Each honoree has done something outstanding in their service to children.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about receiving this honor for Linda Dougherty, principal of Our Lady of Mercy School in Forest Hills, is that she is a former student of the school.
“I never actually thought I’d be back here. That’s why I think the honor is even greater; it’s very important to the whole community,” she said.
Dougherty has been an educator for 32 years. She began with a variety of teaching jobs in local schools and overseas in Rome. For 12 years, she served as principal in three Brooklyn schools and she has been principal of OLM for eight years.
“It’s a great honor and it’s overwhelming really because you do what you enjoy doing, trying to make a difference in the lives of children for many years,” she said. “It’s not something I think I’m being rewarded for other than the reward of hearing about the children you’ve worked with, the feedback on that.”
Dougherty also teaches part-time at Bronx Community College, training upcoming teachers. Teaching, she says, is something that was always an inspiration to her.
“My father taught all of us that we should do what we love doing, no matter what it was,” she said. “I think that’s always what I kept in mind and I enjoy working with kids.”
For Stanley Swiatocha, the highlight of his day is when he goes to a high school basketball game, a parent says to him, “hi coach,” and he realizes that that parent is someone he also coached when they were younger.
Swiatocha has been coaching since 1980 when he moved to Forest Hills with his wife, Janice and became a member of Our Lady of Mercy sports committee. He has played CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) basketball all his life and before reaching OLM, where he now manages the CYO program, he began refereeing in 1968.
On Saturdays he volunteers at PS 101 on the Pee Wee Basketball team, which serves pre-K through second grade.
Swiatocha, a father of five, has always been active in the community. His job at Phillip Morris allowed him to manage blood drives and participate in programs to feed the hungry. “I was glad to be able to work for a company that wasn’t just concrete walls inside,” he said.
He also volunteers at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside as a doula – someone who spends time with children if the parents cannot make it in on that day.
“I learned the importance of helping my neighbor from my parents,” he said. “My dad always drove the teams, my mom is a retired nurse who donates time to the blood drive at St. Margaret’s.”
He is humbled to be honored and an important part of what he does, he owes to his wife. “Behind the scenes, she takes numerous phone calls and has taken many for me over the years,” he said. “She understands that I may miss a meal because I’m doing volunteer work.”
Steven G. Schott goes by two things: building bridges, not barriers and the belief in tomorrow’s children.
“I believe it’s important that a community comes together,” he said. Schott is the vice president of the Capital Campaign at the New York Junior Tennis League where he has worked for 29 years.
“When we come together in a room and we talk about a stadium at Forest Hills or what we can do for the kids, it makes us a better society,” he said.
Schott is a graduate of Rollins College. After his schooling, he decided to dedicate his time to merging two passions of his: sports and helping others.
At the New York Junior Tennis League - the largest nonprofit organization that organizes tennis programs at schools - he has worked in the South Bronx, where he feels he has made a difference.
“I feel fortunate to be around kids who don’t have monetary things in life but have a spirit of love and of life,” he said.
The NYJTL recently broke ground on a new facility that Schott helped get off the ground. The Leeds Tennis and Education Center boasts 12,000 square feet for the children and sunken championship courts to seat 1,500.
He also worked with the NYJTL at the Russel Sage Junior High School on Austin Street where he ran a tournament team in conjunction with the West Side Tennis Club.
Schott has two children, Meredith, 12, and Whitney, 15. He is the co-creator of the Kew-Forest Tennis Academy at the West Side Tennis Club, which offers students the unique opportunity to practice at the Club for three hours a day. It is the only program of its kind in New York.
“I’m very honored, very touched,” he said of his honor. “The Kiwanis Club has a tremendous feeling for our community, I want to thank them.”