HELMETTA, NJ - Former Spotswood PTA President Melissa Hallerman was honored by Helmetta on Saturday with a special tree planting ceremony. Hallerman has been a part of the Spotswood PTA for the past 12 years and served as its president for the last four. The Spotswood resident stepped down from her position at the end of June.

Helmetta Mayor Chris Slavicek proclaimed Saturday, July 18 Melissa Hallerman Day and held a ceremony to recognize Hallerman's contributions to the borough through her work with the Spotswood PTA. Slavicek called Hallerman "a true class act" and an "inspiration to our schools and greater community."

During her time as PTA president, the organization was awarded the President's Volunteer Service Award for the second straight year this spring. The prestigious award is bestowed upon organizations that work hard serving both the school district and the community. In August 2018, the Spotswood School District's Schoenly School, Appleby School and the Memorial Middle School were all named as National PTA Schools of Excellence. The National PTA School of Excellence award is the highest honor a Parent Teacher Association can receive.

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"Melissa is an incredible woman, leader and true advocate for our school students, teachers, parents and greater community," said Helmetta Mayor Chris Slavicek. "With a strong emphasis on togetherness, she has been integral and responsible for bridging the gap between our community and school during her tenure. She has always included Helmetta by generously participating and wholeheartedly supporting all of our town events without question."

When the Spotswood School District was forced to close its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, Hallerman and her fellow PTA volunteers organized numerous events to help keep students, staff and the community connected. In April, she was named by the mayor as one of Helmetta's Hometown Heroes for her work to help keep spirits up throughout the community during the statewide stay-at-home.

Saturday truly was a special day for Hallerman, who now has a tree planted in her honor outside the Helmetta Community Center. It is a day she will always hold dear.

"Being told you are appreciated is one of the simplest and yet most inspiring things someone can hear and I thank the Honorable Mayor Slavicek and the Helmetta community, who are now my Helmetta family, for that," Hallerman said. " I'm still pinching myself. It was like I was in a dream. I cried many, many tears of happiness. I loved that my family, close friends, PTA Board members, students, Helmetta residents and Spotswood School District staff were also a part of the planting. Everyone was able to scoop up some soil and place it around the tree."

"Mayor Slavicek did such an amazing job with the ceremony," Hallerman continued. "It was perfect and something I will cherish and remember for the rest of my life. He had one surprise for me after another from Helmetta resident and Spotswood High School teacher Annie Razcko singing "For Good" from the Broadway play "Wicked. She rewrote the lyrics just for me. This was followed by Helmetta resident and Spotswood High School 2020 graduate Steven Karczewski reciting the poem, "Advice From a Tree." The event concluded with Mayor Slavicek making a Proclamation that July 18, 2020 was Melissa Hallerman Day."

Spotswood PTA Cultural Arts Chair Jenalyn Engstrom presented Hallerman with a commemorative tree plaque bearing the saying, "like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one." The plaque is a noteworthy keepsake for Hallerman's Spotswood home to remind her of the tree that will grow in her honor in Helmetta.

"I hope 100 years from now, someone is reminded that although it is just one tree standing alone, just like one person, we can still make a difference," Hallerman added. "I have tried my best to do that for our community and I can only hope I made a positive difference in someone else's life."