June 17, 2020

The Illinois Chapter of the National School PR Association (INSPRA) defines a Distinguished Service Award winner as someone who supports or improves understanding and communication in a school or district and fosters cooperative partnerships between school and community. We are pleased to share that District 54 had four winners of this award in June:

  • Raheela N., from Eisenhower Jr. High, received this honor in the student category;
  • Pilar Vences, a volunteer and parent from Hanover Highlands Elementary School and Robert Frost Junior High, received this honor in the parent category; and
  • Suzanne Bekielewski and Kathy King, the secretarial team from Fairview Elementary, received this honor in the team category.


When eighth-grade students at Eisenhower Junior High were challenged to secretly perform an act of kindness for a classmate, Raheela decided to take things to the next level by delivering notes of encouragement to 80 of her classmates.

Raheela asked her language arts teacher if they could meet after school, so that she could learn new facts about each student, and write them a personalized note. To ensure that she delivered them anonymously, she posted all of them on the classroom walls the day before winter break. When students arrived they gasped with excitement as they were greeted by a rainbow of sticky notes and realized there was one for each of them.

This small but incredibly meaningful act of kindness triggered a chain reaction among classrooms throughout Eisenhower. Many students kept their notes throughout the remainder of the year to remind them how special they are

Pilar Vences

Pilar has served as the PTA president at Frost Junior High School and Hanover Highlands Elementary School, having a son at each of the schools. In these roles, she fosters cooperative partnerships, strengthens support for education, and improves communication to positively influence the staff, students, families and community at large.

Pilar gives her time and effort to support students through various PTA activities that promote high achievement and positive culture at Frost and Hanover Highlands. Aside from her PTA responsibilities, Pilar displays leadership in promoting additional parent involvement through various school and district events. She develops further connections by providing our Spanish-speaking community with opportunities to learn and grow around school resources.

However, Pilar’s influence extends beyond the PTA. This past year she worked with facilitators of District 54’s Schaumburg Parent University to ensure programs were accessible to Spanish-speaking families. Pilar took it upon herself to find thoughtful, Spanish-speaking presenters and even attended their presentations in advance to determine if they were worthwhile before recommending them for Parent University. Pilar said she became involved in District 54 to support the children, but also other families who need help navigating an education system different from the one where they grew up.

Suzanne Bekielewski and Kathy King

Suzanne and Kathy have established strong relationships with staff, students and community members to best support student learning and the emotional well-being of each student, and ensure community needs and concerns are addressed.

Suzanne and Kathy are the face of the school. They are the first people you meet when you walk through the office doors and for some people, new to the district, they may be the first people you meet in District 54. This makes them the frontline of public relations.

In 2017, District 54 trained all staff on the elements of positive psychology. While the tactics learned may have been new to some staff, Suzanne and Kathy have been demonstrating these principles for years. They can turn every situation into something positive. For example, when they notice that a student doesn’t have money to buy books at a book fair, they find the funds and ensure that the student isn’t excluded from this school wide activity.