In its last set of actions, the old El Cerrito City Council bestowed honors on two notable residents Tuesday night.
Teri McKeever, Olympics coach
A council proclamation commended Teri McKeever, the first woman in history to serve as head coach of the U.S. Olympics women's swim team. McKeever, longstanding coach of the UC Berkeley women's swimming and diving program, coached the highly successful U.S. women's team at the London Olympics this year.
The proclamation noted that McKeever is "regarded as one of the best swimming mentors in the United States." It lists her extensive accomplishments, including being named NCAA Coach of the Year in 2009 and mentoring some of the nation's all-time great swimmers.
Mayor Bill Jones noted that her outstanding abilities were evident early on, including when was a student at USC. "In 1983, she was USC's outstanding student athlete, and that's quite an honor," he said.
"She has known and trained a lot of Olympic champions throughout the years," Jones said during remarks that cited many of her accomplishments.
Jones called her "one of the foremost coaches nationally and internationally."
"I'm really proud and happy that she lives in El Cerrito," he said.
McKeever, who moved to El Cerrito in 2004, thanked the mayor and council for the honor and spoke of her enjoyment of making her home in El Cerrito.
"It's been a wonderful place to live, and I appreciate the recognition from the city," she said.
"And hopefully," she added, "we'll get to bring a lot more attention and notoriety to the city in a very positive way."
Carol Tang, advocate for after-school science
Another council proclamation commended Carol Tang, who grew up in El Cerrito and was honored in October as as one of 12 California women chosen as "Leading Women in STEM,” with STEM meaning science, technology, engineering and math.
Tang, a graduate of El Cerrito High School, is director of the Coalition for Science After School, headquartered at UC Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science. The coalition is an alliance of organizations and individuals seeking to strengthen after-school science programs for youth.
Tang, who holds a Ph.D. in geological sciences from the University of Southern California, previously served as senior science educator at the California Academy of Sciences and one of the first co-investigators with the NASA Astrobiology Institute. She is also author of a number scientific works in paleontology and astrobiology.
Jones joked that Tang's list of credentials "is probably longer than Al Capone's rap sheet."
Tang thanked the council and city staff for the "great honor" and recalled her years growing up in the city.
"I would say that my experience with the teachers in the community of El Cerrito really influenced what I have done," Tang said. "I believe that all children have something to share with the world, and I know that the teachers of El Cerrito and the Richmond Unified School District (forerunner of the current West Contra Costa Unified School District) believed in me and that got me to where I am."
"And so I want repay back not just to our community but to the next generation. Let them have the same opportunities I had as well," she said. "I talk a lot about growing up in El Cerrito and the kind of passionate teachers who really made a difference in all of our lives. And that is one of my motivating factors."
Grant for WriterCoach Connection
The council also approved, without discussion, a $2,500 grant for WriterCoach Connection, which provides one-on-one volunteer writer coaches for students at El Cerrito High School and Portola Middle School.
The grant, proposed by Councilwoman Rebecca Benassini, had been on the council agenda two weeks ago, but was held over.
The program began at Berkeley High in 2001 and gradually expanded into Berkeley middle schools and schools in Albany and Oakland. The 2010-11 school year saw its entry into Contra Costa County at El Cerrito High, thanks in large part to the organizing effort of parent volunteer Todd Groves.
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