It’s a great night when you leave an event proud of your child and proud of your community. That’s the way I felt last Thursday, after attending the Herold Mahoney Family Community Achievement Awards.

For 51 years, the Community Achievement Awards have honored the top 10 students in the sophomore, junior and senior classes at Petaluma High, Casa Grande, and St. Vincent high schools based on their academic ranking.

The awards were created because Herold Mahoney – who was serving on the school board at the time – and his wife, Connie, saw a need and took action to fill that need. They wanted students who were at the top of their class academically to be recognized in the same way that students were honored for their achievements in sports or other school organizations.

How great is it when someone like the Mahoney’s don’t just say “Wouldn’t it be nice if” and leave it at that. But instead, they take on the work of creating a solution. And then that solution develops a life of its own and is carried on by the community for 50 more years.

Although it’s the students being honored, everyone who attends the awards feels gratified because they played a part in the students’ success. At a time when school administrators have to do more with less, they can look with pride that they produced students who have been accepted at schools like Stanford and Princeton.

The standing-room-only banquet room at the Sheraton was practically bursting at the seams with parental pride. And if I do say so myself, why not? These kids didn’t raise themselves. It’s because mom and dad were there to get them out of bed for zero hour, drop off forgotten assignments at school, or drive them to Staples at 8:45 pm when the ink cartridge on the printer runs out.

And the community shows its support for the students by awarding the top seniors with a $500 check. More than 25 individuals, businesses and community organizations have consistently supported the Community Awards with their financial donations. But the really cool thing is that these groups don’t just write the check and then drop it off. They demonstrate that they really value the students by giving up their evening to be there to personally hand the check to the recipient.

And it’s a night for the seniors who are receiving the $500 award to shine. They get called up individually by a representative of the donor organization, have a short bio read about all their amazing achievements – 5.0 GPAs, talented athletes, gifted musicians, hundreds of hours of community service, and on and on…and then each student gets to talk briefly about their plans for college.

It’s a moment when everyone in the room celebrates that in spite of whatever struggles and uncertainty there was along the way – and when it comes to teenagers there are plenty – that it was all worth it. Thank you Herold and Connie Mahoney for creating something that leaves everyone feeling such hope.

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