North Mianus School teacher Julie Cofone receives CHAMPS award

Julie Cofone, a fifth-grade teacher at North Mianus School, was honored by the Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI) with the Joan Wismer CHAMPS Teacher of the Year Award at the 2015 Clearing the Path Gala held Oct. 20, at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, D.C. Cofone will be recognized for her achievement by the Greenwich Board of Education at the Oct. 22 meeting at 7 p.m., at Eastern Middle School.

The Children Against Mines Program (CHAMPS) is an educational outreach program that engages students in the global effort to rid the world of landmines. The program raises awareness about landmines and gives students the chance to fund-raise and sponsor their own Mine Detection Dog (MDD).

MLI selected Cofone for this honor to recognize her tireless efforts to engage children in CHAMPS at North Mianus School and for empowering her students to take action to help others around the world.

“I am proud to accept this award on behalf of the whole North Mianus community,” said Cofone. “The students and teachers are very passionate about CHAMPS and I am excited that their dedication and hard work is being recognized.”

What began as a non-fiction literacy unit in Ms. Cofone’s fifth grade class has grown to a school-wide commitment to the CHAMPS Program. Over the past four years, fifth grade students at North Mianus have donated close to $15,000 to CHAMPS. The school was awarded naming privileges of a MDD in 2013 after being the top-fundraising group in Connecticut. The students chose to name the dog Hawk, after the North Mianus mascot. Hawk is currently serving in Iraq. The school has also donated towards MDD Rachel and MDD Cosby, with current donations focused on sponsoring MDD Emily (in honor of Emily Fedorko, a former North Mianus student).

“We are proud of the (efforts) students have made to support this cause and we look forward to our continued ties to the CHAMPS organization ensuring children in war-torn countries like Bosnia will have happier lives without the fear of land mines,” said Angela Schmidt, North Mianus School Principal.

In addition to an annual dog walk event to raise money and educate students and the Greenwich community about the impact of landmines, fifth graders at North Mianus have conducted fundraising events including selling CHAMPS dog trading cards and bracelets, running lemonade stands, and some students choose to donate their birthday money to CHAMPS. The school also recently launched a collaboration with the Rotary Club of Greenwich.

To stay connected to the program, to reflect on others around the world, and to create more compassionate students, North Mianus students video chat with students living in mine-affected countries twice a month, and read articles about mine detection dogs and mine-affected countries.

Other Greenwich Public Schools involved in CHAMPS projects are: New Lebanon School, Parkway School, and Old Greenwich School.

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