February 6 ended up being a special night for Olando Dulin and Kevin Clarke. Mr. Dulin, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator for the Steel Valley School District, received word on January 31 that he had been chosen as a Community Impact Champion by the Pittsburgh Penguins and the CNX Foundation. Mr. Clarke, the district’s community liaison, received the same email.
The honor was held in conjunction with the Penguins’ Black Hockey History Game, an annual celebration the Penguins host during Black History Month. The event is sponsored by the CNX Foundation, which identifies local Black and African American leaders worthy of being recognized for their dedication to the region. Mr. Dulin and Mr. Clarke work closely with the CNX Foundation through its Mentorship Academy, which includes several Steel Valley students who are learning the trades.
“It was nice to know that people see and recognize the things we are doing for students,” Mr. Clarke said. It’s not that we do it to be recognized, but being recognized means a lot because of the impact it has on the kids.”
The two were recognized at ice level prior to the game alongside the six other honorees. They then watched the game from a suite, networked with other leaders and honorees, and enjoyed a 3-0 Penguins win over the Winnipeg Jets.
But the evening turned out to be even more special because of several other circumstances. For one, it was the first live hockey game for both men. Plus, the two were allowed to bring a guest with them, and both Mr. Clarke and Mr. Dulin decided to bring their mothers. When they met up in the parking lot, they were in for a surprise. Despite coaching football together at Steel Valley for years and working together in the district, Mr. Dulin and Mr. Clarke had no idea their moms were childhood friends. The two mothers had a joyous reunion in the parking lot at PPG Paints Arena.
“They saw each other and started yelling and screaming,” Mr. Dulin said. “They hadn’t seen each other in something like 20 years. And they used to hang out together.”
There was more support inside the arena. Thanks to Tickets for Kids, 50 Steel Valley Middle School and High School students, families, and staff received tickets to the game. That gave Mr. Clarke and Mr. Dulin their own cheering section when they were recognized before the game. Organized by Ms. Ryan Dunmire, middle school math teacher, and Ms. Gwendolyn Berchok, high school math teacher, the students and their families were able to enjoy the game while also supporting Mr. Clarke and Mr. Dulin. Several of the recipients were National Honor Society members who served as math tutors or students who used tutoring to improve their grades in math.
Being recognized for their work at Steel Valley in the community, in front of their students and families, combined with the networking opportunities and the atmosphere in the arena to make for a truly special night.
“It was really powerful. It was really nice,” Mr. Dulin said. “We don’t do it for recognition, but it feels good that someone is paying attention.”