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Volunteer brings out the best in many youngsters at Bester

April 23, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Without the money to attend college, Kristy Sollenberger wasn't able to fulfill her dreams of becoming a teacher after graduating from South Hagerstown High School in 1989.

But the Hagerstown resident is contributing to education in other ways.

She has volunteered at Bester Elementary School for seven years and last week accepted the Comcast Parent Involvement Matters award. One volunteer from each county was honored during the first statewide award program.

Sollenberger, 36, went to Annapolis to receive the award during a ceremony Thursday.

"I was just blown away," Sollenberger said. "I was like, 'Wow.' For me to be picked out of all schools, that's just amazing."

Sollenberger, who attended Bester Elementary in the late 1970s, began volunteering at the school when her oldest son, Matthew, began attending there. He now is a sixth-grader at E. Russell Hicks Middle School. Her youngest son, 5-year-old Nathan, is enrolled in Bester's prekindergarten program.

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At Bester, she works in one-on-one reading with students in all grades, makes copies, sorts mail and does other tasks to help teachers. Sollenberger is at the school Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Principal Kristi Bachtell estimates Sollenberger spends about 80 to 100 hours volunteering at the school each month.

Sollenberger also is vice president of the school's PTA and she helped form Bester Boosters two years ago to raise money for the school. The group is considering purchasing playground equipment for the children.

"I do what I do for the kids," she said. "I just love seeing the smiles on their faces."

Sollenberger is busy working on the school's second annual talent show. She started last year's talent show with 10 acts, but this year's will feature 26, she said.

"The kids have so much talent," Sollenberger said. "What better way to reward them than to show off their talent to everyone."

She is in a different classroom almost every day, helping teachers and students, and said she plans to continue her volunteer work at Bester even after her youngest son moves to middle school.

"So many times, Bester has gotten a bad rap for being a bad school, but when I bought a house, I wanted my children to go to the same schools I went to," Sollenberger said.

Sollenberger, known to the students as "Miss Kristy," said she plans to keep the citation she received from Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley for her volunteer work; the crystal award is at the school for everyone to enjoy. Then, she'll take it home, she said.

"I don't know why I won the award," she said. "But what a way to give back to the school."




If you go . . .



WHAT: Bester Elementary School talent show

WHEN: May 8, 6:30 p.m. today

WHERE: Bester Elementary School, 30 E. Memorial Blvd., Hagerstown

This week is Public School Volunteer Week, which was started by Project Appleseed in 1997. For details, go to www.projectappleseed.org.

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