Turners Falls athletic director, class president earn McGraw Uplift Awards

  • Athletic Director Adam Graves and Class of 2024 President Ricky Pareja stand in front of a portrait of late Assistant Principal Earl McGraw, for whom the McGraw Uplift Award is named. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer
Published: 6/21/2022 3:34:33 PM
Modified: 6/21/2022 3:34:14 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Athletic Director Adam Graves and Class of 2024 President Ricky Pareja have been honored with this semester’s McGraw Uplift Award.

Given each semester to students and staff at Turners Falls High School who exemplify the spirit of Earl McGraw, the assistant principal who died of lung cancer in 2016, the award was presented to Graves and Pareja during a ceremony on June 2. Special education teacher and award committee member Jessica Vachula-Curtis said there was “a pretty diverse group of folks who have nominated them” for consistently being “people who step outside what their typical role here is with the school.”

“Both of them just show so much passion for the people here in our community,” Vachula-Curtis said. “When anyone needs something done, both of them step up.”

Graves said winning the award was a “complete surprise” to both Pareja and himself.

“It’s just nice to be recognized by your peers,” Graves said.

Aside from serving as athletic director, Graves has made a considerable personal investment into the school community with various efforts of goodwill. These efforts have spanned from being a mentor to students who need support to heading the school Athletic Leadership Council and Helping Hands Committee’s year-round charity for disadvantaged families.

“I try to do as much as I can for the school, the traditions of the school, and I try to keep those alive as much as possible,” Graves said.

Vachula-Curtis touted Pareja for his above-and-beyond work that has included dedicating his evenings to tutoring others. Graves praised him for buying Christmas presents for his peers. Pareja’s contributions to the community also involve membership within the Active Bystanders student activist group and leadership in organizing fundraisers for his class.

“I’m just glad that people appreciate what I do,” Pareja said.

Winning the award will only drive efforts to be exemplary going forward, according to each recipient.

“For me, I think it validates what I do,” Graves said. “It makes me want to do even more to make this a better place.”

“For me,” Pareja said, “it’s good to be recognized, but I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing, strive to be better, and help out however I can whenever I can.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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