Saturday, December 16, 2017
Education

Spring Hill Power Rangers: unmasked

SPRING HILL

Last summer, Weeki Wachee High School senior Adam Cooper and some friends bought some Power Rangers suits — black, blue, red and green — to wear to a Fourth of July party.

"There were about 30 kids there, and we just saw their eyes light up," said Cooper, 17.

That prompted an idea: "We could really do something with this."

And they have.

Cooper and his friends — all Weeki Wachee High students — have turned the Spring Hill Power Rangers Team into a community service.

"We feel like our main goal is to help build a stronger Spring Hill community," Cooper said. "The children's reactions inspired me to make this a constant pursuit to make a positive impact on my community."

The group is a nonprofit organization that makes appearances at various business events and partners with the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce.

"We do lots of charity events," Cooper said. "A lot of smaller businesses use us."

Through other events with Hernando County government, law enforcement, the school system and private charities and families, "we have impacted a large number of children and adults with our message," he said.

The message includes raising awareness about bullying, encouraging reading at schools and entertaining at charity events.

The Power Rangers are not paid, but do accept some donations. The money goes toward costume maintenance. They also have put away some money for their Weeki Wachee Relay for Life team.

The group has a Facebook page.

"We just hit 5,000 likes on Facebook," Cooper said. "We have an online video series, and the first season is wrapping up. We have a lot of little kids watching our videos."

The rangers also post photos from events they attend.

Up until now, the identities of the rangers have been unknown, although some of their friends may have suspected who they were. One of the girls, who wears the yellow costume, will still be in high school next year and wishes to remain anonymous. The others are graduating and fanning out across the state and even out of state, so they have decided to take off their masks.

"We just felt like it's time since a lot of us are going away," said Cooper, who is graduating as valedictorian of his class at Weeki Wachee High. "It's kind of hard to keep our identities a secret."

Jake Bence, 18, in red, is going to Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. He and Cooper hope to start Power Ranger groups at their colleges and establish a Florida Ranger Coalition "to strengthen local communities and reach between cities, as well," Cooper said. "We have lofty goals."

Cooper, the blue Power Ranger, is going to Stetson University in DeLand and plans to run the Florida Ranger Coalition through the Bonners Program, part of a foundation that encourages college students to be active in their communities. He will run the DeLand Power Rangers through the local Boys and Girls Club.

Zach LaPrad, 18, who wears black, will head out of state for college.

Matthew Hanley, 17, in green, and Jenna Gouldley, 18, in pink, will be attending Pasco-Hernando State College. Hanley will lead the Spring Hill Power Rangers, and Gouldley will continue as the pink ranger.

So why the Power Rangers?

"A couple of us kind of grew up with this," Cooper explained. "I wasn't the hugest fan. It kind of fell into place. We hung out a lot, but we didn't make an impact. Now we hang out a lot and we make an impact."

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