MARIETTA — The Cobb Schools Foundation and Cobb County School District honored more than 100 volunteers from schools across the district at the annual Volunteer of the Year luncheon on Tuesday.

The event featured comedian, motivational speaker and Campbell High School graduate Kenn Kington as the keynote.

Kington, who has also volunteered at schools in the district, shared his early struggles with dyslexia. He said it was volunteers and school staff who saw his value and propelled him into a successful school and life career.

“I would go (to school), and there were volunteers that literally would sit with me and help me learn to read. I was in middle school reading at about a second-grade level,” he said.

Success, Kington continued, is not a grade, it is “what we pour into others.” He called the role of volunteers and educators “critical,” and challenged audience members to identify students’ unique qualities and encourage them.

“It was volunteers. It was not only those in my special class, but it was coaches who came alongside me and said, ‘Hey, you’re somebody. You’re something,’” Kington said.

Elizabeth Jefferson was chosen as Hendricks Elementary School’s volunteer of the year. Jefferson organizes and promotes the district’s Backpack Blessings Initiative, which every week prepares backpacks with extra food for students who need it through the weekends. She said she felt “warm and cozy inside” after being honored for her efforts.

“It’s just something I feel moved to do. I like to put back what I had when I was there,” said Jefferson, who for 27 years taught at the former Austell Primary School. “I still love the children. I like being in the education part, so I just feel like I can give something back and I want to do that.”

The district chose one volunteer from each school to honor with a certificate and gift at the ceremony held at the Hilton Atlanta/Marietta Hotel and Conference Center.

Chris Ragsdale, superintendent of Cobb schools, said volunteers serve a valuable support role in the district, helping the school staff and teachers succeed.

“I would dare say there’s not a single employee that doesn’t know and more importantly believe our mission statement of ‘One team, one goal: student success,’” Ragsdale said. “It does take the entire team to make sure that we are successful, and as volunteers, you guys are as big a member of our team as anybody.”

Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas

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