Just before the Thanksgiving holiday break, Park City High School held a surprise assembly to recognize custodian Candelario “Cande” Ponce. He was presented Utah’s Outstanding Education Support Professional of the Year award. Students, teachers, district employees and board members attended the event honoring Ponce as an unsung hero in his service as a custodian at Park City High School. Carolyn Murray has this:
Cande Ponce has worked for the school district since 2009 as an Education Support Professional. ESP’s are employees in the school district who provide education support through non- teaching positions. It includes a wide variety of jobs needed to run the school district. They help keep students engaged, healthy and safe. Park City Classified Employee Association President Ian Hellerman conducted the award ceremony. Beforehand, Hellerman recognized the many employees who make positive impacts on students every day. “Yeah, give him a round of applause. This is all your clerical staff, all your custodians, the nurses, the peer educators, the IT team, security, maintenance and transportation. WE are all educators as well. We have the opportunity to teach. We have the opportunity to educate in different ways. We all have the ability to make lasting and positive impacts on the students that we see every day.”
Utah State Employee Association President, Jason Lewis shared some statistics about Education Support Professionals outlining their commitment to student success. “The major source of job satisfaction for ESP’s is the personal fulfillment with working with you guys. Fifty-six percent of ESP’s provide care to students with special needs.Thirty-five percent read books to students. Seventy percent volunteered in the last two years to assist children and benefit the community. Sixty-six percent give money out of their own pocket to help fund classroom materials, field trips, class projects averaging $217-dollars a year.
” Cande Ponce needed little introduction with the audience and later told reporters he was surprised and honored by the recognition. “So, as I can see, Cande’s kind of popular in this school. So, Cande was nominated as an ESP of the Year at our state conference. After much deliberation, and realizing the caliber of people we had, we felt like Cande was the Utah State Distinguished ESP of the Year.” “Ahh, I don’t speak English too much, so I just want to say thank you everybody, thank you kids, thank you teachers for supporting me." “Way to Go Cande, Way to Go” “Thank you so much.”
PCHS biology teacher Ed Mulick said in a statement that Ponce is a humble, caring role model who takes interest in others and helps create an environment of security, peace and acceptance. He said qualities like this are needed in the current environment where many young people are hurting emotionally and struggling with self-identity. Hellerman said Ponce was selected for his hard work and dedication to the school, the teachers and the students. "These people are the unsung heroes of the schools. Cande stood out. Cande did the things that we all do on a daily basis, but people recognized what he was doing. Not only does he work the many hours that he works here, he also goes home, and he owns a restaurant that he also runs.”
There are about 35,000 ESP’s the Utah Employee Association supports. Ponce will attend the Employee Association Conference in Las Vegas in March. Ponce has five children and he and his wife own a food business that is open 7 days a week.