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For school volunteer, the reward is worth it

Michele Gregory believes her efforts have rubbed off on her two daughters, who also volunteer in schools.

Most elementary schools find it relatively easy to attract dedicated parent volunteers eager to help teachers and staff with the day-to-day task of educating their children. However, when those students reach middle school, their parents usually don't follow.

Which is why the faculty and staff at Parrott Middle School consider Michele Gregory to be a special blessing.

Each morning about 7:30, Gregory drops off her daughter Ryan, an eighth-grader at the school, and heads to the front office. For the next hour or so she performs much of the behind-the-scenes work, answering phones, filing and sorting through the mountain of paperwork that inundates the staff.

She does all this before heading to an eight-hour work day at her father's pest control business. But Gregory doesn't stop there. Many nights are spent back at the school, where she serves as president of the parent-teacher organization, or helps out as a band booster at Hernando High, where her other daughter, Alicia, attends.

"I've always been involved in my children's schools," Gregory said. "It just seems right to me that this is part of what their education is all about."

Gregory has been volunteering at Parrott for four years, ever since she walked into the office one morning and caught a glimpse of the chaos that begins each day.

"You have the phone ringing off the hook, kids who need tardy passes _ there just never seemed to be enough people to handle it all," Gregory said. "I just come in and help out wherever they need me."

Parrott office administrator Charlene Black says Gregory is a rare find. "We're like most middle schools in that once their children get here, most parents are through volunteering at school," she said. "Michele is great because she's comfortable doing just about anything. That really helps, especially when someone is out sick."

Likewise, Gregory's involvement in vital organizations such as the school advisory council and the PTO has been a commendable effort, officials say, despite the fact that those organizations suffer from a lack of parental involvement.

"It's important to me as a parent that I know what the school is doing to improve my child's education," she said. "Too bad, we can't get more people who feel the same way."

Indeed, Gregory says that the PTO and SAC meetings frequently have fewer than a half-dozen parent supporters. In fact, on several occasions she has been the only parent at a PTO meeting.

To combat that apathy, Gregory would like to attract more new parents this year. "I would love to have about 25 to 26 parents come out," she said. "Hopefully, we can keep them involved for the rest of the year."

Gregory, who grew up in Brooksville and attended many of the same schools as her daughters, believes her volunteer spirit has rubbed off on them. Ryan spent much of her summer helping at Parrott alongside her mother. Alicia, a freshman at Hernando High, volunteers frequently at Moton Elementary School.

"They've always seen me enjoying helping out at their schools," Gregory said. "Hopefully, they'll be doing the same when their own children enter school."

NAME: Michele Gregory

AGE: 36

JOB: Volunteer, Parrott Middle School

FAMILY: Husband, Donald; daughters, Alicia, 14, Ryan, 13

HOBBIES: Reading, sewing, sports