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Ask 10 different Highland Elementary School folks about long-time volunteer Harold Smith and you’re likely to get 10 different stories of ways he’s filled a need and made a positive difference in the life of a child since 1996! Central area volunteer coordinator Sheri Siegal said all of the district’s volunteers provide such essential services, and Mr. Smith is one she wishes she could clone. ”This man fills whatever need he learns exists,” she stated. “It’s easy to see how Mr. Smith was named a finalist for Florida’s Outstanding School Volunteer Award senior category.”

Originally from New York, Mr. Smith has lived in Arkansas, Chicago, and California. He. was a prisoner of war in Germany, where he escaped with four other POWs in 1945. Realizing the importance of re-telling the lessons of the past to younger generations, Mr. Smith regularly discusses his experiences as a World War II prisoner of war with students around the county. Last year Mr. Smith received a plaque and certificate of appreciation from the Veterans Administration for his presentations. He is scheduled to conduct similar presentations at Jupiter High School on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 8, and 9. NBC News taped a segment at Highland Elementary for a special about the World War II generation featuring Mr. Smith in November, 2000. as one of four scenarios exemplifying “the greatest generation.”

The former CEO retired from the retail industry after working closely with Walmart founder Sam Walton; serving as chief executive officer of Goldblatts Department Store; and president of Woolco, parent company of the former Woolworth stores. Since 1996 Mr. Smith’s has served a second career as a volunteer tutor at Highland Elementary School. He works two days a week for as many as seven hours each day, and prior to FCAT testing, he increases his volunteer time to assist even more fifth grade students in math. He mentors and motivates at-risk students toward greater academic achievement by forming connections with them and helping them to feel secure in their ability to do what is expected of them. Mr. Smith personally shared in the cost of supplying dictionaries to students in fourth and fifth grades, so they would have them to use at home. He also supplies teachers with extrinsic rewards to be utilized at the teacher’s discretion with the students. Mr. Smith had made arrangements with Walmart to assist the school with needed supplies and clothing for some of the children and families.

When Mr. Smith is not volunteering his time at Highland, he is committed to mentoring students with Take Stock in Children –a non-profit organization that was so pleased with his long time involvement with that group that they established a Take Stock in Children Harold Smith Scholarship, This scholarship is granted to the student with the highest grade point average for a full-tuition scholarship to any Florida college/university, As if that isn’t enough, the man with a heart of gold has recruited nearly 50 people as volunteer tutors for Highland Elementary and as Take Stock in Children mentors.

The 87 year young Mr. Smith and his wife of 62 years have two daughters, one of whom is a lawyer, and three grandchildren—one in the Peace Corps. Mr. Smith is one of thousands of people who volunteer with our public schools and makes a priceless contribution. Mr. Smith’s wife, Muriel, is a former high school physical education teacher. The district’s Family Involvement Policy/Plan cites the need for collaborating with the community in order to identify people who can serve as mentors and role models to ensure academic achievement for all our students. Through his efforts, Mr. Smith and others he has recruited, work enthusiastically to do just that.

For more details on this volunteer, or for those interested in following in Mr. Smith’s footprints, contact Ms. Siegal at ssiegal@palmbeach.k12.fl.us
or call 561- 904-9552.

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