PSA awards Springer title of Hometown Hero

By Mary Whitfill
Features Editor

Everyone knows someone who has made an impact on the world around them. From motivational stories to heart warming work in the community, those who strive to make a difference in Coppell are now being recognized. The Coppell High School Public Service Academy (PSA) is wrapping up the second year of the Hometown Hero project, devoted to giving recognition to residents who have had a positive community effect.

PSA student Bianca Gabardo presents the Hometown Hero award to CMS East Principal Laura Springer at the game against Justin Northwest on Friday. Photo by Lauren Ussery.

This year’s Hero, Coppell Middle School East Principal Laura Springer, was announced at the Coppell game against Justin Northwest on Friday. PSA announced Hometown Hero nominees two weeks ago, and voting was open to students, parents and other communities until Thursday.

Springer was chosen for her inspirational life story and says that makes it a personal goal to reach out to students who are going through situations similar to the one she experienced growing up.

“I was one of those teenagers who thought the world was against them,” Springer told PSA students. “I realized that I don’t have to fight for my life and that people are there to help me and hopefully I’m going to be that kind of adults for students as well.”

After falling into drugs at a young age, Springer was on a downward spiral. At times, she felt that there was no hope, but she was able to over come her tribulations thanks to strong adult figures in her life and she hopes to embody that spirit for her own students.

“We are very relationship oriented here,” Springer said. “We are all about getting to know our students and caring about them as people, not just students. We are about forming a relationship that will hopefully be there all the way through. We will be there cheering for them as they walk that stage at graduation and for the rest of their life.”

Students feel Springer has been a great influence on their lives and appreciate all she has done for them.

“She’s just so loving towards everybody, she doesn’t judge you or anything,” sophomore Amber Bouressa said. “She just takes everybody in and loves everybody equally.”

In addition to Springer, PSA also gave recognition to four other Coppell community members who have shown selflessness, dedication and perseverance.

Nominee Donna Cranston, coordinator of “Welcome Home a Hero” and founder of “Defenders of Freedom” arranges a crew of hundreds of civilian and veteran volunteers to greet troops with cheers and hugs at DFW Airport. After greeting soldiers, Cranston helps return troops find their families, make connecting flights or contact loved ones.

“Welcome Home a Hero is an all volunteer initiative that was started in 2004 to make sure that people were at the airport to say welcome home to troops and thank them for serving,” Cranston said. “Defenders of Freedom came from me already being at the airport every day and I figured that I would start a non profit to branch out and help even more.”

Defenders of Freedom (DOF) puts together care packages for troops on request, and provides emergency medical funding to those who have been affected by brain injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many troops do not begin to receive veteran benefits or salaries until months after they come home and DOF helps to cover medical costs until they are back on their feet.

Cranston is honored to be nominated, but feels that it is the accomplishments of the organizations that should be recognized.

“I think what means the most to me is that the nomination is about what our mission is,” Cranston said. “So many people want to be a part of it and want to be appreciative of what we do. I don’t think it’s about me as much as it is about our goals and intentions.”

Also nominated was CHS special education teacher Eileen Higgins who serves as a role model and resource for students. Higgins approaches teaching with the mantra “put the child before the disability,” and serves as a c0-coordinator of Circle of Friends.

“I didn’t really start out thinking that [teaching special education] was what I would be doing, but once I got my Masters I was hooked,” Higgins said. “I hope that I change their lives for the better. Make them stronger, make them more capable when they leave Coppell High School. Make them happy and willing to take risks and say ‘ I can do that.’”

In addition to her special needs classes, Higgins has been able to extend her influence to other students at CHS.

“I’ve been in Circle of Friends for a few years now, and I’ve honestly never seen anyone as loving an accepting as Ms. Higgins,” senior Kelly Sigmund said. “She is so great with everyone, I’ve never once seen her lose her temper and she connects with her students better than any teacher I’ve ever seen.”

Brad Hunt, CISD Assistant Superintendent for Administration and former CHS principal, was being recognized for his outstanding leadership and programs that inspire both leadership and service. Hunt is responsible for organizing several programs that focus of the observation of student achievement and is described by family, friends and students as funny, outgoing, humble and kind.

“It’s very easy to see why Mr. Hunt was nominated,” senior Tara Henry said. “He has always been so supportive of our class and the rest of the school. Even when he comes back to visit, he still knows our names and he has kept up with all of our accomplishments.”

The final nominee was the first female mayor of Coppell, Candy Sheehan. A breast cancer survivor and Iron Man competitor, Sheehan has shown perseverance and over come life-altering odds.

“I guess I try to always look at the good,” Sheehan said. “I’m a breast caner survivor so I think that during my fight I always tried to have a positive attitude and I think that my focus, determination, attitude and discipline help me get through different journeys in life.”

PSA choose to honor Sheehan because of her inspiring message and role model persona.

“I’ve had a lot of experiences, some good some not so good, but it’s the way you approach the experience that helps put you in a good place,” Sheehan said.