The 2016 Topeka Public Schools Friends of Education recipients were honored at the May 5th Board of Education meeting. Thank you to the following honorees for all you do for TPS students and staff:
School Volunteer Category: Rev. Tony and Dr. Rita Stanley
Nominated by: Rebecca Morrisey, Principal of Eisenhower Middle School
Rev. Stanley can frequently be found volunteering in the Eisenhower cafeteria, visiting with students and assisting staff. As he makes his way through the lunch room, he takes time to stop at each table to ensure he has made a connection with every group of students. “His guidance has led to improved behavioral choices and celebrations for success for many of Eisenhower’s students,” said Principal Rebecca Morrisey. “He provides a positive male influence for students who may not have a father figure in their lives.”
While juggling the demands of a physician’s schedule, Dr. Stanley still makes time to contribute to the Eisenhower Middle School community. She often provides health-related activities that teach students how to make wise nutrition choices. Working with the school’s cafeteria manager, Dr. Stanley applied for a grant to fund a six-week after-school program. The grant was awarded and Kids in the Kitchen kicked off, providing students with an opportunity to prepare and sample new recipes.
The Stanley’s They also work with their church group to provide an annual Thanksgiving dinner for the neighborhood. Three years ago, when the dinner was offered for the first time, over 300 community members were fed. The past two years has seen that number balloon to over 800 dinner guests each year. The Stanley’s have worked with Highland Park High School to provide student entertainment for the event, allowing our high school students an opportunity to perform for the public and stay connected to their former middle school community.
Ongoing Partnership Category: Young Life
Nominated by: Juli Watson, Assistant Principal of Highland Park High School and by Mike Haire, Principal of Jardine Middle School
Each day, volunteers from Young Life visit Highland Park High School, joining students for lunch, helping out with after school programs, and helping students reach their academic and personal goals. The volunteers help students complete the work necessary to graduate, support the students with struggles with their families, and offer guidance to kids who may have gotten off track academically.
Young Life volunteers are eagerly welcomed by Highland Park students and staff, who look forward to the mentorship the organization provides. Juli Watson, Assistant Principal at HPHS, said, “They have not only helped multiple students to achieve their goals, but they are creating student leaders in our building. Many students have gone on to become role models who support each other and keep their peers on track. Young Life volunteers believe in our students when our students feel hopeless, and they help those students spread that support to others.”
Young Life is also active in TPS middle schools, and visit them regularly. Lunchtime bonding sessions happen each day at Jardine Middle school. Volunteers connect with students, forming strong relationships and providing positive experiences for the students. Through their work, they bring together diverse groups of kids for activities during lunch and for activities outside of school.
When Young Life volunteers sign up to spend time with our students, they don’t just agree to have lunch with them, they really go above and beyond to provide fun activities that establish a strong bond between mentor and mentee. For example, Young Life holds before-school activities twice a month, plays basketball with the kids, takes them to concerts, restaurants and parks, and many other activities. Jardine Middle School Principal Mike Haire notes that, “These positive relationships change lives and impact academic, social, emotional and behavioral needs within our schools. Young Life volunteers are pouring their hearts into the students of Jardine.”
Community/Civic Organization Category: Oakland United Methodist Church and First United Methodist Church
Nominated by: Sarah Sharp, Principal of State Street Elementary
Each week, church volunteers spend time at State Street, listening to children read and helping them with their studies. However, much of their volunteer work takes place before and after school. They supervise students before school on Late Start Fridays, have held a summer dance camp, organized and hosted a Trunk or Treat event, and planned activities and worked at a summer book swap.
The church volunteers’ generosity doesn’t end there, however. They have also operated State Street Elementary’s after school theater program for over ten years, in addition to building props and making costumes for the students’ productions.
Oakland United Methodist Church and First United Methodist Church also provide many items to the school’s students and teachers. They donate hats and mittens to the school nurse for distribution among the students. They purchased new tennis shoes for all the girls participating in the Girls on the Run program, at a cost of over $1,000. Additionally, the churches funded a field trip that allowed 5th graders in the after-school club to attend Kansas State University’s Open House.
Their generosity toward State Street Elementary isn’t limited to students, however. The churches also show their support for the school’s staff members by providing cookie trays at the beginning of each new school year. They donate gift cards to all certified staff each August, as well.