‘Imagine your impact’
City's education foundation honors three alumni
The Williamsport Area School District Education Foundation held its second Donor and Alumni Appreciation Event. The education foundation recognized its donors, philanthropy and honored this year’s three Williamsport Area High School Distinguished Alumni: Callah Antonetti ’05, Susan Durrwachter ’81 and the late Capt. Chancellor Alfonso “Pete” Tzomes ’62.
“One of the phrases the foundation introduced last year was ‘imagine your impact,’ “ said Greg Hayes, executive director of the WASD Education Foundation. “We wanted to push that idea forward again this year to prompt your thinking about how your work or philanthropy — or both — can make a difference.”
“None of the successes experienced would have been possible without those of you here tonight,” he said.
The education foundation granted $125,000 to the school district last school year and generated more than $339,000 in revenue, a 43 percent increase over the previous year, Hayes said.
“Donors came forward to help us establish three new funds, bringing our total funds under management to 149,” Hayes said, “allowing our total asset value to surpass the $2 million mark for the first time.”
Unable to attend, Antonetti’s mother, Deborah Antonetti-Hill, accepted the award on her daughter’s behalf. She shared a few remarks as well as those prepared by her daughter, the assistant director of the pediatric residency program and pediatric hospitalist at the Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart in Pensacola, Florida.
Both shared the honor of Antonetti being named the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Young Alumnus Award.
Memories of a friend
Tzomes, who posthumously received the Distinguished Alumni Service Award for his work and service in the U.S. Navy, passed away in June 2019. Classmate and friend Lucille Evans accepted the award on his behalf, recalling the memories she has of her friend and his aspirations to always enter the military.
“The Class of 1962,” she said with a cheer, “wants to thank the district for awarding our classmate this honor.”
Follow your dreams
Durrwachter, an award-winning, Emmy-nominated CNN News producer, received this year’s Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.
Despite experiencing a number of rejections as she attempted to break into the industry in New York City, she provided a simple recipe to follow to become successful: Follow your dreams and never give up.
“I’ll close with a quote from Teddy Roosevelt,” she said. “Who simply said, ‘Believe you can and you’re halfway there.’ “
Who Harnessed the Wind’
Durrwachter’s statements were echoed by keynote speaker William Kamkwamba, author of the New York Times best-selling memoir, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.”
The memoir, which also served as the basis for the 2019 Netflix drama by the same name, recounts the Malawian native’s work and ingenuity to build a windmill from scrap that brought electricity and water to his village when he was just years old.
“One thing that I tell myself, everything in life is possible if you put your mind into it and also you trust yourself,” Kamkwamba said. “All the people that are successful today, they faced some challenges, but one of the reasons why they are successful is because they didn’t give up.”
He shared his story of growing up in Malawi and his drive to bring change to his suffering community. He also spoke to his current initiative of working to build an innovation center for Malawian youth.
“When I look at talent, talent is universal, but opportunities are not,” he said. “With the innovation center that we are trying to build, I’m hoping that there will be so many talented young people who will come up with ideas to solve their own problems in their own communities.”
Kamkwamba also shared his story and message with eighth-grade students at Williamsport Area Middle School. Students there are reading his book and designing their own windmills using software and equipment from KidWind.