The inaugural Charles County Public Schools Be the Difference awards to honor volunteers was held June 25 at the Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building in La Plata. The program was launched this year to recognize the many ways volunteers enhance teaching and learning. The five award categories are elementary school parent volunteer, middle school parent volunteer, high school parent volunteer, Charles County business volunteer and community organization volunteer.
“Parent involvement is crucial to student success and having the support of community organizations is truly beneficial to making our schools stronger,” said Board member Victoria Kelly, who was a member of the awards selection committee with Board members Michael Lukas and Virginia McGraw. “This awards program is a great way to show our appreciation to our dedicated volunteers, and to celebrate the great partnerships we have with our community.”
The winners in each category included Ginger Brown, a John Hanson Middle School parent volunteer; Susie Morgan, a T.C. Martin Elementary School parent volunteer; LifeStream Church of the Nazarene represented by Jacqueline Edlund-Braun, Pastor Kristi Jennings and Sue Montfort, for community organization volunteer at Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School; and Nicolette Watkins, a Henry E. Lackey High School parent volunteer. No businesses were nominated for the business volunteer category this year.
At Hanson, Brown jumpstarted a dormant Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) in 2015. She volunteers for the Lego and VEX Robotics teams and helps coordinate events and fundraisers for the school. Daniel Meltsner, a Gateway teacher at Hanson and the VEX Robotics coach, said Brown has been his main parent volunteer for the past three years. “I would not have such a successful program without her,” he said. “We are truly blessed to have a dedicated volunteer like Ginger Brown.”
Morgan has been volunteering at Martin since 2002 when she helped out in her granddaughter’s class. Since then, she has volunteered daily and can be counted on to pitch in wherever her help is needed. “There is not much that Mrs. Morgan has not done or will not do to help a staff member at T.C. Martin,” Principal Robert Opiekun said. “She is an integral part of our staff, making each of our days less hectic. Susie Morgan is the unofficial school ambassador for T.C. Martin Elementary School.”
Members of LifeStream Church of the Nazarene run a weekend meals program at Dr. Mudd, provide cold-weather clothing for children in need and are reading buddies to the students. “The church also contributes to other initiatives to benefit members of the school community” said school counselor Jason Peer. Church members donate school supplies, Thanksgiving turkeys, volunteer at Career Day and prepare breakfast for Dr. Mudd staff during Teacher Appreciation Week. “The church gives back to help nurture the students in this community,” said Shellia Soderstrom, a reading resource teacher at the school. “You can see the eagerness and joy on the faces of the volunteers and students when it is their time to work together.”
Watkins, an athletic booster leader, helps out at Lackey’s Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports (PBIS) school store, runs concessions for indoor and outdoor activities and officiates swim meets. Swim meet officials are not paid like football or basketball officials, said Tony Mast, Lackey’s athletic director. “She is at every home swim event and does the timing and other duties that are needed for the successful running of a swim meet,” he said. Watkins logs about 300 volunteer hours a year at Lackey. “The hundreds of hours Ms. Watkins has volunteered in our school help to make Lackey the great school that it is,” Principal Kathy Perriello said.
The number of volunteers nominated for the awards and the various ways they contribute to the school system made narrowing it down to the winners a tough job, said Board member Michael Lukas, who was on the selection committee.
“We want to thank you all for your talents,” he said. “And we really want to thank you for your time. You can make a lot of things, but you can’t make time.”
Board members Victoria Kelly and Virginia McGraw were also on the selection committee for the 2018 Be the Difference awards.
The finalists for the awards are:
Elementary school parent volunteer:
- Joann Acton, Arthur Middleton Elementary School;
- Tara Alvarez, Dr. Gustavus Brown Elementary School;
- Jennifer Berry, Dr. James Craik Elementary School;
- Kristie Jarmusz, Craik;
- Carmen Lewis, Craik;
- Susie Morgan; T.C. Martin Elementary School;
- Stephanie Ross, Craik;
- April Sterling, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary School; and
- Kyle and Angel Whitaker, Dr. Brown.
Middle school parent volunteer:
- Ginger Brown, John Hanson Middle School;
- Jennifer Gi, Theodore G. Davis Middle School; and
- Laura Hayes, Matthew Henson Middle School,
- Carey Moore and Branford Edmonds, Milton M. Somers Middle School.
High school parent volunteer:
- Karen Andreas, La Plata High School;
- Professor Olaniyi Areke, Robert D. Stethem Educational Center;
- Chip and Connie Murphy, Maurice J. McDonough High School;
- Melissa Powell, North Point High School; and
- Nicolette Watkins, Henry E. Lackey High School.
Community organizations volunteer:
- Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Nu Zeta Omega Chapter, St. Charles High School;
- The Arnold House, Martin, Mary H. Matula and Mary B. Neal elementary schools; and
- LifeStream Church of the Nazarene, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,900 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.