The South Orange-Maplewood Adult School Presents the Gus and Thelma Sickles Lifelong Learning Award to Lori Mirabel

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From The South Orange-Maplewood Adult School:

The South Orange-Maplewood Adult School (SOMAS) hit a high note in more ways than one when the Board of Trustees gathered at Columbia High School on May 8 for our annual report to the community on the previous year’s classes, activities, and special events. This meeting included the presentation of the Gus and Thelma Sickles Lifelong Learning Award to Maplewood resident Lori Brown Mirabal, EdD who is an opera singer, educator and entrepreneur. 

Co-Presidents Amy Dahn and Bonnie Kenselaar orchestrated a lively illustrated review of the year, citing “sensational SOMAS programming, happy and engaged students, passionate teachers, committed and hardworking staff and Board of Trustees, and supportive sponsors and donors.” The bottom line to the Co-Presidents’ duet: “The Adult School’s mission of providing lifelong learning and connecting with our inclusive and diverse community through innovative education is perhaps best exemplified in the recipients of the annual Gus & Thelma Sickles Lifelong Learning Award.”

The presentation of the auspicious award was both a high point and the high note of the evening. This year, SOMAS was honored to present the award to Lori Brown Mirabal, EdD, whose award-winning singing career includes performing on stage with legendary opera and music theatre luminaries. Mirabal was featured in the PBS television documentary Aida’s Brothers and Sisters and had a comical cameo in the major motion picture The Secret Lives of Dentists.

In 2024, Mirabal co-wrote, co-produced and appeared in the operatic documentary, Gabriel’s Daughter, the Life and Legacy of Clara Brown, a true story of a formerly enslaved African American pioneer’s search for her daughter. Mirabal created Opera Soup Productions, LLC to introduce young audiences to opera in engaging and meaningful ways, and is the author of the children’s book, From Soul Singing to Opera Soup. Mirabal has brought Opera Soup to public school children in our communities.

With the Adult School singing her praises, Dr. Mirabal responded in kind by serenading the gathering, her thrilling mezzo-soprano voice warming every corner of Columbia High’s giant auditorium.

During the annual meeting, SOMAS honored outgoing trustees with testimonials and thanked them for generously giving their time and skills to the community. SOMAS also welcomed our new trustees onto the board. 

The Board of Trustees is pleased to welcome:

  • Mark Slade, a long-time resident of our two towns and a realtor. Slade is a current and past Annual Sponsor of SOMAS.
  • Monica Hafif, a lawyer, local entrepreneur and veteran of the local PTAs who has been a trustee on the board of her synagogue. 

The South Orange-Maplewood Adult School thanks everyone who attended the meeting and who helped us celebrate another successful year of lifelong learning for the community, by the community.


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