Outstaning School Volunteer of the Year Awards Logo
The gift of time is precious, and volunteers are truly generous when it comes to investing this valuable resource in our schools and with our students.

Students, faculty and district staff members came together May 21, 2015 to say thank you and celebrate during the annual Outstanding School Volunteer of the Year Awards Program.

This award ceremony acknowledges the crucial role school volunteers play in students’ lives and how they enrich our schools with their selfless dedication.

Awards were bestowed at the elementary and secondary level in the following categories: “Outstanding Adult Volunteer of the Year,” “Outstanding Youth Volunteer of the Year” and “Outstanding Senior Volunteer of the Year.” These winners were selected from among more than 100 people named “Volunteers of the Year” at their respective schools.



2015 Winners

Kristie Sudduth - Outstanding Youth Volunteer of the YearOutstanding Youth Volunteer of the Year
Elementary level 
Kristie Sudduth
Wahneta Elementary

Kristie Sudduth has volunteered for several years at Wahneta Elementary. She readily takes on any task, and never wants anything in return. She has helped stock the food pantry, put away library books, served as decorator and DJ at the fall dance, made popcorn for movie-night fundraisers, swept the cafeteria following events, and continues to look for other ways to help. What is most remarkable is that she does all of this without anyone asking.

Keith Rowland - Adult Volunteer of the YearOutstanding Adult Volunteer of the Year 
Elementary level
Keith Rowland
Combee Elementary

Keith Rowland can be seen most days and many weekends volunteering at Combee Elementary. This former firefighter dedicates his time to helping children. He has served as a mentor to third graders and a chaperone on kindergarten field trips. He lends a hand with everything from planting plants and changing the marquee to unpacking and shelving books in the media center after renovations were complete so students could quickly return to checking out books. When he discovered kindergarteners and first graders weren’t tall enough to reach the classroom smartboards for interactive lessons, Mr. Rowland recycled old library shelves into platforms for the students to stand on.

Edward Norwood - Senior Volunteer of the YearOutstanding Senior Volunteer of the Year 
Elementary level
Edward Norwood
Highlands Grove Elementary

Edward Norwood is lovingly known as “Gramps” at Highlands Grove Elementary where he is also well known for his work ethic, positive attitude and huge heart. Mr. Norwood has spent the last four years volunteering at the school. In the mornings, he conducts “reading classes” with students, listening to them read aloud and working with them to improve their literacy skills. He also spends time fulfilling any tasks teachers or staff members might need: making copies, filling agendas, taking down bulletin boards, sharpening pencils, shelving books in the media center or even helping students find just the right book to read.


Jacqueline Gonzalez-Vega - Youth Volunteer of the YearOutstanding Youth Volunteer of the Year 
Secondary level 
Jacqueline Gonzalez-Vega
Mulberry Middle

With a warm genuine smile and innate sense of empathy, Jacqueline Gonzalez-Vega diligently volunteers at Mulberry Middle. She can often be heard engaging in encouraging conversations in both Spanish and English with students and their families. She has assisted with the Migrant Education program as well as other school events and projects. Every week, she helps prepare more than 90 backpacks filled with donated food for families and also delivers these packs along with clothing and other items. She helps students in the after school tutoring program every Tuesday and Thursday.

William Alexander - Adult Volunteer of the YearOutstanding Adult Volunteer of the Year 
Secondary level
William Alexander
Jewett Middle Academy Magnet

William Alexander makes an impression on students at Jewett Middle Academy Magnet with his mild manner and emphasis on obtaining a good education. He is always on call to assist staff members and students with anything needed from helping in the cafeteria to selling tickets for sporting events. He is particularly adept at mentoring students and attends parent conferences with these students when requested. He “adopted” a cafeteria table filled with eight students who didn’t mind earning C grades on their report cards. Mr. Alexander met twice a week with the students to discuss strategies to improve their grades and offered them encouragement. They have since made the honor roll and continue to have a connection with their mentor.

Karen Smith - Senior Volunteer of the YearOutstanding Senior Volunteer of the Year
Secondary level
Karen Smith
Winter Haven High

Karen Smith has spent 10 consecutive years volunteering at Winter Haven High. Students know her as “Miss Karen.” Her quilting talents and knowledge have been a valuable asset, and help students learn new techniques and improve upon their skills. One student developed a senior project to create 132 quilts with the help of community volunteers for an orphanage in Bogota, Columbia. This project was made possible through the mentoring and love of quilting that Miss Karen shared with the student.

The 2015 Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Awards Program was sponsored by The Ledger and MIDFLORIDA Credit Union.

For more information, contact the Department of Public Relations & Strategic Partnerships


Want to Volunteer?

The Polk County School District is the eighth largest in Florida with more than 150 school sites and over 100,000 students. With so many schools and students to serve, volunteers are needed to dedicate their valuable time to accomplish important tasks, and help students reach their educational and career goals. For more information about volunteering, visit http://www.polk-fl.net/community/volunteers/ or call 863.534.0636.