SSC graduate named woman of the year
MASON — Valerie Suszko has been caring and giving her whole life.
A 1978 graduate of Standish-Sterling Central High School, Suszko was named 2011 Greater Lansing Woman of the Year by the Greater Lansing Woman magazine on May 18.
Greater Lansing Woman is a magazine printed by the Lansing State Journal and selects one of 10 women nominated in the Lansing area as Woman of the year.
This year the publication chose Suszko, who has been teaching special education for Holt Public Schools at Washington Woods Middle School for 28 years, and is also the fundraising chair for the Special Olympics Area 8, serving Mason and Holt.
Suszko said she got involved volunteering for the Special Olympics after a class trip to a meet.
“I started working in Holt and we went on a field trip to a Special Olympics meet and I was hooked,” she said. “The look on the athletes faces after competing was priceless.”
Suszko said she began working as a coach and worked her way up to her current position. She said she feels inspired by the students and athletes she works with on a daily basis.
“Working with them is very inspiring; it makes me go,” she said. “Seeing the joy in the children’s faces is so touching.”
Suszko said there have been a number of children who have affected her over the years. She added that seeing their success has been a wonderful part of her job.
“Seeing my students and these athletes succeed is great,” she said. “It’s very touching to see the joy they have.”
Suszko gave one example of an athlete she worked with who was told by doctors that, because of nerve damage, she would never walk again.
“I continued to work with her and we were able to get to a point where she had braces on her legs and could ski on the carpet in the school,” Suszko said. “A year later she was competing in cross country skiing at the Special Olympics in Traverse City.”
Suszko said her journey began in Standish, where she was born and raised.
“I lived on a farm just off of M-61 and (9 Mile Rd.) Standish,” she said. “Standish is where I got my roots. This is where it all started.”
Suszko’s sister, Lugene Daniels, said she believes growing up in Arenac County left a mark on her sister’s life.
“Growing up, we were farm girls,” she said. “Together we worked a lot; I think that is were she got her work ethic.”
Daniels said her sister was always involved in volunteering efforts, both as a child and as a student at Standish-Sterling Central High School.
“She was always involved in things like 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America),” Daniels said. “She belonged to all of these different things and wanted to help her community.”
Daniels said that her sister has found the perfect job to fit her lifestyle.
“Doing what she does, helping these students, is a perfect fit,” she said. “I am so proud of her.”