Earlier this year, Kim Mileszko, Lenape Regional High School District Child Study Team Student Job Developer, was nominated for USA Today’s Best of Humankind Awards. She is now the award’s Educator of the Year.
Mileszko was given her award on Dec 9 during a show hosted by Jenna Bush Hager of NBC’s “The Today Show. The Best of Humankind Awards honor everyday people who have shown the highest level of kindness, compassion and perseverance in 2021.
Mileszko was nominated for her work during the pandemic, when she connected Lenape’s Transition to Adulthood Program (TAP) students with local small businesses.
At the time, Mileszko tried to reimagine ways to work through a difficult time where people were separated by keeping them connected. Since her students were unable to go out and help the community because of COVID, Mileszko came up with the idea of “remote work” that brought service work to the students.
After district approval, Mileszko began to cold call businesses and posted on social-media platforms to ask for business owners’ participation in her new project.
The concept took off and Mileszko collected work assignments from the employers for the students, who were then exposed to different jobs in the community, from administration to elder care. Eventually, businesses also allowed Mileszko to come in person and conduct live virtual tours that were then live streamed to the students’ classrooms.
The program helped both TAP students and area small businesses through the pandemic by allowing the former to learn different skills and concepts useful to business owners.
Mileszko talked about how it felt to win the Best of Humankind and her gratitude to the person who helped nominate her.
“My immediate response was to reach out to December Giberson, the owner of A Rose in December, to thank her,” said Mileszko. “December has participated as a mentor and has given our students internships opportunities for the past 13 years. She was the one who nominated us for this and has been a strong supporter of our students and district.”
Mileszko also addressed what she hopes others will take away from hearing how the students and community come together at such a difficult time.
“In a season of uncertainty and division, we all came together for the common good of each other,” she noted. “Last year was a beautiful example of the power of working together, because the truth is, we really are better together.”