HISD recognizes 2014’s top volunteers for ‘helping us grow’

This year’s honorees serve Bellaire, Jones, and four Montessori schools

Each year, thousands of parents, businesses, and community partners support public education by volunteering their time on HISD campuses or engaging in other activities that contribute to the growth of the district. And every spring, HISD selects the top volunteers from among their ranks.

This year, four finalists were recognized as award-winners during a special ceremony held at the district’s headquarters on May 8. Below is a list of the award recipients:

  • Jean Davis Myers Award: Friends of Montessori
  • Parent Partner Award: Sandra Johnson (Bellaire HS)
  • Youth Volunteer Award: Marina Finley (Bellaire HS)
  • Charles Harding Senior Award: Rev. Eugene Jones (Jones HS)

The highest recognition, the Jean Davis Myers Award, is presented to an individual or group whose program or volunteer efforts has had a positive effect on students at several HISD schools. It was named after an employee who retired in 1990 with 33 years of service to HISD, 20 of those spent as executive director of the Volunteers in Public Schools program.

This year, Friends of Montessori (FOM) was selected as the Jean Davis Myers Award winner for its unflagging support of the district’s Montessori programs. Created in 1994 by a group of parents and community members dedicated to creating a unique learning alternative within HISD, FOM has now been supporting the district’s Montessori programs for 20 years. The goal of the organization is to increase the availability of this educational choice to more public school students, and since its inception, it has raised more than $400,000 toward that objective.

Sandra Johnson is the recipient of this year’s Parent Partner Award. A volunteer for 15 years, she has served as a committee member, vice president of public relations, and College Center director at Bellaire High School. Johnson also assists students in transitioning to high school with the Cardinal Kickoff, and she helped orchestrate the return of the homecoming dance, which was a sold-out event this year. Her fundraising efforts with the Teacher Grant Program have helped expand educators’ skill sets and knowledge base and enriched their lessons as a result.

Marina Finley was named the Youth Volunteer Award winner for 2014, in part because she believes volunteering is a responsibility, not a choice. At Bellaire High School, she serves as a coach, peer tutor, and mentor to her fellow students. She also serves as president of the UNICEF Club, which has planned and conducted the “Kids Helping Kids” fundraiser for the past two years, and she organized the Bellaire HS Forum on Racial and Cultural Tolerance, which was awarded the 2014 Princeton Prize in Race Relations by Princeton University.

Rev. Eugene Jones is the winner of the Charles Harding Senior Award this year. This 79-year-old retiree has a special affection for Jones High School. All five of his children attended that campus, and he has dedicated himself to it in particular as a volunteer since 2008.  At Jones, he serves as a monitor in the halls and cafeteria, a mentor to struggling students, an inspiration to discouraged teachers, and an advice-giver to parents in the neighborhood. He also serves as a crossing guard at Bastian ES in the mornings, and he has been active in the Ministers Against Crime initiative for years.

“The common thread among all of our winners this year is growth,” said HISD General Manager of Strategic Partnerships Caleen Allen. “Whether it’s Marina Finley challenging her peers to stretch past their comfort zone, Rev. Jones providing a steadying presence at Jones High School, or the Friends of Montessori supporting HISD’s efforts to expand its specialized programming, each of these honorees is helping HISD to grow in a real and positive way. Please join me in saluting them now, as it is only with their ongoing support that we will continue to grow as an organization, and our students will continue to grow as people.”

Members of HISD’s VIPS program serve as tutors, mentors, teacher partners, speakers, security patrols, chaperones, interpreters, and cafeteria monitors and help in libraries, media centers, clinics, and offices. HISD encourages every Houstonian to become involved in making our schools the best in the nation. For more information about VIPS, please contact Tina Thompson at 713-556-7206.

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