Presented to an individual who has dedicated themselves to fight for the empowerment of the low-income members of our community. This individual works tirelessly for the rights and the opportunities for success of each individual.
2018 Award Recipient: Steve Darman
A native of Central New York, Steve Darman is a sociologist with an extensive background in community research, program design, program evaluation, project management, and coalition and consensus building. His organization- Social Science Associates- has worked closely with local government and community agencies to identify, assess, and address a variety of social problems affecting area youth, adults, and families. While most of his work is with homeless populations and programs, he has also done extensive rework on veteran reentry and reintegration, prisoner reentry and reintegration, on understanding and effectively addressing youth violence, juvenile crime, and youth gangs.
Mr. Darman is Chair of the Mohawk Valley Housing and Homeless Assistance Coalition that he founded in 2002 and has developed over the past 15 years. Working in partnership with local government, community and faith-based organizations, this active and large Coalition has succeeded in attracting over $100 million for a wide variety of support service and housing programs for persons and families who are homeless or struggling with poverty in Oneida County, NY.
This award is given to a business or group that has contributed unselfishly to the betterment of our community. This business/group is involved in the local community and committed to making a difference.
2018 Award Recipient: Dick Vetere
Dick Vetere (Dominick, officially) is the Coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at St. John the Evangelist. Dick is a Utica native, a graduate of Proctor High School and SUNY Poly and currently resides in Utica. He is also a graduate of Leadership Mohawk Valley. Dick is the owner of a local small business and proudly supports “all things local”, from locally owned restaurants and small businesses to the arts and culture. Dick has worked in Youth Ministry since his college days and feels strongly that we are all charged to do the very best we can for our youth.
2018 Award Recipient: Rev. Kevin Bunger
Fr. Kevin Bunger is the Pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church. A Utica native, he was ordained in 1983. Fr. Kevin has ministered in churches located in Syracuse, Binghamton and Lima-Peru. He attended seminary at Christ the King in Buffalo where he received an MDiv and received an MA in Sociology at Binghamton University. He hopes to foster increased involvement of church membership and assist parishioners to grow in their faith through the development of small group ministry
This award is given to an individual who has contributed unselfishly to the betterment of our community as a whole, and works toward the goal of ending poverty in our community.
2018 Award Recipient: Alicia Mroz
Alicia Mroz is the proud recipient of this year's Mohawk Valley Community Action Agency's Community Visionary Award. Alicia earned her Bachelor's Degree from Buffalo State College. Part of her studies included attending the University of South Australia as an exchange student. She received her Master's Degree and Certificate of Advanced Study in Administration and Supervision from the State University of New York College at Cortland.
Alicia began her career 22 years ago as an art teacher at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Utica. She went on to become the Assistant Principal at the same school. In her current position as Administrator for Pre-kindergarten and Student Programs in the Utica City School District, she is responsible for the day to day operations and supervision of the Utica Universal Pre-kindergarten Program which partners with several community-based organizations. In addition, her other responsibilities include, but are not limited to, oversight of the district's magnet program, parent liaisons, homeschooling, home instruction and kindergarten transition events.
Along with being a passionate and dedicated educator, Alicia is also bilingual and an accomplished artist. She never hesitates to lend her creative and artistic talents to school district and community related projects and activities.
2018 Award Recipient: Teoka Muhammad
Teoka Muhammad is a very familiar face in the community. A resident of Utica for over 23 years, Mrs. Muhammad takes the health and fitness of the community very personally. Her business, The Spot, has been making fitness fun for 7 years. Mrs. Muhammad brings her enthusiasm and expertise to the children and staff of Mohawk Valley Community Action Agency, as well! She promotes physical health and wellbeing for the children in our Head Start classrooms, their families, and MVCAA staff. Her classes are highly anticipated by the children, and she works closely with staff to integrate their classroom activities with her classes. Mrs. Muhammad is married to Courtney Muhammad, has 4 children of her own and 1 grandchild.
Presented to a family or individual who has overcome poverty to become an active member of the community. This family/individual has met their challenges with confidence, sought guidance and support, and is now actively creating a better life for their family and giving back to their community.
2018 Award Recipient: Sefija Kajtezovic
Sefija Kajtezovic came to the United States as a refugee from Bosnia in 1996. Prior to her arrival, she and her husband had good careers in Bosnia; her husband was a lawyer, and she an agriculture engineer. They had a lovely home in their country until the war. In 1993 their home was invaded by soldiers, and they were forced to leave the life they had built and spend the next several years living in refugee camps. Their first child was born at the beginning of the war and spent her early childhood years in the camps with her parents.
Ms. Kajtezovic and her family resettled in Utica via the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees. The transition to life in the United States was difficult- arriving in a new country with a language barrier, no money, and few resources after leaving their homeland. Ms. Kajtezovic always encouraged education and enrolled her children in Mohawk Valley Community Action Agency’s Head Start Program. She was an active parent at the Head Start center. She started out volunteering in the classroom and then began working as a substitute teacher. Ms. Kajtezovic was offered a classroom aide position with MVCAA’s Early Head Start program in May 2003. She quickly advanced to Toddler Assistant Teacher in November 2004 and most recently to Lead Teacher of MVCAA’s Toddler Room at Ney Ave in August of 2017. Ms. Kajtezovic holds an Infant Toddler Child Development Accreditation. Today, she and her family are living productive lives, and she continues to give back to the community.