Making a Difference Award

  • This award is to recognize and honor people who have gone above and beyond for our district. These individuals may be volunteers or paid employees of the district.

    One recognition award will be awarded in December and June of each school year. Anyone nominated, but not selected, for an award will automatically be considered for the next award.


    Nomination Form

  • Dion earns award in 2023 for service to PCSD

    When the Phoenix Central School District established the “Making a Difference Award” three years ago, it aimed to honor those whose actions have left a lasting impression on the district. This year’s recipient, Sheila Dion, has left an indelible mark on the greater PCSD community and was recently recognized for her contributions.

    Earl Rudy, Sheila Dion, Chris Byrne, Rob SouthworthOn March 8, the PCSD Board of Education presented Dion with the award, citing her unwavering support for the district, its students and staff. She spearheaded the Erin’s Angels program, which provides food every week to nearly 125 students who face food insecurity. In addition to taking on that monumental effort, Dion also empowers other women with her “Oswego Women Lead” organization.

    “Sheila is the definition of humanity and what can happen when people pursue kindness and selflessness and make that their life mission,” said John C. Birdlebough High School teacher Lisa Spereno, who nominated Dion for the award. “She will continue to make a difference and have a positive impact on this community for decades to come.”

    PCSD Superintendent of Schools, Christopher Byrne, echoed those sentiments as he presented Dion with the honor.

    “On behalf of the entire BOE, I can say that this is a very well-deserved award,” Byrne said. “Thank you so much for all that you have done for our students, our school and our community.”

    For more information about the award or to nominate someone, please visit

    Doug & Judi Graham are 2021-22 Award Winners

    Decades of service and volunteerism have not gone unnoticed as Doug and Judi Graham recently earned the Phoenix Central School District’s Making a Difference Award.

    Doug and Judi GrahamThe recognition program began two years ago with the goal of honoring those who have gone above and beyond for the PCSD. This year’s award-winners met that criteria due to their years of contributions to Phoenix youth, according to the nomination submitted by former BOE member Paul Gilchreist.

    Gilchreist detailed the Grahams’ contributions dating back to the mid-‘90s, when they began coaching Little League baseball and community youth basketball. Their volunteerism extended beyond coaching, as they helped run concessions, served as scorekeepers, ran the clocks and spearheaded fundraisers through the boosters.

    “They saw the need and they stepped up to help,” Gilchreist said. “They dedicated their time and effort for all the children, not just their own two. They cared about the success of everyone …”

    Even after their own children graduated, the Grahams remained active in various community programs. For decades, they impacted hundreds of lives within the community.

    “They will never know the countless number of people they touched; how many children are better adults because of their mentoring,” Gilchreist said.

    Upon reading the nomination, Superintendent Christopher Byrne congratulated the Grahams and presented them with the Making a Difference Award through a virtual connection.

    “On behalf of the entire BOE, I can say that this is a very well-deserved award,” Byrne said. “Thank you so much for all that you have done for our students, our school and our community. Congratulations and thank you, Doug and Judi!”

    Cathy Lee is First Recipient

    When the Phoenix Central School District put out the call for nominations for its first-ever “Making a Difference” Award, one name resonated loud and clear: Cathy Lee.

    For nearly three decades, Phoenix resident Cathy Lee has served the district as a volunteer and community liaison. She has spearheaded many of the student leadership and community service efforts. She instituted the Leadership Council and Presidential Youth Service Awards, she oversees homecoming traditions and connects students to elderly residents with shopping trips and dances.

    Chris Byrne, Diana Cook, Cathy Lee, Earl Rudy “She brings students to feed the homeless in Syracuse, she spearheads all of our community-based food drives which go to the local Phoenix food pantry, and she oversees the students when they create a ‘Shanty Town’ to truly understand what it's like to be homeless and live in the elements,” said English teacher Lisa Spereno, who nominated Lee for the award.

    “I do not know of anyone else who has touched so many lives over the entirety of her existence. I would say thousands of Phoenix residents are better people, more giving people, truly wonderful people because of the direct influence of Cathy,” Spereno said.

    That sentiment was echoed by others and felt by the selection committee as they presented Lee with a certificate and an award during a recent Board of Education meeting. Superintendent Christopher Byrne lauded Lee for her contributions and noted that her actions have left an indelible mark on the entire community.

    “If anyone embodies the "Making A Difference" Award and deserves recognition -- as much as she dislikes being in the spotlight -- it is the face, the spirit and the love of Phoenix: Cathy Lee,” Spereno said.