2017 Blair Community Schools Foundation Awards
Thanks to all who attended the 2017 Alumni Brunch in June. During the event, we awarded our 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award and Community Service Award. Read below to see the award winners for this year and learn about their contributions to our community.
2017 Community Service Award
Ann Hackerott and her husband, Alan, came to Blair in 1992 as his career as a nuclear engineer brought the couple to our community. As parents of two young children, the couple was excited to hear about Blair’s outstanding school system. Both of their children, Michael and Lisa, graduated from Blair High School, then college, and have embarked on good careers. When their children were young, Ann volunteered at their schools, taught Sunday school and served in leadership positions on committees at First United Methodist Church.
Before moving to Blair, Ann was an English Instructor at Kansas State University. During her time at KSU, she began to mentor each of her students weekly for extra help and encouragement in addition to the classroom. Ann saw a marked improvement in her students’ confidence and success. This experience planted a seed in Ann that would blossom once an opportunity to mentor students became available twelve years ago.
In 2004, a group of Blair citizens, headed by Susan and Mic Pinquoch, were organizing a chapter of Tom and Nancy Osborne’s TeamMates Mentoring Program. Ann understood the boon this program would be for Blair students and accepted the position as Coordinator. She has held that position as well as mentored weekly since the program began.
In her role, Ann trains and then carefully matches students with adult volunteer mentors, who meet one to one, one hour a week, in the school setting, during school hours. Mentors and students talk, play games, do crafts, and enjoy TeamMates events. They can stay together through high school. Ann facilitates communication between students, mentors, parents, school staff and other community supporters. The program has 85 students meeting with 85 mentors serving fifth through twelfth graders. On average, a Blair TeamMates mentor visits 24 times each school year, not including often attending their student’s events, sports, music, and plays.
Blair’s program has one of the highest volunteer longevity rates in the TeamMates organization. It has also delivered measurable results. Blair’s TeamMates students last year achieved a 69% academic improvement, 91% fewer disciplinary referrals, and 94% fewer unexcused absences. It’s most important mission, however, is helping to develop a student’s full potential, through the friendship, encouragement, and fun of mentoring.
2017 Distinguished Alumni Award
Matt Waite is a professor of practice at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, teaching reporting and digital product development. He is also a graduate of the college, earning a Bachelor of Journalism degree in 1997.
Prior to joining the faculty, he was the senior news technologist for the St. Petersburg Times of Florida and the principal developer of the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact.
In 2007, he began working as a hybrid journalist/programmer, combining reporting experience and Web development to create new platforms for journalism. The first platform he developed was PolitiFact, a website that fact checks what politicians say. The site became the first website awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2009. After PolitiFact, he and the New Products Development Team built journalistic products involving entertainment listings, high school sports, local crime and real estate. His projects tripled traffic to high school sports content, doubled local audience, won awards and accounted for more than 50 percent of all traffic to the St. Petersburg Times websites in less than a year.
Before becoming a Web developer, he was an award-winning investigative reporter. He began his journalism career at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, covering police and breaking news, including deadly tornadoes and the crash of American Airlines flight 1420 in 1999. In 2000, he moved to the St. Petersburg Times, covering crime and city government in a suburban county. In 2003 he moved to the metro staff of the Times and later the investigative staff. From 2005-2007, he co-authored a series of award-winning stories about Florida’s vanishing wetlands. That work was later expanded into a book, “Paving Paradise: Florida’s Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss,” published in 2009 by the University Press of Florida.
In 2009, he co-founded Hot Type Consulting, a company that builds applications for media outlets. Hot Type has helped launch a major new non-profit journalism entity in the Texas Tribune and has produced award-winning websites for other clients.
He is married to fellow UNL CoJMC graduate Nancy (Zywiec) Waite and has two children.