District Recognizes 2020 Volunteers of the Year
A student who gives back to his own school and community, a room parent turned PTA powerhouse, and a musical mastermind are the School District of Palm Beach County’s winners for this year’s Volunteers of the Year awards.
Each winner has dedicated countless hours to our schools and students as volunteers, while contributing in ways that utilize their own talents and interests.
Christopher Sosa: Youth Volunteer of the Year
Christopher Sosa, a student at Suncoast High School, is passionate about serving others because he knows what it’s like to need help.
“Christopher Sosa’s heart is one of the biggest I know,” according to the nomination. His family had meager means when he entered kindergarten at Wynnebrook Elementary School. He didn’t have school supplies, uniforms, or even food in his refrigerator.
Wynnebrook Elementary helped Sosa through that difficult period. In the meantime, his dad worked hard to build a now-successful business.
Sosa decided to start volunteering to help others, the same way his school had helped him. His first taste of volunteerism was with the Kiwanis-Kids Club, participating in a variety of activities, including volunteering at the VA Hospital and walking for cancer research. Following elementary school, Sosa took that sense of service back to Wynnebrook.
“I volunteer in my Florida elementary school because that is the first place I learned to give back and how it filled my heart,” Sosa said.
Sosa cleaned the cafeteria, volunteered in aftercare, and tutored students. He even spent a summer volunteering full-time, doing everything from cleaning the school with the custodians to helping at the day camp. Now in high school, Sosa continues to volunteer at Wynnebrook for 10 hours a week during the school year. He also volunteers at the summer camp.
Sosa’s dedication to serving Wynnebrook students and the overall community extends to the mobile park neighborhood that he lived in. He sets up a table with free clothes and food. He uses his bilingual skills to help people read their mail, find jobs in the newspaper, and fill out job applications.
“Sosa is a role model for our students. They see how he helps their parents and of course, they want to replicate his great intentions,” the nomination says. Sosa aspires to be an aeronautical engineer.
Brynn Tiscione: Adult Volunteer of the Year
Brynn Tiscione was nominated from Wellington Elementary because her presence and role at the school are “as much a part of the school’s foundation as the walls and floors themselves,” according to the nomination.
Students actually see Tiscione’s contributions as they walk through the school. She wanted to use her creativity to enhance underutilized surfaces with facts about math. First graders can now play hopscotch down the hallway while practicing addition.
Third and fourth graders can select a multiplication fact family to follow up the staircase. Fifth graders are able to check the angle of their classroom door as they walk through it.
“I volunteer because I want to support our students and teachers to reach their full educational potential,” Tiscione said.
She started volunteering in 2012 as a room parent for her oldest son’s class. She eventually worked her way into leadership roles with the PTO, which led her to revamp the school’s monthly newsletter, the Wildcats Whiskers. She continues to write, edit, and publish that newsletter, which includes sections for a “Classroom Showcase” and “Staff Spotlight” as well as a comprehensive look at the activities at the school.
Wanting to take a more active role in the academic growth of the student body, Tiscione started working on bridging home and school boundaries by presenting on helpful topics, such as “Homework 101” and “Enrich Your Summer,” at PTO General Assembly meetings.
She also created the Wellington Elementary PTO Facebook page to give parents a place to stay informed about events as well as hold relevant discussions with each other. Tiscione spearheaded a book drive to bolster classroom libraries. Families donated 400 books for teachers to add to their classroom shelves. She also led a campaign to fundraise for more than 130 new Chromebooks.
She not only helped administration teams identify a school-wide writing curriculum, but also raised more than $40,000 while co-chairing the PTO for purchasing that curriculum and classroom supplies. To help with the curriculum’s implementation, she has managed the copying, binding, and distribution of 600 books for students.
Tiscione issued the Summer Reading Challenge to help families prevent the summer slide, which is a setback in reading skills while students are out of school. Fine Arts Academy students logged more than 180,000 minutes of reading last summer to earn prizes.
“Brynn’s efforts and countless hours shine bright and she is truly a treasured and integral part of our school,” according to the nomination.
William Panick: Senior Volunteer of the Year
William Panick may be behind the curtain, but he’s the star of the show at Forest Park Elementary.
“This Vietnam veteran has certainly earned the right to spend his days in leisure. Instead, he chooses to serve children,” said Susan McGill, an SAI teacher. “You could not meet a finer individual.”
Panick started sharing his creativity and talents with students in the music room in 2012. He’s an experienced drummer, so he would teach small groups of students who were interested in the drums.
“He’s really responsible, knowledgeable, and just a really cool guy. He helps whoever needs help,” said Sam Buchanan, a fifth grade student.
He’s also the production manager for the After Care program’s musicals. He has helped students put on several different shows for “Disney Musicals in Schools,” including Lion King and Aladdin. Currently, he’s working with students on Cinderella.
Panick has rewired the cafeteria stage to improve sound and lighting, which he runs through an iPad. During rehearsals and performances, he ensures each individual headset is activated for the child speaking or singing, and he also cues the music.
“His musical talents and commitments are just a small part of his contribution to our DMIS program and to our school. It is the mentoring and show of love and support that he provides each and every student, that is his greatest gift,” McGill said.
“He helps out with the kids and helps teachers when they need it,” said Nahum Zarate-Toral, a fifth grade student.
During the school day, Panick runs a “Copy Shop,” where teachers can drop off items they need to be copied or laminated, or anything else they need extra help with to complete.
“I like helping people,” Panick said. “Teachers deserve to be supported.”