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Top school volunteers named in Hernando School District

Three giving individuals have been named Outstanding School Volunteers for 2013-14 by the Hernando County School District.

Bryanna Leonard was selected in the youth category and Susan Opyoke in the adult category. Mary Verner is the senior adult honoree.

• • •

Bryanna, 17, is a Springstead High senior who volunteers at Explorer K-8 School.

"I help teachers, and I do a lot for Relay for Life (a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society)," Bryanna said. "They have summer school for autistic kids, and I volunteered there."

She has been involved at Explorer K-8 since she was a freshman. Her mother works at Explorer, and Bryanna said since she went there to meet her mother, she decided she might as well help out.

"I especially like the little kids," Bryanna said. "It's just fun, and it helps."

When she is with the children, she reads to them, plays with them and helps them with their lunches.

Interacting with special needs children has helped steer Bryanna to her intended career. She wants to work with them.

"That's why I want to do physical therapy," she said.

• • •

Opyoke, 42, can often be found at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics and has been there since her oldest son, seventh-grader Tyler Opyoke, now 12, was in kindergarten. She also has two girls, first-grader Hannah, 7, and fifth-grader Samantha, 10, at Challenger.

"I want to stay very involved with my children's education," she said.

Through the years, she said, she has seen the school's needs for funding and support.

"There's such a gap between what the state provides and what the school needs," Opyoke said.

The school is a beautiful facility, she observed, but "things are breaking now and need to be replaced."

She helps fill that gap.

While Sue Stoops was principal, Opyoke worked with her to establish a Facebook page.

"With the Facebook page, I opened up communication," she said.

Opyoke is also responsible for creating the Challenger/Community Partnership.

"She was able to spearhead raising $40,000 (plus) for our iMac lab," said current Challenger principal Michael Maine.

With the iMac lab in place, Opyoke is currently working with the help of Day Metal Products to introduce a marine biology lab.

• • •

Verner, 70, is such a beloved school volunteer that students and staffers refer to her as Grandma.

"They all want to be my adopted children and grandchildren," she said.

Verner worked for the school district for 35 years. Her retirement lasted one month, she said. "Then I came here. I work every day."

"Here" is Nature Coast Technical High School, where her daughter, internal account bookkeeper Ginger Kretzer, works. They work in the same area of the school.

Verner volunteers because she gets a lot out of it.

"It's rewarding, the love of the kids, the respect. I'm their problem solver. I'm their shoulder they can talk to," she said. "When you're around kids, you feel younger. I'm not a person to sit and do nothing. I have to be active. Kids help keep you young at heart, and I am definitely a people person."

Top school volunteers named in Hernando School District 11/01/13 [Last modified: Friday, November 1, 2013 4:55pm]
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