Three individuals were honored as St. Johns County’s 2012-2013 Outstanding Volunteers of the Year at the sixth annual Volunteer Recognition Reception held recently at First Coast Technical College. Cheryl Freeman, volunteer coordinator for the St. Johns County School District served as emcee and Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner announced the school volunteer coordinators.
Outstanding Senior Volunteer, Karen Cantona from Durbin Creek Elementary School (DCES), willingly volunteers to do whatever is needed to make a difference in the lives of students. Her time at DCES is spent assisting students with reading, monitoring the administration of new assessments, working at the Book Fair, taking part in health screenings, and participating in numerous school-sponsored events. The staff at DCES considers her specialty the ability to be available at the right time and place over and over again. By night, Outstanding Adult Volunteer Benjamin (Ben) Walker is a member of the school district’s custodial staff at South Woods Elementary School (SWES). By day, he spends his time helping ESE students in all grades at SWES. The children see him as a role model and mentor and flock to him whenever he is at the school. Walker has also been very active in youth sports throughout his community. He began a girls’ basketball team, not only focusing on the sport, but also inspiring them to pursue victory with honor. He has also provided support to a boys’ youth football league and the Organization of United Resources (O.U.R.) Center after school program. He continually inspires students and faculty to lead with a meaningful purpose, just as he does.
Outstanding Youth Volunteer, Maxwell Ervanian, a senior at Ponte Vedra High School (PVHS), possesses a can-do attitude with regard to volunteering. His philosophy is that if there’s a need, let’s meet it. Ervanian not only volunteers hours to causes that are near to his heart, but he also rallies fellow students and friends to do the same. He serves as a student mentor with the Foreign Youth Exchange through his school’s Interact Club, and works with students during his lunch time which he has been doing since seventh grade. He currently serves as the president of the Best Buddies program at PVHS and coordinates opportunities for fellow students to work with their “buddies” throughout the school day. One of the most impactful projects he has taken on, Helping Homeless NOW Christmas Dinner, started when he was just 12 years old and has provided food and clothing to more than 200 homeless and needy individuals. He has also provided his time and effort to the Sulzbacher Center, The Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry, Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, Habitat for Humanity, and American Red Cross Volunteer Lifesaving Corps.
These Outstanding Volunteers of the Year will be recognized at the May 14 School Board meeting.
Awards were also presented to runners-up in each category. In the Youth Category, Kevin McKernan of Creekside High School and Ryan Quintal of Alice B. Landrum Middle School were recognized for their volunteer efforts. Kristi Mansouri of Alice B. Landrum Middle School, Miles (Buzz) Wood of Ocean Palms Elementary School, Kathy Peeters of John A. Crookshank Elementary School and Laurel Madson of Palencia Elementary School were honored in the Adult Category. The Senior Category honored Susan Slingluff of John A. Crookshank Elementary School and Salvatore (Sal) Iaropoli of Pacetti Bay Middle School.
The event included the announcement of the District Parent Involvement Award winners. These awards are presented to an elementary and a secondary school each year for innovative school practices that increase family involvement. This year’s district winner at the secondary level was Bartram Trail High School (BTHS) for the BTHS Theatre Boosters Association. The elementary winner was DCES for its “Get Your Game On!” project. DCES has also been named the Region II award winner for this project by the Florida Department of Education, making it one of the top five elementary parent involvement activities for the state of Florida.
In addition to the announcement of these outstanding volunteers and the Parent Involvement Award winners, the school volunteer coordinators were also recognized. The 113 individuals honored at this event were just a few of the 13,818 volunteers who contributed 260,485 hours of service to district schools during the past year. This week marks National Volunteer Week, observed April 21 – 27.