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Verna Felder, the Service Learning School District Parent and Community Liaison is unlike any other staff in schools, taking the time to not only ensure her students are taken care of but also that their families are being cared for.
I’ve been here since 2000 and I started as a substitute teacher teaching science, math and Spanish over the years. From that point, I became the media specialist because I had a background in library science. I have a degree in organizational management and a master's degree in strategic communication leadership. Over the years, I acquired the experience and the knowledge. I learned how to build relationships, I learned what worked and what didn't until finally I settled into working with parents and making sure that this school district is a holistic district that takes care of the whole family.”
Verna’s nomination said throughout her 20 years at the Service Learning School District, she is constantly looking out for everyone.
Ms. Felder embodies everything that a hero is. She started as the school’s librarian and 20 years later she is the parent and community liaison. She knows what it’s like to be the little guy which is why she always looks out for everyone. If there’s a parent that comes to the school, nine times out of ten, she has developed a positive relationship with them and knows them by name,” Verna’s nomination wrote.
The Service Learning School District has three schools including Detroit Service Learning Academy, Redford Service Learning Academy and Oak Park Service Learning Academy. Verna said the mission of the district is what she dedicates her day to.
At the Service Learning District, we are about cultural diversity, emotional security, nurturing and safety and making sure the whole family’s needs are met and that’s what I spend most of my time doing.”
Verna is someone students and families can count on to help when any issue arises, with an open door policy at any point.
Verna’s nomination said, Throughout the years, her office has been a safe haven for students in need. The students know that she cares. Whenever there is a family that needs extra food, or can’t afford a school uniform, Ms. Felder steps in. She takes time out of her day to buy school uniforms for students and coats if they need one. Education is so important to her that she launched the school’s gas card initiative. This ensures that parents who can’t afford gas, still have a way to take their child to school. Whenever there are students who may not have enough food at home, Ms. Felder partners with the cafeteria members to pack them a bag of food to take home during the weekend.”
Even for someone who technically does these things for her job, Verna said it doesn’t feel like work at all.
One of my favorite quotes is from Eleanor Roosevelt who said ‘do what you love and you’ll never have to work another day in your life’ and from the moment I got here in 2000 to this moment right here, I still love to come to work. I love to serve. When I wake up in the morning, if I know I can make a difference to one student, one family or one parent then that makes it all worth it.”
Not only is Verna committed to her students and their families but her nomination said she also makes a commitment to the communities her school district serves.
For 20 years Ms. Felder has gone out of her way to be there for children and parents who need her. Whenever there is a problem, she doesn’t shy away from the task. She works to fix it as best as she can. Detroit Service Learning Academy is situated in an urban neighborhood with high crime, which is why Ms. Felder works to highlight the good in the community. Whenever there is something good happening at the school, she reaches out to all local news/media to get coverage. Ms. Felder was responsible for WDIV Channel Local 4 covering the school’s Black History Month event. She didn’t do it because she wants press for the school, but because she wants boys and girls to see that what they’re doing matters. Not only does she focus on the well being of children, she focuses on the well being of parents. Felder has planned and hosted job fairs at the school, daddy daughter dances and Mother’s Day teas. These all have been events where she sacrifices her weekends to be with her community.”
The last thing her nominator wrote, “Verna is a hero because she does what is needed without being asked.”
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