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Outstaning School Volunteer of the Year Awards Logo

Winners Announced for Polk County Outstanding School Volunteers of the Year

May 17, 2016

Polk County Public Schools honored its Outstanding School Volunteers of the Year during a ceremony in Bartow today.

The annual event, held at Bartow Civic Center, highlights the crucial role volunteers play in students’ lives, and how they enrich our schools with their dedication. Winners were selected from among more than 100 people named Volunteers of the Year at their respective schools.

The Outstanding School Volunteer of the Year Awards Program is sponsored by The Ledger Media Group and MIDFLORIDA Credit Union. Tuesday’s ceremony was attended by approximately 350 people.

Awards were bestowed at the elementary and secondary level for youth, adult and senior volunteers.

2016 Volunteer of the Year Award Winners
(From left) Laron Adams, Cynthia Zimmerman, Stephanie Smith and James Watkins.

Elementary Level Category

James Watkins, Horizons Elementary, Outstanding Youth Volunteer of the Year

Stop by Horizons Elementary any day of the week and you will find James Watkins hard at work. Whether escorting students to class or providing one-on-one tutoring in math, James makes each child he interacts with feel special and supported. James is hearing impaired, and works closely with hearing impaired students to help them adjust and learn in a positive environment. He is a blessing to the students and staff of Horizons Elementary.

Laron Adams, Garner Elementary, Outstanding Adult Volunteer of the Year

Laron Adams’ motto is “Together we move,” and he brings it to life every day at Garner Elementary. Laron started the Strong Father Mentoring Program in 2012, and a large portion of his week is spent mentoring young men in the 4th and 5th grades. These students look forward to his guidance every day and have shown marked improvements in their behavior, as well as on standardized tests. In the past five years, Laron has served as the Headstart Council Chair and SAC Committee Chair at Garner Elementary while also leading other community organizations. His dedication to supporting Garner Elementary perfectly exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism.

Cynthia Zimmerman, Philip O’Brien Elementary, Outstanding Senior Volunteer of the Year

Cynthia Zimmerman’s thoughtfulness and creativity have made Philip O’Brien Elementary a more beautiful and fun place to learn. Cynthia volunteers in the media center nearly every day, where she gives children personalized attention and decorates with handmade crafts. She accomplishes any task given to her, whether great or small, and frequently goes the extra mile by taking work home with her. Cynthia also assists with school events like Family Academic Night and the school walk-a-thon.

Secondary Level Category

Stephanie Smith, George Jenkins High, Outstanding Adult Volunteer of the Year

Stephanie Smith has tirelessly volunteered with the George Jenkins High marching band for years, logging approximately 1,000 volunteer hours this year alone. She has demonstrated her leadership skills and organization as a board member and president of the booster organization. Stephanie’s support improves not only the fine arts programs at George Jenkins, but the rest of the student body and community as well.

Kevin Dunn, Auburndale High, Outstanding Senior Volunteer of the Year

Kevin Dunn’s impact on student achievement at Auburndale High cannot be overstated. Kevin dedicates approximately 25 hours each week to preparing students for college and coaching them to be productive citizens after high school. He tutors students as they practice for ACT, SAT and AP testing, providing valuable insights that will bolster their scores and college applications. He also inspires students to get involved in their community through organizations such as the Hamptons Educational Foundation and Chamber Youth Leadership program.

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 and click on the “Community” tab at the top of the screen and select “Volunteers” or call 863.534.0636.