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A Hudson Senior High School teacher was recently selected as the recipient of a grant from the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) worth $1,500 for her dedication and commitment to her students by emphasizing diversity, equity and inclusion.

“This grant has been awarded to Lisa Schmitt, a high-achieving educator who has shown outstanding leadership and commitment to the field of education to better serve the academic community,” the NSHSS said in a Sept. 20 press release.

For 20 years at Hudson City School District, Schmitt has made it a priority for the students in her “Life Skills” class, an interactive, integrative and informative setting consisting of students with intellectual disabilities having the opportunity to intern and eventually work within the district and/or local businesses like Tractor Supply Co. and New York State Parks and Recreation at Olana, to develop the needed traits and skill sets to become successful and dependent.

“We are a work-based program where our high school students with intellectual disabilities participate in internships on and off campus. We are otherwise known as the ‘Kindness Club’,” Schmitt said. “We are involved in so much amazing work and I love to brag about my kids.”

Schmitt said she aims to allocate the funds of the grant to take field trips with her students and continue to build unified sports at Hudson.

When Schmitt, a 12:1:2 instructor, first took over the program, she said there weren’t many opportunities for the students with intellectual disabilities to collaborate and mingle with general education students, even at lunchtime in the cafeteria.

Today, not only are her students eating lunch with non-”Life Skills” class students, but the members of the Kindness Club take part in “Unified Physical Education” classes and activities like bocce and basketball and offer items from the “Kindness Cart” every morning.

In an effort to keep the program continuously evolving, Schmitt was also able to secure a classroom weekly on Tuesdays at Columbia-Greene Community College in partnership with the “Think College Transition” that allows her students to take micro-credential college classes on topics like professionalism and more.

“We’re actually doing our second annual Veterans Appreciation Day at High and Mighty Therapeutic Riding Center (in Ghent on Nov. 9), that’s one of our work-based settings,” Schmitt said. “We’re looking to build skills for employability. Our kids won’t get their traditional regents diploma, they’ll be getting a skills and achievement credential, so it’s all about work. It’s about finding spaces on and off campus to build those skills.”

Schmitt’s passion for grooming her students for their respective futures isn’t overlooked.

“All of our teachers at Hudson City School District go above and beyond for our amazing scholars. For over 20 years, Ms. Schmitt has been raising the bar of expectations for the role an educator plays in a scholar’s life, and we couldn’t be more grateful to call her one of our own,” Superintendent Dr. Lisamarie Spindler said. “Ms. Schmitt’s ability to transition our young leaders into the next phases of their lives and shape them for life outside of high school is remarkable.”

The eagerness of her students over the years and the love and respect she has for them is what keeps Schmitt coming back every school day.

“I think the best part of my job is that the students are always willing to try anything and they are not afraid to fail,” Schmitt said. “My parents took in foster children that had intellectual disabilities, my brother has an intellectual disability, so I always ask myself every morning on my 45-minute commute to work, ‘what would I want if these were my own children?’ And that’s how the program works.”

Lisa Schmitt (front row, third from left) and her “Life Skills” class.