Two representatives of the Newcomerstown schools were honored at the first "Better Together" bash benefitting the Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities "Better Together" committee.

Erin Peoples, principal at Newcomerstown’s West Elementary, received the "WOW" award and Abby Cool, a student in Mrs. Ringer's class at Newcomerstown Middle School, was honored with the "Diamond Award."

"These two incredible ladies were both recognized at the first annual Better Together Bash," officials said.

The WOW Award seeks to recognize an educator or school employee who exhibits exemplary skills as they support students with developmental disabilities to educate and challenge each student according to their abilities so each student is empowered to reach their full potential.

In her nomination, it was shared, "In her short time as principal, Mrs. Peoples has repeatedly demonstrated love and care for people of all abilities and disabilities. Every student, every day is our school motto. Mrs. Peoples embodies this. Through her leadership, our school has started working with The Leader in Me program. This program seeks to empower ALL students to reach their full potential. It looks for the strength of every student, from those with the highest test scores to those with the lowest. She expects dignity and respect to be given to all students. She pushes for inclusion in the general education settings and works with teams of teachers and school staff to problem solve ways that we can effectively reach and teach each student...She has allowed individuals served through Advocates for Success to come in and work in our cafeteria and with our Blessings in a Backpack (now TUFF) program; she sees the importance of community involvement for all. Mrs. Peoples values every student, and it shows in her actions. She believes in them too, and they sense that. Through these relationships, she encourages students and families alike to dream big."

The Diamond Award seeks to recognize an individual with developmental disabilities for their fearless bravery and efforts to advocate for themselves and on behalf of others to achieve their dreams and encourage others to do the same.

Abby's nomination shared, "For this award, I would like to nominate Abby Cool. Abby is an athlete with Tuscarawas County Special Olympics and a student at Newcomerstown Exempted Village Schools. Abby epitomizes the word 'brave' to me. In May of 2018, Abby began a battle that none of us could see...In June, she went to Summer Games with Tuscarawas County Special Olympics. The whole adventure was tough for Abby; we could all see it. Once again though, she pushed herself to keep moving forward. She found reasons to smile and laugh. She did the best she could at her bowling event. She tried to encourage others. Her family patiently waited for Abby to start feeling better as the doctors had told them she would. However, things didn’t get better. They got worse - much, much worse...It was during this time that the doctors revealed Abby had been in congestive heart failure for weeks. Her heart and body were filling with fluid, and she was fighting harder and harder just to do her normal day-to-day things. Everything she had been complaining about (though very seldom) was real.... [Eventually,] Abby had open heart surgery and began [what many thought would be] the [long] road to recovery. In a matter of weeks, Abby defied the odds. She was cleared and re-entered the pool to competitively swim for Tuscarawas County Special Olympics. In that moment, she became a hero to many. She showed the bravery and resiliency of a true champion. And, she did it all at the age of 11."