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Alumni Honor Wall

Service - Spring 2016

Mary Ann Cofrin

Class of 1977

1. What type of service were you involved in when you were a student at Oak Hall? Did anything that you learned through service while a student prepare you for service later in life?

I don’t remember community service being a big component of my schooling; I think luckily that has changed. I do remember that we had “clean up” days, which I think focused on picking up litter and perhaps some yard work. We “helped others” by raising money or donating to a cause, but the actual community service “work” was not something I remember being actively involved in.

2. What type of service have you done since graduating? Have you learned anything through the years that would be helpful or instructive for current students?  

My career choice was Social Work so I learned a lot about the importance of community involvement, helping others, and giving back. When I left the field of social work to raise my kids, I became more focused on direct service volunteering. One of my favorite places was always doing something in my kids’ school. Parents are encouraged to participate and I did all kinds of tasks from direct help in the classroom to baking cookies to serving on the board of directors. I also got involved in my community, and assisted in numerous Holiday toy drives, participated in various fundraising campaigns, but one of the most rewarding was taking my dogs to a local nursing home as part of a pet therapy program. I took three different dogs to an Alzheimer’s Unit over the course of 12 years. The impact my dogs had on the lives of those residents was so valuable. I loved the smiles and laughter just a few moments in the presence of my dogs could bring to people who struggled with so many daily hardships.I have recently relocated to RI so I am just beginning to get involved here. I have started volunteering at the local food pantry and I am on the waiting list to be a “friendly visitor” to an elder in the community.

3. Describe an experience from your time at OHS the current students would find interesting or hard to believe.

Oak Hall is a special place. It was a very small school when I was there in the mid to late 70’s. Everyone knew everyone. It was a friendly place, and a fun place. Interestingly, I went through one of the most traumatic experiences of my life back in 10th and 11th grade: I had scoliosis, which for me was a serious and potentially, life threatening, curvature of the spine. In 10th grade I wore several corrective body casts and braces in an attempt to correct my curved spine. When that failed, I had major back surgery the August prior to 11th grade. I was in a full body cast for most of that academic year. Oak Hall teachers and staff were wonderful during this very difficult time. My English teacher, Eileen McCarthy, helped me so much through the journal writing we had to do for our class. I think I used that writing as a type of therapy and she wrote back incredible words of encouragement and advice. I was always allowed to come to the office and lay down when I was tired. Mrs. Garwood made sure I had everything I could need. Being at Oak Hall during that difficult time was so beneficial. I was able to keep up with all my school work while being giving the freedom to do it at a pace that was possible given my physical limitations.

4. Did you have any other relatives who also attended or now attend OHS? If so what are their names and what are they doing now?

My sister, Gladys Cofrin, attended Oak Hall before me and graduated class of 1973. She lives in Gainesville, is very active dog rescue work, and participates in many Oak Hall events as well.

5. Is there anything you would like to say to current students that the above questions did not address?

Volunteering is extremely rewarding. The personal benefits certainly outweigh the “work.” The important thing is to find the right type of volunteering for your personality and time availability. When you find the right “fit” it is the most rewarding work you will ever do!

Michael W. J. McKeown

Class of 1980

1. What type of service were you involved in when you were a student at Oak Hall? Did anything that you learned through service while a student prepare you for service later in life?

I attended Oak Hall from Spring 1976 to when I graduated on June 6, 1980. The only service opportunities at the school we the Annual Christmas party and Student Government Association activities. During the annual Christmas party underprivileged children were brought in for activities, a children’s play, and presents. The Drama Cub was responsible for putting on the plays for the children. In my senior year I played one of the Ugly Step Sisters in Cinderella. I was the only guy who would play the role. Others refused because it required you to wear a dress. I thought, if they can do it on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, why not?  Sometimes in life, you need to step out of your comfort zone to help bring joy to someone else. That was the lesson that I learned.  It was worth it; I can still remember children laughing. I was one of two senior class representatives in Student Government. Our goal in SGA was to make new students feel more welcome. SGA worked hard raising funds to improve the school’s facilities. We also had the opportunity to take part in Students’ in Government Week, where we spent a week with a government official. Mine was a county judge named Stephen Mickle. This was very rewarding and we were out of school for a whole week! I believe the biggest thing I learned about service was that you are part of something bigger than yourself. Helping others and representing your school in a manner which would make them proud is the best reward. This was done as well through sports. You represented OHS, and good sportsmanship was vital to present a positive image of the school.

2. What type of service have you done since graduating? Have you learned anything through the years that would be helpful or instructive for current students? 

In college I became a member of Theta Chi Fraternity at the University of Florida. Their motto is, “Lend a Helping Hand.’ It was all about service to your brothers and the community. We raised money each year for our philanthropy, the Shands Burn Unit. Nurses who worked there would thank you if they saw you wearing a ΘΧ shirt; the money raised went to good use. I went into the U.S. Army in hopes of becoming an officer after college. Well, that did not go as planned, but something better came out of it. I served four years and was deployed to Operation Desert Storm in 1991. I consider myself lucky. I came back in the same way as I left, with the exception of losing some of my hearing. Being a rocket artillery man during combat operations didn’t help. I would still do it all over again. To have the opportunity to serve with some of the greatest brothers on this earth is a privilege. We are still close to this day. So, I hope the Veterans Administration will one day give me hearing aids. If not, then I guess I will have to sue Led Zeppelin for not putting a warning label on their albums. ☺ It was the Army that led me to where I am today, a teacher. Sergeants are tasked with instructing soldiers and officers, which I enjoyed. So why not become a teacher? I went back to school to earn my teaching credentials and as they say, the rest is history.   I believe teaching is one of the best ways you can serve. If you want to be a teacher, you have to go in with the attitude that money is not important. It is a calling, like the priesthood or a missionary. When I started teaching, I never thought that I would one day become a college professor. But as they say, God has a plan. I was not going to be an officer, but a teacher. I began as an inner-city teacher, then moved on to a Catholic high school, and finally landed a position as an Associate Professor of History at Daytona State College.   There are days when I am in front of my class and I think to myself, “I cannot believe I am actually being paid for this!” Thanks goes to the teachers at OHS who inspired me and taught me to be something better than I thought of myself: Coach John Clifford, Don Vosika, Dr. Herb Gilliland, Mrs. Hart, Ms. Wall, Mrs. Dell and of course Larry Muschamp. I took a little bit from each one: discipline, attention to detail, discovery, analysis, the arts, history, and most important, the use of humor.  So I guess you can say, when a student sees me, they see them. Besides the various committees at my college that I have served on, I also served as a Eucharistic Minister, volunteer firefighter, as an officer for the Crescent City Yacht Club, Lake Monroe Sailing Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Knights of Columbus. I have been in charge of sailing regattas, fund raisers, Voice of Democracy and mentoring programs.

3. Describe an experience from your time at OHS the current students would find interesting or hard to believe.

We did not have Honor Classes or Advanced Placement Classes at Oak Hall. Everyone was in the same boat. I did not even know what an Honor class or an AP class was until I began my teaching career. Once I started teaching AP United States History and Honors World History, and scoring the AP European exam for the College Board (I still do), it dawned on me that when I was a student, all of our classes at Oak Hall would have been considered Honor or AP classes today. We did not have a weighted scale as they do now. That would have helped my GPA for sure! For example, in my senior year English class we read about twelve novels and plays, as well as short stories and poetry. We were responsible for knowing everything we read over the year—everything! I recall having a stack of 3x5 cards about four inches high with nothing but quotes on everything we read. A lot of the final exams we took were similar to the AP exams and Honor exams of today. The bar was set extremely high and this prepared us for college. I thought my first two years in college were easier than my last two years at Oak Hall.

 

4. Did you have any other relatives who also attended or now attend OHS? If so what are their names and what are they doing now?

No, I am it.

5. Is there anything you would like to say to current students that the above questions did not address?

As I have written before, teachers do not get paid a lot, their reward comes from the success that you will achieve after you leave them. No amount of money can compare with a former student telling his/her teacher, “Thank you for what you did for me.” I almost got out of teaching because I thought I was not accomplishing anything. Then out of the blue, students that I taught in the past called me, messaged me on Facebook, or emailed me just to thank me or tell me that I inspired them in some way. Try to give to others as much as you can. Before you walk out that door to graduation, thank all of your teachers, even those who you cannot stand—the mean, horrible, and unreasonable ones. When you get to college you may find that they have prepared you the most. Not everything will go as you planned, but in the end it will all work out. I get a kick out of the reaction people from my past have when I tell them that I am a college professor. You see, I was just an average student. In life you will meet some hardships, but as my father once told me, “Michael you really fell flat on your face. But you were moving in the right direction.” So forward march!

Jennifer Marchand Moore

Class of 1991

1. What type of service were you involved in when you were a student at Oak Hall? Did anything that you learned through service while a student prepare you for service later in life?

I was very involved in sports pretty much year-round while a student at Oak Hall. I remained busy playing basketball, volleyball, softball, track and field, and cheering. Looking back on my time as a student at OHS, I do wish I had been involved in more of the service clubs and organizations offered. Although I'm not sure when I would've found the time, I think the experience could've helped prepare me for service and life in general after high school. 

2. What type of service have you done since graduating? Have you learned anything through the years that would be helpful or instructive for current students?  

After graduating, I continued with my original plans and pursued a career in the healthcare field. Although I did not become a neonatologist, I instead became a registered nurse and IBCLC, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Working as a nurse did not feel like a job but instead was incredibly rewarding and fulfilling which was something I did not expect to experience as a working adult. As a mom of four young children, wife to a firefighter-paramedic who worked a 24-hour shift every 3rd day, and a part-time nurse and lactation consultant in an inpatient hospital setting, I thought life was pretty status quo. I engaged in casual volunteering and service with multiple non-profits in Gainesville. By casual I mean...on my terms and when it was convenient for me which honestly is a perk of service and philanthropic efforts. I've experienced different aspects of service from gathering donations to provide to clinics overseas, fostering animals, being involved in VBS at church, and essentially been available for "casual" service and community involvement at different seasons of my life. My real commitment and dedication to service, where passion for a cause was the driving force, actually started on January 11, 2010 at approximately 11am when I witnessed hungry kids in our community. At that moment my heart became incredibly heavy and I felt this overwhelming and compelling need to do something to impact childhood hunger. Did you know that 1 out of 4 children in Alachua County are at risk of food insecurity?  Don't feel bad because I didn't know either until I started doing some research. I wasn't a hungry child and wasn't exposed to hunger, I just didn't know...until that very Monday when I saw it firsthand. With the help of family, friends, and various community individuals and social organizations, I founded a volunteer run non-profit organization called Food4Kids Backpack Program. We have since grown to partner with 24 schools in Alachua and Levy County to provide food to students over the weekends and extended breaks from school who would otherwise be at risk of hunger. Every weekend backpacks are packed with food to cover the nutritional gap until school resumes the following week where breakfast and lunch at school are regularly available. The empty backpacks are returned every Monday to be refilled by volunteers. It's a community run project that addresses a huge need and is changing lives of our future generations. Our tag line is "Nourishing our Future". I have had to learn a lot and been on a sharp learning curve understanding how to run a non-profit with no staff and no budget that was completely run by volunteers but the one thing I've learned most is don't ever let someone tell you "it can't be done". What they are really saying is it hasn't been done before. For me that was a challenge that I embraced until I found an open door that led to success. Passion and determination to succeed will equal great achievements and fulfillment at the end of the day. Nothing beats the intrinsic rewards of knowing you are making a difference, even if it's slow progress affecting only one at a time. 

3. Describe an experience from your time at OHS the current students would find interesting or hard to believe.

 

I was one of the few students who started at Martha Manson which was K-5 then transitioned to Oak Hall for 6-12th grade. We never really had a true middle school.  Only after I graduated did the schools merge and formed a lower, middle, and high school concept. As a 6th grader, I was literally in the same halls with seniors although that isn't too hard to imagine when each graduating class only having about 25 students. In fact, I flew to New York for our senior class trip in 1991 with monies earned from selling Krispy Kreme donuts and pizza slices between classes to students in the hallway. Ahhh, those were the days!

4. Did you have any other relatives who also attended or now attend OHS? If so what are their names and what are they doing now?

There's nothing cooler than attending school with family! I had 2 cousins in my very grade and we actually even had some classes together. Gray Drummond is a successful banker and entrepreneur in the Fishing and Hunting Industry. Michelle Bennett McElroy not only attended school with me but we also played some sports together during our time at OHS together. She also owns MM Design and Decor here in Gainesville and is funneling her creative genes into something she's always loved. While my sisters and I are all 6 years apart, my younger sister, Julie, started at Oak Hall while I was finishing my last year. Julie Marchand Nichols now works in a pediatric office as a nurse and also an IBCLC here in Gainesville.

Brittney Stresing

Class of 2004

1. What type of service were you involved in when you were a student at Oak Hall? Did anything that you learned through service while a student prepare you for service later in life?

During my time at Oak Hall I was active in many clubs but most notably as class president and a member of honor council. As class president I had to be able to speak to a group as well as to manage the students desires and raise money to accomplish them. This helped me learn the basics of managing people and the desires of a group. As a member of honor council I learned the ability to follow protocol and regulations as well as to find appropriate repercussions for those who had difficulty following regulations.These skills have become extremely helpful as a business owner where managing people is a large part of my job. They have also assisted me in my volunteer work because I assist with organizing a conference for females with disabilities and having proper management skills and abilities to listen to people in a group are imperative. I also have created two support groups for people who have lost limbs. The ability to speak to people, and motivate them to their goals were skills I learned starting back at Oak Hall. I greatly feel that my speaking skills were improved by being active in clubs and organizations at Oak Hall where I was able to speak to the school regularly.

2. What type of service have you done since graduating? Have you learned anything through the years that would be helpful or instructive for current students?

I volunteer in my free time with numerous organizations, some of which are paralympics and adaptive sports groups and the two support groups I started for people who have lost a limb. I also mentor high school and college students interested in learning more about the profession of prosthetics and orthotics. Something I have learned from these experiences would be to genuinely respect people because everyone is going through a battle, issue, or stress even if you aren’t aware of it.Treat people with respect and kindness because something as small as a smile or lending an ear can change a persons day and possibly their future.             

3. Describe an experience from your time at OHS the current students would find interesting or hard to believe.

During the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, I had a surgery to go in though my hip, remove two inches from my femur and then put an intramedullary rod in my femur from hip to knee. I did not tell anyone besides one of my friends in order to not draw attention to it and having anyone try to help me more than I needed. I was still healing when golf season started, and as captain and founder of the girls golf team I would not let this stop me from being at practice. I attended every practice and never told anyone on my team that I had a major surgery just a few weeks before. I was supposed to be rehabbing my leg and still using crutches but instead I was walking the golf course with my bag. At the time I felt this was the right thing to do and nobody at school knew about my surgery (and not many people still now about it to this day). Now that I am almost 30 years old I have had to re-do my rehab in ways to properly strengthen my hip since I did not do my rehabilitation properly in high school. Having this surgery and dealing with a few physical issues that I have kept secretive has provided me an understanding and respect for people with different physical conditions. I was able to also use this experience of my situation and my passion for prosthetics and orthotics to do my AP art project in my senior year of high school. My AP art project was about expressing how many people deal with the psychological side of physical issues that many don’t understand.

4. Did you have any other relatives who also attended or now attend OHS? If so what are their names and what are they doing now?

I have a younger brother, Clarke, that also attended Oak Hall. He is working in hospitality management for a large hotel company.  He is one of the most warm hearted and heard working people I know and I couldn’t be more proud of him.

5. Is there anything you would like to say to current students that the above questions did not address?

Follow your interests and dreams! In high school I realized what my interest was in life: prosthetics and orthotics. Even when many people in my life thought this sounded crazy since it wasn’t a traditional profession, I knew what my passion was and I pursued it with all of my heart. I was able to be one of the youngest to be certified in my profession and now own my own company and have been awarded numerous business awards as well as am a Fellow of the American Academy of Prosthetists and Orthotists. I want to let students know that even if your passion/interest doesn’t fall into a traditional route or degree, don’t shy away from pursuing your dreams! No dream is too unusual or big!

 

Jeffrey Morris

Class of 2010

 

1. What type of service were you involved in when you were a student at Oak Hall? Did anything that you learned through service while a student prepare you for service later in life?

During my time at Oak Hall, I was highly involved in multiple service organizations like Key Club, where I served as President, Community Action Board, and Student Council to name a few. One impactful element of being a student at OHS was the annual Holiday Party for underprivileged kids and the “Day of Service,” two traditions that allowed our small school community to influence change in our beloved city. Being involved in these events and organizations allowed me to get a glimpse into the lives of those living in the shadows in the Gainesville community, such as the impoverished and homeless. I distinctly remember going to St. Francis Home many times during the year along with fellow Key Club members, in order to serve food to homeless individuals in the Gainesville area. It was truly a profoundly humbling experience, as we did not only get to witness the joy that these individuals had at receiving a simple meal, but rather the true reward was engaging with them in one-on-one conversation to really learn about their life story and background.

2. What type of service have you done since graduating? Have you learned anything through the years that would be helpful or instructive for current students?

During my four years of college at Washington University in St. Louis, I joined many service fraternities to do local cleanups, work at soup kitchens, and help bridge the gap between marginalized members of the St. Louis community etc. I had prominent roles in two organizations. First, I was highly involved as an Executive Board member in an organization called “Dance Marathon,” which is a nationwide college-based initiative that raises money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in order to support low-income families whose children are undergoing various expensive surgeries. The year-long fundraising efforts culminate in a campus-wide giant dance party, and both years my board raised more than $250,000. I was also involved in doing campus and local recruitment for an organization called “Teach For America,” a non-profit entity whose mission is to "eliminate educational inequity by enlisting high-achieving recent college graduates and professionals to teach for two years in low-income communities throughout the United States”.  *Upon graduating college, I received many marketing corporate offers in the business world; however, I really wanted to have an opportunity to work abroad and assist individuals living in impoverished communities across the world. Thus, I applied to work as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. Since April 2015, I have embarked on a journey to live and work for two years in Guyana, South America as a Community Education Promoter. I reside in a small, low-income Afro-Guyanase town located in the interior of Guyana. I teach literacy to the slow-learners in Grades 1-3, stressing an emphasis on phonemic awareness and reading. I also teach Health and Life skills at the local high school and provide mental health counseling to a region with the highest youth suicide rate in the world. At my two Schools, I am working on developing a working computer lab to improve literacy skills, building an arts center from the ground up, and enhancing overall school beautification with the planting of trees and painting the school building. Apart from this, I also work on a Peace Corps task force to organize country-wide youth empowerment camps for boys and girls; specifically, I have been very involved in the implementation of an all-girls empowerment camp called Camp G.L.O.W. (Girls Leading Our World), where we work hand-in-hand with local Guyanase to teach girls about healthy body image, sexual and mental health, career goal setting, etc. Overall, my job is extremely challenging and there are tough days indeed, but the interactions I get to have with young students is incredibly rewarding and inspiring!

3. Describe an experience from your time at OHS the current students would find interesting or hard to believe.

While at Oak Hall, I had the unique opportunity to work with fellow peers and faculty to design one of the state’s first working Biodiesel facilities; a plant to utilize used vegetable oil to fuel the school’s lawn equipment, potentially the school buses, etc. Ultimately, our joint efforts with that project altered local law and lead us to meet President Barack Obama at the PEYA (President’s Environmental Youth Award) service. If it wasn’t for the support of my OHS community I do not think we could have had such great success. Overall, I firmly believe that my tenure at OHS taught me the valuable lessons of service and how uplifting it can be to empower others. Small combined efforts to make change are highly worthwhile.

4. Did you have any other relatives who also attended or now attend OHS? If so what are their names and what are they doing now?

My sister, Sara Morris, attended OHS and graduated in 2003. She now resides in Chicago, IL and is an international Field Marketing Manager for the Baskin Robbins ice cream brand. She is happily married and working to start a family soon.

5. Is there anything you would like to say to current students that the above questions did not address?

My biggest piece of advice is to never stick to just one career goal or dream. Try many jobs, jump into different fields, be flexible, try out brand new hobbies…take risks and make mistakes. You will be glad you did.