Four of the community’s most recognizable faces — Julius E. Sprauve School (JESS) principal Mario Francis, Guy Benjamin School (GBS) teacher Lisa Penn and community activists Lynese Shomo and Bonny Corbeil — were honored for their contributions to St. John at a Friday night, October 13, St. John Rotary dinner and awards ceremony at Paradiso.
Francis and Penn were given vocational service awards in recognition for their dedication to their jobs; Shomo was given a community service award in honor of her never-ending volunteer work; and Corbeil was honored as a Paul Harris Fellow.
“The Paul Harris Fellowship recognizes the contribution of $1,000, either by or in the name of the recipient to the humanitarian and educational programs of the Rotary Foundation,” said St. John Rotary President John Fuller. “It recognizes a person in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world.”
The St. John Rotary donated $1,000 to the Rotary Foundation in Corbeil’s name.
Impacted by Youth Groups
Corbeil, who was born and raised in North Bay, Ontario, credits being raised by a single mother for who she has become.
“I am one of four children of a single mother,” she said. “I experienced poverty and adversity. I say this because it had a big effect on the person I became.”
It is important to develop youth programs on St. John, said Corbeil.
“As a child, I was very much impacted by groups and clubs who offered opportunities for me to both grow and have fun,” she said. “Many of these groups became a lifeline for me. This is why I am so big on our great need to develop youth programs on St. John.”
Corbeil is a prominent face at many community gatherings, added Fuller.
Human Beings Are Family
“If it’s a community event, she’s there,” he said. “She is working and making it happen.”
Corbeil urged St. John residents to get to know one another.
“I have learned to love so many people because of who they really are,” she said upon receiving her award. “We have to remember that as human beings, we are all family to each other. I am so proud that I’m doing my little tiny bit in the world.”
“This is better than the academy awards,” Corbeil continued. “This might be the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me. I am so honored, and I appreciate this from the bottom of my heart.”
The service awards, given to Penn, Francis and Shomo, recognize people “who, by their work or vocation and community activities, seek to improve St. John in the spirit of Rotary’s ‘service above self,’” said Fuller.
Providing Positive Learning Environment
Penn, a 1979 JESS alumnus, was honored with a vocational service award for her dedication to her job as a GBS teacher.
“At Guy Benjamin, Lisa is a beacon and is highly respected by her students, fellow teachers, other faculty and staff, parents, and many in the community at large,” said St. John Rotary member Ronnie Lock-hart, reading from Penn’s biography. “Lisa’s philosophy is that all children can learn if provided with an environment that is conducive to learning.
She has vowed to continue to do all that she can to see to it that the children of St. John get the best education possible.”
In addition to her job as a teacher, Penn has served as the school’s volleyball coach, geography bee coordinator, communications arts coordinator and as a member of the school improvement team.
Passion for Education
“I am very proud to be a recipient of this award,” said Penn. “I want to thank my Guy Benjamin School family. We have something special going on at that school.”
Francis, who was also honored with a vocational service award, developed a passion for education at a young age.
“At an early age, he developed a passion for education and boasted of becoming a teacher one day,” said Lockhart, reading Francis’ biography. “Mario understands that as a people, our involvement in the lives of youngsters can not rest merely with the work we do for pay. ‘Emancipat-ing the mind through education’ has been one of his credos.”
Francis, who resides on St. Thomas and travels to St. John daily to serve as the principal at JESS, thanked his wife, Mildred, for supporting him.
Community Support Makes Job Easier
“My wife Mildred is part of the process,” he said. “She tells me, ‘if you are committed to it, I am committed to you and your cause as well.’”
Francis also thanked the St. John community for supporting the school.
“My attitude is one of gratitude,” he said. “This job is not easy, and I thank the community of St. John for supporting me, because it makes it a whole lot easier. Thank you everyone for being supportive of Sprauve School.”
Shomo, who is also a St. Thomas resident, was honored for her positive presence in the St. John community.
“She considers herself an advocate for children and has and will tutor any students who need her help,” said
Lockhart, reading from Shomo’s biography. “She also finds time to sit on various committees and boards. She resides on St. Thomas with her husband of 27 years and is the proud mother of one son, Jared.”
Shomo, a St. John Rotary member, thanked her family for giving her the freedom to spend time volunteering.
“I’d like to thank my family for allowing me the time to volunteer, and to do things that are important to me,” she said.
Shomo admitted that when she joined St. John Rotary, it was a requirement of her job.
“After hearing the four-way test, I decided that that is where I wanted to be,” she said, referring to Rotary’s four-way test, which asks: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? And a fifth part of the test added by St. John Rotary: Is it fun?
Fuller commended Shomo for winning the award.
“I am so proud to know you,” he said.