagues.

Meridith Cervenak with Avondale Middle School Bridge Buddies

Meridith Cervenak with Avondale Middle School Bridge Buddies

Her involvement in the RCN led to the start of a building-wide program at Avondale Middle School called Bridge Buddies. Cervenak incorporated much of what she learned through the RCN when she established the Bridge Buddies program as a club at the school. Last year, she developed the club into an elective class that students can choose to take during the school day. Bridge Buddies pairs “typical” students  – called links – with students who have Autism, Down Syndrome, or a cognitive impairment that may preclude them from learning or socializing in a “typical” way. Links help their buddies in the classroom but also in social settings like during recess and at lunch. Cervenak credits the RCN, who receives support from a Michigan Department of Education professional development grant project called START (Statewide Autism Resources and Training), with helping her develop a way to embed Bridge Buddies into the building-wide community and build in sustainability for the class.

In addition to Cervenak’s work with Bridge Buddies, she is also sharing program ideas, resources and information picked up through the RCN with her colleagues across the District. “The RCN is a valuable resource for schools in terms of providing research-based information to build understanding and enhance collaborative efforts between staff,” she said. “That collaboration and team approach is vital to the success of any strategies put in place to ensure individual student success,” she added.

Avondale School District Superintendent, Dr. James Schwarz, was not surprised to learn of Cervenak’s receipt of the award. “Meridith is extremely dedicated to children with disabilities and her commitment and professionalism in pursuing professional learning in order to better serve her students is absolutely above and beyond,” he said.

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