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Spotlight Iowa City: A helping hand for local education

BY KELLIE PETERSEN | APRIL 15, 2010 7:30 AM

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Sarah Richardson’s lifetime love of learning is not limited to personal education.

While the 47-year-old has furthered her own knowledge by taking classes in Ancient Greek at the University of Iowa, the majority of her educational activities consist of giving back to those just beginning their schooling.

For her various community service efforts, Richardson will be honored with a Volunteer in Excellence Award from the Education Committee of the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce at the Excellence in Education awards on April 21.

It may not only be her appreciation for education that has led Richardson to her service, but her role as a parent as well.

“Once you have children in the education system, you just want to get in there and make it the best for everyone,” she said.

When it came time for her first child to enter elementary school, Richardson and husband David Barker chose Willowwind, a private Iowa City school with a focus on individual learning opportunities for children. At Willowwind, Richardson served on the Board of Trustees for nine years and performed various public-relations, marketing, and fundraising duties for the school.

Richardson now actively volunteers at Southeast Junior High, where her son is a seventh-grader, and City High, where her daughter is a sophomore.

At City High, Richardson is on the board of the Parent Student Teacher Organization as hospitality head (a position she will take up at Southeast Junior High next year), and she helps with public relations, press work, and fundraising, is a parent member of the search committee to find a new principal, and assists with the women’s cross-country and track teams.

Terry Coleman, City High’s assistant principal, said whatever the task, Richardson most likely has experience and knows who to contact to get it accomplished.

“To say one word, Sarah is amazing,” Coleman said. “She is one of a handful of people who, when something needs to be done, you can count on her to make it happen.”

At Southeast, Richardson regularly lends her time to working with heritage learners of Spanish at the school. Her work helps improve the more advanced skills of reading, writing, and literacy and provides cultural education. Spanish teacher Deb Schoelerman said the students Richardson works with love her.

“Her commitment is amazing. It’s a wonderful gift,” Schoelerman said.

Both through her personal pursuits of learning and commitment to educational service, Richardson has come to believe in the importance of education.

“I think the power of education to enrich and uplift is incredible,” she said.


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