Total turnarounds

Published May 10, 2007

BROOKSVILLE - It's a sure sign of spring: With the end of the school year come uplifting events heralding students and their accomplishments. For 18 years, the Turnaround Achievement Awards have recognized one student from each school who has chosen to change his or her behavior or academic habits in positive ways. "This is huge for turnaround kids, " said Kathleen Reitz, Education Foundation director. "They deserve credit." The foundation, Spring Hill Lanes, Hernando County Bowling Association and Brooksville Elks put together a banquet every year to honor students who have made such great strides. Here are this year's winners and reflections from their nominators:

Chelsea Barrett, Challenger sixth-grade, nominated by Michelle Kloiber: "Chelsea is hard-working and determined, exhibiting perseverance in class and in life. She surpassed her goals in every subject. In math, she went from 65 percent to 88 percent. Chelsea experienced a life-altering accident, affecting her cognitive development, causing her to drop far below grade level. She had to relearn life skills and confront academic challenges. She rose to her personal best. She's a team player and a leader." The sixth-grade teaching team's choice was unanimous.

Angel Bloomer, Central High School senior, nominated by Kelly Frazier: "Relocating from Wisconsin last year as a junior, Angel missed her first semester as she was in transition. She lost credits the previous year because of attendance issues. Her GPA fell to 1.56, but she nearly doubled that this year and is still gaining. She improved her attendance and academics. A candidate for Bright Futures Vocational Award, she will pursue a university-level culinary arts program. Angel's perseverance and accomplishments have been phenomenal."

David Goodwin, Challenger K8 elementary level, fifth grade, nominated by Victoria Railey: "David is a kind-hearted, thoughtful young man who tries never to settle for less than his best. He struggles with reading skills but has learned to be independent. I'm proud of the confidence and work ethic David demonstrates. His reading skills score soared from 149 to 693. David said he took his time, checked his work and believed in himself."

Matthew Graham, Chocachatti second grade, nominated by Carroll Ballard and Joanne Kozlow: "Matthew has been academically challenged since kindergarten and responded by sitting back and trying to be invisible. He couldn't find a way to take charge of his learning. It was hard for him to believe in himself and take risks. For the past two months, he has turned around and become excited about learning. He moved from preprimer reading to grade 2.3. He's improved in all levels and is helping classmates, too."

Ryan Rankin, Brooksville Elementary third grade, nominated by Terri Adams: "Ryan is a joy as a student and a leader to other students. He turned his grades in reading, math and writing completely around. Ryan strives to do his best and sometimes mentors students who may be struggling."

Gabriel Avendano, Deltona second grade, nominated by Susan Panopoulos: "Gabriel couldn't control his anger. He might throw furniture or punches, screaming, 'I hate it here!' He did little work, couldn't add or subtract, even at first-grade level. Gabriel has evolved into one of the friendliest, most well-liked students in the school. He sets good examples, participates and interacts in a positive way that's infectious. He's the student you can't wait to see on Monday morning, the one who helps calm others. Count on Gabriel to put a smile on your face."

Cody Pankow, Parrott Middle eighth grade, nominated by Karen VanDuyn: Cody has responded to tougher course work by bringing his class grades up an entire level. In reading, Cody gained 220 points. Cody's maturity has grown with his desire to be a better citizen. He has become helpful in class and shows willingness to help others."

Ty Hatton, Eastside Elementary third grade, nominated by Michael Sosbe and Norma Sampson: "Ty's attitude is 500 percent better than last year. He catches on quickly, and actually explains math concepts to other students. After being encouraged to focus on changing his attitude, he doesn't get in trouble. He uses his manners and keeps a positive attitude."

Johnathan Bourne, Fox Chapel, eighth grade, nominated by Natalie Durrum: "Johnathan's improvement and change as a person is a 110 percent turnaround. In sixth grade, he rarely worked and was close to failing most classes. Frequently written up for fighting or inappropriate behavior, he was loud and disruptive. Today, it's a privilege to teach Johnathan, a very determined young man. He's respectful, strives for personal best and is extremely successful. Teachers are proud of all he has accomplished and call him an outstanding candidate."

Rachel Keeling, J.D. Floyd Elementary fourth-grade, nominated by Edward Audette: "Rachel has brought up her grades and proven a new sense of responsibility. Her self-esteem has risen. She dedicates herself to making intelligent use of tools and materials. Once, Rachel's deafness was problematic for her. Now she is a most enthusiastic and lively member of the class. She changed from a quiet introvert to a social dynamo, excited by the prospect of responding to questions or participating. After a rough start, Rachel turned her attitude around 180 degrees."

William D. Hinkle, Hernando High senior, nominated by Charlotte Key: "Billy is a special-needs student who at first didn't seem to care about grades or graduating. He missed some credits but brought his GPA up to a 2.29, taking 10 classes between day and night school, first semester. This semester, Billy is enrolled in nine, still a heavy load. He'll likely graduate on time. He's a polite, well-mannered young man who has made major improvement in his school work."

Chloe Simmons, Moton Elementary fourth grade, nominated by April Pierceall: "Once known as a quiet introvert with poor attendance, Chloe had difficulty keeping up. But Chloe earned perfect attendance awards for the last two grading periods. Her grades are on the rise, she completes all assignments, and it is a responsible and helpful student. Chloe participates in special activities, has joined Girl Scouts and is a wonderful role model for her peers. It's a joy and a pleasure to have Chloe for a student."

Stephany F. Hartt, Nature Coast Tech senior, nominated by Sophia Watson: "We have witnessed remarkable things from Stephany, who is now acting responsibly. She finishes all her tasks. In times past, Stephanie might have made poor choices and suffered tough consequences, but she seems happy with the young lady she's growing up to be. This year, Stephany got active in school events - acting, scrubbing cars at fundraisers, decorating hallways. When new students ask Stephany for advice, she says, 'Get involved!' "

Devon Graham, Pine Grove Elementary fourth grade, nominated by Michelle Haenel and Barbara Strange: "Devon mentors a kindergarten student, teaching that child how to make good choices. This success is born of rough times for Devon. Early on, Devon's weapons against his anger and fears were acting out or running away. Devon agreed to establish a safe corner in the guidance office and got permission to retreat. Half a dozen times weekly, he withdrew to safety. Slowly realizing he was missing the fun of school, Devon conquered his anger and chose to think before acting. Soon, he got to go on his first field trip in four years. Devon is A/B honor roll. He got a citizenship award and is a leader in his cooperative group."

Cody Donnellan, Powell Middle eighth grade, nominated by Maria Dumas: "Cody has turned around. He strives to make the honor roll each term and has matured a lot. Cody completes all his work and is doing well behaviorally. He is much more aware of his attitude."

James Chesteen, Spring Hill Elementary third grade, nominated by Chris Lewis: "James seems like a new student. He is learning respect for others and for himself, and has skills for managing his behavior. When he falls down, he gets right up and tries again. He never gives up! James has a wonderful, fun personality. He gets As on tests. His hand is always up to answer questions and participate in class. James is learning to be a leader with charming character and a newfound ability to get along with others."

Raynor Principe, Springstead High senior, nominated by Dr. Joanne Brue: "Raynor fell behind in sophomore year. His work was cut out for him, if he wanted to graduate on time. His fellow band members kept him on track as he caught up. He took adult night-school classes and used Florida Virtual School, while maintaining high grades in his day classes. Ray raised his GPA and completed a large volume of work. He should be on track for May graduation. Ray is an example for us all."

Antonio McKlveen, Suncoast Elementary fifth grade, nominated by Beth Stratton: "Antonio used to get into trouble on a daily basis, with an 'I don't care' attitude. Notes and phone calls home were frequent. But with effort and cooperation between home, school and Antonio, his attitude came around. He's an A/B student with higher expectations for himself and a willingness to help in the classroom. Antonio has become more outgoing, asking for help when he needs it and sharing thoughts that matter to him."

Cody Graham, West Hernando Middle seventh grade, nominated by Sarah Edgecomb: "Cody's insight is a huge asset for him. Not only is he willing to admit he has challenges, but he's willing to ask for help and try new things. He sought help when he found himself in trouble too often at school and learned new coping strategies. Adapting a positive attitude, Cody turned his academic life around from frequent Fs to all As. Cody is determined to be the best he can be - a role model for making wise choices."

Carolina Marquez, Westside Elementary fourth grade, nominated by Barbara Wells: "Having been in several other schools, Carolina came to Westside last August. She wouldn't put forth any effort, was absent 17 days and tardy 27 times in two quarters. Grades fell until she was failing nearly every subject. Gradually Carolina perked up. She went to ESOL classes (English for Speakers of Other Languages). With help from school staff, she turned her grades around. She's one of her teacher's best classroom helpers. Carolina wants to become a professional basketball player. She practices every day."