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Scottsdale volunteer receives national recognition

Posted 3/28/23

Scottsdale mom and volunteer Shero Cara Nowak has been recognized nationally for her contributions at Desert Sky Montessori school. As part of her award granted by nonprofit foundation Building Hope, …

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Scottsdale volunteer receives national recognition


Scottsdale mom and volunteer Shero Cara Nowak has been recognized nationally for her contributions at Desert Sky Montessori school. As part of her award granted by nonprofit foundation Building Hope, Cara will receive $5,000 and an expense-paid, three-night trip to a national symposium of school leaders in Miami in May where she will be on a panel to share with school leaders how to develop a robust posse of volunteers.

For Nowak, volunteering is jumping in as the school’s “first responder” to make sure teachers, staff, and students all feel supported. Even if she does not have the skill needed for a project, she is determined to learn and do. She has volunteered at Desert Sky since the school opened five years ago. When the school couldn’t afford janitorial services its first year, she cleaned bathrooms. In 2021, she got a store to donate wood, then sanded, glued, and assembled 90 wooden desks during the pandemic.

“I am so honored. There is so much good we can do at Desert Sky Montessori with $5,000. Thank you, Building Hope,” Nowak said in a press release.

Building Hope is a non-profit foundation dedicated to creating high-quality K-12 charter school opportunities for students through its expertise in real estate, finance and operational services, today announced three winners for its second annual Shellie-Ann Braswell Shine Brighter Award. The award – created and named in honor of dedicated volunteer leader Shellie-Ann Braswell who led with love and made everything around her shine brighter – recognizes charter school volunteers who give from the heart and demonstrate tireless dedication to creating positive outcomes for students and communities.

“I want to share my heartfelt congratulations with the three inspiring winners of the ShellieAnn Braswell Shine Brighter Award,” Allie L. Braswell, Jr., the Senior Vice President of Culture and Belonging for VyStar Credit Union and husband of Shellie-Ann Braswell said in a press release. “In the second year of the award program, our winners continue to be passionate individuals with big hearts who go the extra mile each day. They remind me of the type of person Shellie-Ann was and her gift for leading with love to make a difference in the lives of students.”

Each of the three winners were nominated by the public charter schools they support.

The other two winners are:

• Megan Hunt, volunteer at Carolina Charter School in Angier, North Carolina.

For Megan, volunteering is about being open to learning to adapt, listening to learn, and fostering change – all in a fun way for students and staff. Megan led a team that organized a school-wide fall festival that attracted 450+ families of CCA students. She started the parent teacher organization hospitality committee to help teachers feel loved and supported. She initiated a “Coffee with Mills” to foster open dialogue between school administrators and parents.

• Mark Hurst, volunteer at Yoder Charter School in Yoder, Kansas.

For Mark, volunteering is sharing his leadership gifts and learn-by-doing mindset to ensure that all students and families in the Yoder community thrive. As a volunteer, he has been a steadfast advocate for getting outside and using real-world projects that resonate with the community to make the content tangible for students. He helped finance a new agricultural learning project that resulted in a chicken coop construction project, which includes a solar-powered automatic chicken coop door.