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School volunteers, partners honored

Suffolk Public Schools and the Suffolk School Board recognized the top Partners-in-Education and top volunteers for the 2018-2019 school year during last Thursday’s School Board meeting.

SPS public information and community relations officer Bethanne Bradshaw, in outlining the accomplishments of the top Partners-in-Education and volunteers, noted their sizable contributions to the school division.

The Mount Suffolk, and Pastor Karl Wilkins, was recognized for its partnership at Turlington Woods School, while Walk In It Inc. — nominated by Hillpoint Elementary School — was recognized for its mentoring efforts at four elementary schools, four middle schools, two high schools and the alternative program.

Wilkins “spreads his enthusiastic energy to both the students and staff,” according to Turlington Woods Principal Kinsey Bynum. “His naturally calming demeanor disarms our most volatile students and gains their trust and respect.”

Among Wilkins’ achievements was organizing, along with other Suffolk pastors, a basketball game that provided each participant with new shoes.

Walk In It, and its founder, Dr. Jennelle Riddick, has mentored Hillpoint fourth- and fifth-grade girls in the Young Ladies of Distinction program, meeting with students each month. She has been keenly involved, Bradshaw noted, in other activities such as Mother-Daughter Paint Night, the Pink and Black Gala and the Walk In It Kickoff Walk in September. The Ladies of Distinction program serves more than 600 girls each month.

Katie Seibel, a volunteer at Hillpoint, was recognized along with Barbara Howell, an Oakland Elementary School volunteer, and Michelle Brooks, who volunteers at John Yeates Middle School. They were some of more than 2,200 registered volunteers who logged in 7,010 hours of donated time, which, according to the Independent Sector Network, is worth about a $193,000 contribution to SPS.

Seibel, a mother of two Hillpoint students, logged more than 460 volunteer hours, and, according to Principal Catherine Pichon, “she is a value to our school, and we very much appreciate her service.”

Seibel has done a number of things with her volunteer hours, including counting out positive behavior reward tickets, stuffing envelopes, designing T-shirts for students and staff, preparing fundraiser packets and shelving and repairing library books. She also volunteers many hours during yearly book fairs.

Howell logged more than 570 hours, working mostly in Oakland’s library supporting reading lessons while celebrating the achievements of students in Accelerated Reader. She also read each Battle of the Books title and prepared questions to help students before the citywide competition. Howell was a Young Writers Award judge and supported the school’s holiday dance and March Madness events.

“As thoughtful as she is helpful, she has been known to show up with high-interest books to supplement our collection and meet the needs of our students,” said Oakland Principal Temesha Dabney.

Brooks, through her nearly 750 volunteer hours, was an integral extension of the John Yeates front office staff, Bradshaw noted, and she also reimagined the school’s PTSA program as its president. She also worked to make literacy and reading priorities at the school, Bradshaw said, and has been a key part of formulating activities to bring about connections with the school’s students, families and communities.

“She is a wonderful example of our community investing in our school, through her ideas, actions and kindness,” said John Yeates Principal Wendy VanHosen. “We, as a faculty, a school and as a family, are better for it.”