PHARR – PSJA ISD Parental Engagement Director Olivia Benford was named a 2017-18 'LifeChanger of the Year' award finalist. She is one of five educators in the running for the national $10,000 grand prize. She was surprised today, March 1 by a room full of parent educators and volunteers at the Carnahan Parent/Community Engagement Center.

Sponsored by the National Life Group and the National Life Group Foundation since 2006, the LifeChanger of the Year is an annual program that recognizes K-12 educators and school employees throughout the nation. The program celebrates those who are making a significant difference in the lives of students by exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership.

The award was presented by Maria McLendon and Donna Kvapil of the National Life Group. As one of the top five finalists, Benford will also attend the national LifeChanger of the Year Awards Ceremony in Bermuda on May 16, where the national Grand Prize Winner will be announced.

"I am shocked, surprised but I am so excited and dying to go to Bermuda," said Benford jokingly. "What we're doing is so important. This encourages us to continue to do more."

Benford was selected as a LifeChanger of the Year winner out of more than 825 teachers, administrators and school district employees nominated for the award from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. She was nominated by her colleague, Norma Garza.

"We're very proud of Mrs. Benford and the PSJA Parental Engagement Program she has put together," said PSJA Superintendent of Schools Dr. Daniel King. "The program has had a great impact on the lives of parents, families and students. I can't think of a better person to win this honor."

At PSJA ISD, Benford has spearheaded eight literacy centers that provide GED, citizenship, and computer technology classes for PSJA ISD parents through the PSJA Parental Engagement Program. As part of the program, each year more than 5,000 parents are able to participate in numerous free classes and even obtain college certificates thanks to partnerships with South Texas College and the Region One Education Service Center.