TAMPA — When local students are convicted of crimes and go through the juvenile justice system, Chrissy Dorion helps determine the best way to guide them back to regular school and toward becoming successful citizens.
Sometimes this means placing a student in a career center instead of a traditional high school. It might mean referral to a foster home or emergency shelter care or any number of other solutions.
In every case, her approach is personal. She gives her cell phone number to students and tells them to call her anytime if they need help with anything. She once cut short a Las Vegas vacation to help a student in need.
Hillsborough school officials named Dorion the winner of this year's "We Deliver" award, an honor established in 2006 to recognize school employees who go beyond their basic duties to make a difference in the lives of students.
District superintendent MaryEllen Elia and Hillsborough Education Foundation president Bill Hoffman presented the award to Dorion along with a check for $10,000 in a surprise announcement Friday morning at the Sam Horton Instructional Services Center.
Following a barrage of Silly String and a shout of "surprise!" from her colleagues and district officials, Dorion said she was overwhelmed at the honor.
"I'm going to tell you that it's very rarely that I'm speechless," Dorion said as she choked back tears. "I accept this award on behalf of all the kids who may have made bad decisions, but it does not mean that they are bad people."
Elia selected Dorion from among more than 600 employees nominated for consideration.
"I get a reward every day just by going to work and getting to know these kids," Dorion said.
Two other finalists each received checks for $1,000: Timothy Driggers, a bus driver for Lomax Elementary School who reads to his students every day, and Tracie Napoli, a teaching assistant at Shaw Elementary School, who was nominated for her work in getting business partners for the school, volunteering to work extra hours, and creating crafts for the children to decorate the school. Funds for the award come from the Hillsborough Education Foundation.
Dorion started working for Hillsborough schools in 1994 as a special education teacher. She later moved into juvenile justice programs and has been a transition specialist since 2004, working to ease students from juvenile justice programs back into the school system.
"We think that transition should just happen, but someone has to make it happen," Elia said. "It was clear that Chrissy makes miracles happen every day."
Dan Sullivan can be reached at (813) 226-3321 or [email protected]