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Erin Gray receives 2011 Distinguished Service Award

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Erin Gray received the 2011 Bandera County Commissioners Court Distinguished Service Award on Thursday, Dec. 22. Special Ambassador Elenora Dugosh Goodley with the Bandera County Sister Partnership recommended that Gray be given the prestigious award for her five years of "untiring efforts" on behalf of the partnership project.

"It has been exciting to be a part of such a big project," Gray, 28, said after receiving the beautiful plaque handcrafted in the shape of the State of Texas.

A third grade teacher at Alkek Elementary School, Gray has also taught with Head Start and pre-kindergarten students. She has also worked with physically and mentally challenged children - skills that proved invaluable to the county-district partnership effort.

Gray organized the Bandera Independent School District International Sister Partnership Exchange Program with Poland, and plans to expand it to include an exchange program with the Tysmenytsia School District in Ukraine.

Beginning in 2006, Gray coordinated school exchange projects between schools in Bandera schools Strzelce Opolskie, Poland. She participated in five cultural exchange visits with sister partner schools.

In 2009, Gray began an initiative that culminated with the creation of a handmade quilt featuring art designs of students and teachers in Alkek Elementary School. During the Sister Partnership Exchange visit held later that year, Gray presented the completed quilt to Strzelce Opolskie city and school officials.

During the June 2011 exchange visit to Tysmenytsia, Ukraine, Gray obtained necessary information and contacts that will enable her to develop future exchange programs and projects with schools in the Tysmenytsia District.

According to Goodley, Gray is currently preparing a code of conduct and qualifications to be printed in English, Polish and Ukrainian for the Bandera County Sister Partnership Board of Directors, as well as for elected officials, students, teachers and exchange visit partners and participants.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Bruce Eliker described Gray as a "valuable player" in the sister partnership association. Eliker formerly served as court liaison with the partnership. Precinct 4 Commissioner Doug King now serves in that capacity.

"Erin's work skills and ability to coordinate and put into motion helped develop the international school exchange programs within the Bandera County Sister Partnership," Goodley said during an earlier meeting. "She is dedicated to helping young children become good and responsible citizens, to love their country and state and respect the culture, history and traditions of our sister partners."

Goodley continued, "Erin has been spreading peace and goodwill as a special Bandera ISD 'School Exchange Director Ambassador' for the last four years. We expect her to continue her work many years in the future."

Goodley also thanked the commissioners for allowing the distinguished service award to be given on behalf of the commissions court for the first time this year.

The award has been given to special volunteers in the community since 2006.

Pictured: Precinct 4 Commissioner Doug King presented the 2011 Bandera County Commissioners Court Distinguished Service Award to Erin Gray, center, as Special Ambassador Elenora Dugosh Goodley looked on.

Gray received the prestigious award for her work on behalf of the Sister City-County Partnership Exchange with Poland and Ukraine.