Almost everybody who has spent time pondering the challenges facing our country eventually comes to the following truth: we need to help our young people be safe and educated in order for them to lead productive lives. Heck, the future of our country depends on it. That's why the Cordova Community Council considers the next award - Service to Youth - among the most important.
Many nominations were received in this category describing wonderful work being done in Rancho Cordova by caring adults. But only one was submitted by a bunch of teenagers themselves. And they were pretty high on a teacher and mentor named Frances Boyen.
Frances is an English teacher who started at Cordova High in 1991. Over the past 20 years, it is safe to say she has taught thousands of Cordova High School students.
She was the Drama Club advisor for a number of years, and she was the advisor to HEAL-YA, an acronym for the Healthy Eating Active Living Club, which promoted healthy eating among teens at Cordova High.
All that has no doubt impacted many teenagers in important ways, but it is her voluntary, afterschool jewelry-making rap sessions that seem to have set her apart in the eyes of the grateful teens who wanted to tell us about Ms. Boyen.
For more than six years, Frances Boyen has volunteered her time after school at the Cordova Student Union. She comes in at least one afternoon each week to make jewelry with students.
All kinds of students get involved in this loosely organized jewelry making club: girls and boys from all racial groups, including students who are just learning to speak English. Kids ranging in age from freshmen to seniors are among those making jewelry with Ms. Boyen. There are great students and kids who are struggling in school - all are welcome at the jewelry-making club.
Frances is more than your usual club advisor: She buys all the supplies. She notices what the kids love most about the jewelry then buys beads she knows they will want to use. Then she sits with them, helping them create beautiful necklaces and bracelets for themselves or gifts for family and friends.
What happens next is the really important part.
Here's what the kids wrote to us: "While we are making jewelry together, we also talk with Ms. Boyen about all kinds of things. She listens to us when we talk about our struggles at school and gives us advice about how to make things better."
They go on...
"She is honest with us about her opinions and also respects our ideas. She listens as we talk about the music we like, the friends we care about and how things are going for us at home and in our neighborhoods. She encourages us to talk about our dreams and goals for the future and helps us to reach for those goals."
Frances Boyen's contributions do not stop with jewelry-making. She is attentive to the small things.
For example, during the holidays the school conducts a canned food drive. Many teachers give extra credit to students who bring in food to donate. But many of the students at school are among the needy themselves and cannot afford to donate. Not only are they left out, they are deprived of the extra credit points given to other students.
Alert to this, Frances brings in boxes of canned food so that these students, the neediest of the needy, can donate them and earn the extra credit.
It is a well-established fact that one of the most important elements in producing a successful child is the presence of a caring adult. Frances Boyen shows how to do it.
It shows in her work and she proves it in the many, many hours of volunteer time she gives. She digs into her own pocket to help and she takes the trouble to notice when things are hard for kids.
Frances, your Distinguished Service to Youth is hereby honored by us here tonight.
But more importantly, it is cherished by the teens at Cordova High for whom you are more than a great teacher and jewelry-maker - you are the important somebody who cared.