News 12First at 5/ Thursday, May 1, 2014
Will Harper (WRDW-TV)
AUGUSTA, Ga (WRDW) -- Our Time To Care Award winner for May is a professional engineer who decided to go back to school, but Will Harper isn't back in class to further his own career.
He's there for the kids and there's nothing he won't do for them.
We found him reading to special needs students in Uyen Griffis' classroom at Hammond Hill Elementary.
"The sheep and the donkey, the geese and the goats are making funny noises down in their throats."
Everyone on campus calls him Mr. Will. He thought News 12 was there to honor a teacher at Hammond Hill Elementary. Suddenly, Ms. Griffis unrolled a giant banner that was signed by all the children.
Griffis read it aloud, her students cheered.
"Thank you for all you do Mr. Will. You rock, from your Hammond Hill family!"
The all-star volunteer was misled.
"What do you think Mr. Will?", the teacher asked.
"It's not what I thought," he admitted with a grin.
Will Harper is an engineer by training. This was not part of his plan.
"If you had told me five years ago that I'd be volunteering at a school, I would laugh in your face. Believe me," Harper said.
He says it all started when he met an autistic child at church.
"I just wanted to learn- because I didn't know anything about autism."
He planed on coming here once. That was four years ago.
"It's gotten better and better and I thoroughly enjoy working with these children," Harper said.
He didn't expect them to get a hold of his heart.
"A lot of these children... have it tough," Harper said, fighting back tears.
Teacher, Tina Bledsoe nominated "Mr. Will" for the award.
"He'll help out anybody in the building, Bledsoe said. "Fifth grade, kindergarten, it doesn't matter. He'll help you with anything you need."
And she means anything. He helps teachers move classrooms. On Sunday's you'll find him picking up litter around the campus and blowing off the sidewalks.
Will Harper even keeps tools in a classroom cabinet just in case a tricycle needs fixing.
"You know, any type of miscellaneous thing they need. I've just adopted the school and they've adopted me to be honest with you."
"This is unheard of. This is a person who put off 2 years of being an engineer just to be here at Hammond Hill," Griffis said. "He also works with the custodians here lifting, cleaning."
The teachers may love him- but make no mistake, he's here for the kids.
Back in the classroom, he's helping kids pick out pictures in the story he's reading.
"Good job, good job," he tells them.
And he volunteers in a place where there's a serious need for --male-- role models.
"If you want to feel young, come to an elementary school," Harper says with a laugh.
News 12 wants to thank to our Time To Care partners for making this award possible: Academy Sports and Outdoors and Subway.
If you'd like to nominate someone for our monthly award, you can find a nomination form on this page.