It is with great appreciation that we announce Mitzi Cress, Principal, Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, as the South Bay Families Connected Inspiration Award recipient for the 2016-2017 school year. Her limitless dedication to, and advocacy for teen wellness and substance use prevention serve as an inspiration to all who strive to improve the lives of youth.
Following are thoughts from just some of the people whom Mitzi has inspired. Be sure not to miss Eliza Santarosa’s piece at the end for a moving overview of some of the ways Mitzi has impacted our community, as well as the ripple effect that she has set in motion.
I had the great honor of working alongside Mark Wiedenmann, Chadwick Principal, and Mitzi this year to create and promote the first ever South Bay Opioid Awareness Week. Her clarity of vision, authentic compassion, and uncompromising integrity make her exceptionally effective and fearless in achieving her heart-felt goal of reducing substance use and abuse among our South Bay youth. As Mitzi begins her retirement after 22 years at Peninsula, my sincere hope is that she will find time to continue to mentor and guide all of us who share her goal of helping every child reach their full potential. Thank you, Mitzi, for the wisdom you have already shared with me, and for the inspiration you continue to provide for the ongoing growth and improvement of the SBFC project.
Laura Short McIntire, Founder and Director, South Bay Families Connected
Mitzi Cress prioritizes wellness. She seeks to educate students and parents about stress, screen time, substance abuse and opiate addiction all with the goal of protecting our youth. Her willingness to engage in these tough conversations has positively impacted the school climate at Pen High. Our community is the better for her advocacy. I can’t think of a more worthy recipient of this award.
Beth Meyerhoff, President of the Association of Palos Verdes Peninsula PTAs
I have had the distinct pleasure of working closely with Mrs. Cress for the past nine years and her commitment to student wellness is unwavering. She has been at the forefront of implementing several programs on our campus that promote emotional and physical health of our student body. I am most impressed at her ability as a high school principal to view students as the "whole person" recognizing that her role was not only to help students graduate from Peninsula High School but to send them off into the real world as healthy, well-balanced, responsible and kind young adults."
Christine Lopez, Safe School Coordinator, Palos Verdes Peninsula High School
Mitzi is truly dedicated to this school and its' students. I don’t know of another person in any profession that lives, eats, and breathes their profession as she does. When there is a question or challenging situation regarding a student, the resolution is usually found through Mitzi echoing "What’s best for students here". The message is simple but it is really much more than that. I am as guilty as the next of getting caught up in the details, agendas, etc which lead people to make decisions, but not Mitzi.
Micah Farrell, Associate Principal, Palos Verdes Peninsula High School
Men and women for others: a statement used widely at my alma mater, Boston College. Mitzi Cress embodies this sentiment in its entirety, and it is my pleasure to share with you why she is so deserving of this SBFC Inspirational Administrator Award for the 2016-17 school year.
Mitzi was my counselor when I attended Peninsula High School. During my time there, she earned the position of Associate Principal. Although she wasn't my counselor anymore, she continued to guide me throughout my 4 years there, and I always felt as if she paid special attention to me. That ability to make each student feel like the most important student is an asset of only the greatest educators.
When I began my School Counseling program, Mitzi was invaluable to me. She made sure I had the most advantageous opportunities at Peninsula. I was lucky that two of their counselors went on maternity leave during my intern time, and Mitzi was there to ensure that I grew as a person and a counselor. She and her team of counselors provided a space for me to make mistakes during my training process, and supported me as I learned from them.
Even after leaving PVPUSD for MBUSD, Mitzi stayed by my side as I continue to navigate my career. She has shared her personal and professional experiences, and I use her anecdotes as tools to help me mature into a counselor of whom she can be proud.
Most recently, Mitzi and I have shared a passion for Challenge Success. We sipped coffees on a Sunday afternoon last August at Starbucks overlooking the ocean, and attempted to discuss the depths of this program. Before we could get started, we were constantly interrupted by Pen families adoring her, or her asking about my family (and my growing belly - baby born a few months later!), or me asking advice about counseling team dynamics... when we finally got around to the point of our meeting, I remembered why she is my ultimate role model.
1) She is loyal to her Peninsula family. She didn't just take any promotion - she stayed at Peninsula, she moved from Counselor to Head Counselor; then AP to Principal. She desired to make student focused changes, and improve all aspects of the school.
2) Her compassion is unparalleled. Social-emotional wellness of her students is of utmost importance to her. Peninsula became a Challenge Success school 9 years ago (Mira Costa just joined the program this past year), and it's inspiring to hear her passionately talk about the changes she helped Pen make in the past decade to encourage a well-balanced student in lieu of a stressed-out-student.
3) There is not an educator that is more devoted to her students and faculty than Mitzi. She has worked tirelessly for 22 years to make Peninsula a happy, healthy, academic environment. It continues to receive awards for it's awesomeness, but do you all know how happy the faculty is? Check this out for proof.
4) She cares for everyone around her. Her hugs are strong and full of love.
I'm not as loyal, compassionate, devoted, and caring as my role model, but every day I strive to get closer to her status.
Eliza Santarosa, Head Counselor, Mira Costa High School
Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts with us. Eliza sums it up well…Mitzi is that role model and inspiration for all of us.
By Laura Short McIntire, Producer, the Families Connected Project & Creative Director, SBFC