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Reaching Heights Presents 2020 Awards

Every December, Reaching Heights recognizes an individual and a local business for giving extraordinary support to the Heights public schools. This year’s recipient of the Friend of Public Education award was Joan Drushel and the Outstanding Community Partner award went to Darryl Rugley, CEO of Goodfellas BBQ.

Joan Drushel is a Neonatal ICU Nurse at University Hospitals who worked fulltime as she raised her four daughters in Cleveland Heights. Once they got involved in the Heights Schools’ award-winning music programs, she volunteered fulltime, too. She explained that she helped in all the usual ways with book fairs and field trips “….but when my daughters joined choir and band, I knew I had found my passion.” Over 13 years, she shared her sewing skills to tailor band uniforms, create custom trombone slide covers, and sew together the squares of the Camp Quilt for the summer music camp. She baked thousands of cookies to celebrate accomplishments and she chaperoned two Instrumental Music Department Spring Tours. She said she “… considered all of these students ‘my kids’ and I gained as much as I gave.” Brett Baker, Heights High Instrumental Music Teacher said, “I couldn’t ask for anyone more committed or more self-less or more deserving of this award.” Tamar Gray, Music Teacher at Fairfax and Boulevard elementary schools thanked Joan for serving as Heights Summer Music Camp Nurse. She described how scary it can be for everyone when a child gets hurt or falls ill at camp but “. . . knowing [Joan] was there made camp run better.”

Darryl Rugley, owner of Goodfellas BBQ comes from a family that “…always made sure everybody ate.” When Covid-19 hit in March he decided to offer free meals to neighborhood children. The community need and response were tremendous. He and his staff gave away more than 100 meals a day for 8 weeks. What started as a personal donation became a collaborative effort when community donations poured in. Patrick Carpenter, Principal of Noble elementary was impressed by Mr. Rugley’s willingness to provide a platform for the community to meet the needs of children. “It shows a quality of character and a desire to give back.” Pastor Kevin Mc Intyre of Church On The Heights commented on Rugley’s initiative. “He didn’t wait to be asked. He saw a need and he took action.”

Reaching Heights has worked for more than 30 years as a hyper-local non-profit that connects the community and its resources to the Heights public schools with information, programs, and events that enrich students and support teachers. Visit to learn more about how you can participate, volunteer, or donate. If you have questions, please call Reaching Heights at 216-932-5110, e-mail, or visit the office at 2843 Washington Blvd. in Cleveland Heights.

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