Written by Arkansas Real Estate
Last week the Rogers Education Foundation honored Virginia Mocivnik, champion of women’s sports in Rogers; education advocates David Matthews and Joye Kelley; and Marine Cpl. Aaron Mankin.
Education plays a vital role in our community, and Northwest Arkansas offers some of the best amenities, facilities, and educators in the entire state. Below is an article courtesy of NWA Newspapers which outlines the evening, but we were excited to honor these esteemed community heroes who have made great strides in our education system.
The Rogers Public Education Foundation on Thursday night honored Virginia Mocivnik, champion of women’s sports in Rogers; education advocates David Matthews and Joye Kelley; and Marine Cpl. Aaron Mankin.
“The list we had was just phenomenal,” said Angie Tucker-Ridley, president of the foundation board.
The committee reviewed about 30 applications — five nominated from the community — for their impact. Mankin was chosen as a representative of Rogers as a graduate and for his work in representing soldiers around the country.
Matthews, also a Rogers graduate, was chosen for representing the Rogers Public Schools in several legal battles and his work as a philanthropist. Mocivnik and Kelley have both been strong supporters of Rogers schools, Tucker-Ridley said.
Patti Mocivnik, received the honor for her mother Virginia Mocivnik, who is hospitalized with complications from a broken leg. Her mother was a professional softball player and among the causes she championed were women’s sports, partially as a way to receive a college scholarship.
“She was savvy enough to understand that education is the most powerful mechanism for change,” Patti Mocivnik said.
Janine Ellis-Keith met Virginia Mocivnik when she applied for a single-parent scholarship. It took Ellis-Keith more than five years to get through college, but every year she heard from her mentor.
“She made sure that I reapplied every year,” Ellis-Keith said.
“That influence can only grow, Ellis-Keith said.
Ronald Katz, founder of Operation Mend, came to honor Mankin, the first patient through the program that pairs specialists at the University of California, Los Angeles with veterans’ military doctors. So far, 80 patients with burns, traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries or hand deformities have been through the program, Katz said.
Mankin’s was an extraordinarily difficult case, but with 25 surgeries spaced over five years the program has returned form to his face, Katz said.
“It’s just a joy to see him develop after he’s gone through such physical trials,” Katz said.
During that first surgery, Katz sat with Steve Mankin, Aaron’s father. When Aaron was wheeled out of surgery his face was swollen. Katz teased him about getting a new nose out of his bar fight. Aaron told him ‘You should have seen the other guy,’ Katz said.
Steve Mankin nominated his son through the foundation. Aaron has received awards and honors elsewhere, but be honored in his hometown is different.
“He refuses to be defeated,” Steve Mankin said of his son’s attitude.
“He just has a resolve that he’s going to make the best out of it,” he said.
Aaron, who moved back to Rogers in August, said having family, friends and a hometown means a lot and as the parent of a kindergartner he is honored to have his name on the high school wall.
“It’s good to be home,” he said.
Matthews said he has always valued a good public education and is proud to be induced with the present class.
“It’s a big deal to me,” Matthews said.
Joye Kelley, a former elementary teacher, served 29 years on the School Board and said she’s pleased with the work of the foundation and how they work to support teachers.
The foundation sold tickets to 370 seats for Thursday’s event, up from 320 tickets its first year. Sponsorships increased for the most part, Tucker-Ridley said.
A soccer tournament at the end of March will also raise money for the teacher grants buying supplies from puppets to iPads that are awarded through the foundation. Last year they gave $30,000 in teacher grants, which is more than the last four years combined. This year they hope to top that with $50,000, Tucker-Ridley said.
Although the money goes to the teachers it is all about making the difference in the life of a child.
“People don’t think about what a teacher’s role is in a child’s life,” Tucker-Ridley said.
Grants will be awarded in mid to late April.