FORT BELVOIR, Va. (May 24) -- Fort Belvoir Army Community Service Army Volunteer Corps Program and The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, Belvoir chapter won awards at The Fairfax County Office of Public Private Partnerships Celebrate Partners Awards banquet Monday.
Faitheleen Henderson, ACS Army Volunteer Corps, manager received the Bruce Oliver Leadership award for her work with the Robert E. Lee High School's Work Awareness and Transition program while AFCEA received the Community Partner of the Year award for their contributions to Fort Belvoir Elementary School.
"I'm honored and I'm surprised," said Henderson. "I really don't know what to say."
WAT is a course for middle and high school students with disabilities that emphasizes career awareness and life skills, and concentrates on in-depth career exploration and job seeking.
ACS has partnered with WAT for the last two years.
"They are good kids and the whole gist of them coming to ACS is to help them socially blend in this world, so they can continue to be productive as they move into adulthood," Henderson said. "It's important to me to do my part in that."
While being presented the award, the keynote speaker mentioned that Henderson is said to "See the children for who they are, not what they are." Henderson said that is true because she is doing her job as a human being by giving the students the guidance they need to function properly in a work environment.
"They're teenagers, and they're energetic and love to have fun," said Henderson. "They understand, when they come to the center, they're there to do a job just like any other teen. They each have their own unique personalities that are just amazing. I'm just impressed with all of them. They mean a lot to me."
Mary Lou Detondicchello, Robert E. Lee Employment Transition Representative, nominated Henderson for the award because she continues to invite the students to work at ACS when other organizations have turned them back.
"We've had other worksites tell us they don't want students with disabilities this year, but Faitheleen doesn't care," said Detondicchello. "Everything she does, she goes above and beyond and says, 'What do we need to make this happen?' The students love going to Fort Belvoir. They say she's the best boss ever."
Bruce Oliver, who the award is named after, is a retired Fairfax County Publics Schools principal. He said he knows how special it is to work with the WAT program from his days doing so at Thoreau Middle School.
"I know how incredibly important it is for students with disabilities to have some way to enter the workforce beyond school," said Oliver. "By providing an opportunity for them to get out of the school and work in a different environment, you can't put a price on it. I'm glad to have met Faitheleen."
AFCEA has partnered with Belvoir Elementary for seven years and has contributed too many of the school's programs including the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program.
"We are humbled," said Alvie Johnson, AFCEA, Belvoir Chapter president. "This is what we do and this is what the organization is designed to do; to connect with the community. To be recognized by the school for doing our number one mission is humbling."
AFCEA has contributed money to various schools in Fairfax County over the years, but did not see the donation being appreciated. They decided to look for a school with a clear need, and Belvoir Elementary fit the criteria.
"If you go to all the major high schools in the area, you see they have computers and all those other pieces," Johnson said. "Fairfax County School's that support DoD children don't have a lot of that. We wanted to give them something better to make them more competitive against every other school in the area."
Since partnering with Belvoir, AFCEA has seen a distinct growth in the level of interest in education amongst the students.
"We were just at a science symposium in D.C., and the kids came in with a robotics demonstration," said Bill Jones, AFCEA, Belvoir Chapter executive vice-president. "I think as we've improved our science lab at the school, it has given the children a chance to come in and get exposed to (science) which has fostered a hunger in their eyes and an excitement."
Johnson, a 1979 graduate of Howard University, said he has a special loyalty to AFCEA since the scholarships he received from them while in college allowed him to finish school.
He made it a point to continue to support the organization after he graduated.
"This has been a lifelong passion of mine," Johnson said. "Whatever we do makes a difference."

Page last updated Thu May 24th, 2012 at 11:33