Teach the Children Well
In her junior year of high school, Jill Novak wanted a career as a pediatrician. Thankfully, an experience with Best Buddies, a program that works with high school students with special needs at St. Katherine Day School in Wynnewood, Pa., in her words, “changed my path” and led her to special education.
Recently, Novak was awarded the Brother Colhocker Award, which is presented to a student who has made significant contributions in the area of service both here at La Salle and in the broader educational community. Graduating maxima cum laude with degrees in education and American studies, she was also named the top graduate in the American Studies program.
“Jill is known by the faculty and staff as someone who simply gets the job done, takes initiative, and is proactive,” said Mary Williams, Ed.D., Chair of the Education Department. “She embodies the mission of La Salle in everything she does.”
During her time at La Salle, Novak has participated in numerous activities and clubs, including The Masque, Team Lasallians, and Education Association. She was the president of Education Association her junior and senior year.
Novak started the student group Raising Equality for Adults and Children with Exceptionalities (REACHE), which works with people who have intellectual or physical disabilities. The group works very closely with the Special Olympics.
“Although there are a lot of service organizations on campus, I realized there wasn’t one that specifically provided volunteer opportunities working with the disabled,” Novak said.
“So, I reached out to faculty members to see what I could do about starting one.”
With the support of La Salle faculty, Novak started REACHE. She said the best part about REACHE is forming her own relationships with the Special Olympic athletes and watching the other volunteers form relationships with the athletes.
“When the bus leaves to go meet the Special Olympic athletes, all the student volunteers are quiet, stressed out about school and work, but when the bus returns, everyone is laughing, talking, and happy.” Novak said. “The athletes probably help us as much as we help them.”
When thinking about her last four years at La Salle, Novak said she will miss the close relationships she formed in the Education Department and at the University as a whole.
“I am very thankful for all that La Salle has taught me,” she said.
Next year, Novak will be continuing her education at Vanderbilt University, where she received a full scholarship to pursue her master’s degree in education.
-Bernadette Stanko, ’14