By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
A group of Bereans were honored Tuesday night at the Berea Community School Board, many of which had never been in the spotlight before.
Kindergarteners, third-graders and fifth-graders celebrated 22 community members by collaborating to create the hardback book “Berea’s Unsung Heroes: Our Invaluable Leaders.”
“These are people who never get recognition. They volunteer because they love it and they never ask for anything in return,” said Larinda Agee, fifth-grade teacher at Berea Elementary.
Agee’s fifth-grade students wrote the narrative, Nicole Isaac’s third-grade students interviewed each hero and Belinda Riddle’s kindergarten students snapped the portraits for the book.
Agee said when she scheduled the interviews in March, many of the heroes insisted there were others in the community who deserved to be featured instead.
“They are so humble about what they do,” she said.
The book was dedicated to the memory of Burt Gadd, a Berea graduate who returned to volunteer at his alma mater in 1983.
Gadd was a scorekeeper, scoreboard operator, Little League coach and team bus driver for 28 years until his death Dec. 4.
“He always gave himself to make our school a better place and is deeply missed by all,” stated the dedication in the front of the book. In the following pages, students featured heroes who exemplified the spirit of Gadd’s volunteerism.
One such hero was Cecil Green, a man who could be spotted at most any sports game in the county for the past 35 years.
“Everybody knows Cecil,” Agee said. “He goes to games because he loves supporting our local athletes. He doesn’t want a big plaque; he’s just going to be supportive.”
Robert Elliott is on the front cover of the book. Elliot is a blind man who volunteers to shred papers at St. Joseph Berea hospital. He has done so 40 hours a week during the past 12 years.
The elementary teachers wanted students to learn about true examples of leadership to drive home the “Seven Habits” of a “Leader in Me” school, Agee said.
This year, the district adopted The Leader in Me school transformation model based on the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” a business and self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey and first published in 1989.
Part of that initiative is to ingrain in students the basic language of the Seven Habits, such as “seek first to understand” or to “put first things first” or to “be proactive.”
Teachers started the year by talking about the habits, learning the habits “and letting it change us,” Agee said.
“I can speak for most everybody I work with – it is a life-changing program,” she said.
Agee’s students developed the questions to ask each hero, and many of the questions were based on the Seven Habits, she said.
For example, “How are you proactive in your daily lives?” or “What are the goals you have for yourself?”
Fifth-grader Macey Richardson, 11, wrote about Kenny Merritt, a Special Olympics volunteer.
Merritt just woke up one day and decided he wanted to volunteer, Macey said. His story got her thinking about what she was capable of doing for others.
“I’m the same as Mr. Merritt. I’m human. I have two arms and two legs. I am capable of getting up and doing something,” Macey said. “I can grow up and actually be that kind of person.”
Macey’s altruist nature already has led her to do charity work. She and her friend Samantha Cain raised money last year for “Operation Angel,” which she said is a program “for kids who don’t have a good Christmas.”
Writing for this book inspired her to look at other ways she can help her community, Macey said. One day, she wants to volunteer at the animal shelter and take care of neglected babies.
“I have a soft spot for babies,” she added.
Agee said the collaboration between the three elementary grades has been a “real confidence booster,” for all the children.
The younger students are no longer nervous around upperclassmen, she said. “They think it’s so cool to see each other in the hallways.”
For your own copy of “Berea’s Unsung Heroes: Our Invaluable Leaders,” email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext 6696.