Giving back to public school


When my son started Pre-k (known as VPK in Florida) in August 2016, my husband and I enrolled him in one of the private K-8 Catholic schools in St Johns, following the tradition of our upbringings.

However, a couple of friends convinced us, half way through Kindergarten, to try the county elementary school, not only for its good reputation, but also to give our son the chance to make friends around the neighborhood.

It has been almost two years, and I can’t be happier with our decision to change schools. At Timberlin Creek Elementary, our son found the perfect space to grow and thrive as a child, while learning from the best in St Johns County.

In my humble opinion, the United States public education system is one of the pillars that holds the nation’s greatness. Although there are aspects that require revision at a federal level, the public schools at a local level are the heart and soul of our communities.

For an immigrant like me–whose mother had to pay a lot of money for private education because the public system in our home country, Colombia, was practically non-existent–the U.S. public education is as good as it gets. Unfortunately, many Americans take it for granted.

The latest tragedies occurred at the high schools in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas, are evidence of the unity that is built by the students, their parents, teachers, and neighbors. Not in vain, our kids spend half their days in the care of school officials, thus the impact that school life has on our kids’ future.

Based on the profound appreciation that I have for my son’s teachers and the administrative body at Timberlin Creek, I started thinking about a way to give back to the school. So, last November, during the School Advisory Council meeting–which I attend as a volunteer every month–I proposed to sponsor a creative writing contest and to donate $500 toward the prizes in our company’s name, Zellner Insurance Agency.

Keep in mind, $500 was my son’s monthly tuition at the Catholic school.

Knowing that public schools must follow bureaucratic procedures and government directives, I thought my idea would take a long while to get considered and ultimately approved. Happily, the enthusiasm and leadership of the Principal of the school put all the gears in motion to make it a reality sooner than I ever could anticipate.

At the first SAC meeting of the year, last February, the Chair of the council–who happened to be my son’s beloved kindergarten teacher–gave me a surprising update: the contest was going to be announced the following month, giving the kids time to write through Spring Break and submit their stories by the April 24th.

I was speechless. Not only was I going to be able to contribute to the school, but I was also going to be part of the committee to select the winners. The thought of reading stories written by third, fourth, and fifth graders melted my heart.

Four months later, the awards ceremony day arrived. Last Tuesday, 22nd of May, I had the privilege to join the Principal of Timberlin Creek Elementary School, Ms. Linda Edel, the SAC Chair, Ms. Michelle Traylor, and Instructional Coach, Ms. Crystal Kelley at the media center to call the nine winners–1st, 2nd, and 3rd place per grade level–and hand out their well earned trophies and prizes.

I can’t share the picture of these amazing kids for privacy issues, but all I can say is that the quality and creativity of their work exceeded my expectations. When Ms. Edel introduced me to the kids and gave me the floor to say a few words, guess what happened? I started crying after my first sentence!

Those who know me well understand how important this initiative is for me. I truly believe that the tech lifestyle we all live is putting the craft of writing on the path to extinction. Although texting is a hell of an effective communication tool, love letters and other stories will never be written unless spaces of creativity are nurtured.

Like I told the young winners of the Eagle Quills Writing Contest, “Perhaps you don’t know it now, but all of you are writers now, and that is something very special because not everybody can do it. It takes courage to put words that come from the deepest part of our hearts on paper. 

Once again, congratulations Eagles! It has been an honor.

Thank you for reading and sharing.

Xiomara Spadafora

This column was sponsored by Zellner Insurance Agency. Many things in life don’t have insurance. For everything else call Zellner (888) 208-8119


2 Replies to “Giving back to public school”

  1. The writing contest was awesome. What a terrific way to encourage creative writing and celebrate great writing!!


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