Family Counseling Services (FCS) is pleased to announce that Bethany Ward has been selected as the recipient of the 2015 Richard Shay Human Services Award which includes a $1,000 college scholarship. Bethany exemplifies the characteristics of Judge Shay through her dedication to school and community, recognition of the importance of family, and her commitment to volunteer leadership.
Bethany has been shaped by the challenges and experiences of her youth. “Growing up I didn’t have the best home life,” she shared. Ultimately, Bethany and her two younger brothers were placed into foster care. They spent several years in the foster care system before they went to live with a foster family that would change everything.
Burneeda and Lyle Ward raised their own four children and have served as foster parents to more than 50 other children, including Bethany and her siblings. “We are a goal setting family,” said Mrs. Ward. “We make certain the kids understand what is expected of them—they can’t just sit around. We expect them to do their best, be productive and give back to the community.”
When Bethany and her brothers moved in there was a connection. “When they came into our home, they became part of our family,” said Mrs. Ward. With a lot of family prayer and Bethany’s determination to keep the siblings together, the Wards decided to adopt all three children. “People need to know that foster care does work— kids can succeed,” she said. The pride in Mrs. Ward’s voice is evident as she talks about Bethany. “She works so hard. Every time she set a new goal, she did it!” Reverend Ward will be speaking at his daughter’s high school baccalaureate. “They are totally father and daughter,” said Mrs. Ward. “He couldn’t be more proud of her.”
Throughout her high school years, Bethany has been actively involved as a student athlete. She is President of the National Honor Society, Secretary of the Student Senate, a member of the soccer and track teams, and actively involved with other clubs and school programs. Outside of school, she volunteers at her church helping with bake sales, and teaching Sunday School and Vacation Bible School lessons. Cincinnatus teacher Ashley Eccleston serves as advisor to the Student Senate. “Bethany handles pressure with grace, constantly seeks to improve, and always finds positivity in everything she takes on,” shared Eccleston. “What I love most about Bethany is the perseverance she demonstrates time and time again.”
Bethany is graduating from the Cincinnatus Central School District this week-end and has been accepted into Davis College where she will obtain a bachelor’s degree in counseling— ultimately planning to pursue a master’s degree in social work. Bethany talked about the role that social workers had in her life. “They helped me in many ways, one giving me a new future,” she said. “Counseling is a passion that has grown in me for some time now and in this field I hope to make a difference in people’s lives around me, as well as make a statement in this big world,” she added.
Cincinnatus school guidance counselor Jodi Carey describes Bethany as a young woman with great academic promise who will embrace every experience that comes her way as a college student. “Bethany’s own determination and desire to succeed have taken her a long way, and I have absolutely no doubts that she will be highly successful in life,” said Carey.
The FCS award committee selected Bethany from a group of applicants from throughout Cortland County. “I was most impressed by the thoughtful essays each one had, as well as the letters of recommendation. Each spoke from the heart and each appears to be pursuing a career path based on personal experience— to be so young and to be so sure of a direction in life is pretty special,” said committee member Maggie Bardsley, whose father is Richard Shay.
About the Richard Shay Human Services Award:
In 2001, the Family Counseling Services Board of Directors created this award to honor former Cortland County Family Court Judge Richard Shay for his vision and efforts to establish an agency to offer family counseling services. Recognizing a critical shortage of counseling services for persons coming into his court, Judge Shay secured a grant from the Ford Foundation in 1970 to establish Volunteer Family Counseling Services of Cortland County. The effectiveness of the volunteer program led to the expansion of services and the addition of professional counseling staff. The name of the agency was eventually changed to Family Counseling Services of Cortland County following the transition from volunteer staff to all professional counselors.
Each year, the Richard Shay Human Services Award is given to a student who has been actively involved in school and community service as exemplified by Judge Shay. His dedication to this community, recognition of the importance of family, and his belief in the power of volunteer leadership and guidance serve as an inspiration to others. Applicants should demonstrate a commitment to a career in human services, counseling, law, criminal justice or a related field. Each year, the award is presented to a graduating Cortland County high school senior who will attend college in the fall.