LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Cindy Szarek

Position: Counselor
School: Russell Elementary School
School District: Hazelwood School District
City, State: Hazelwood, MO

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Cindy Szarek was nominated by Michele Bauer, the parent of four students. They have known each other since 2006.

"Cindy has been the one I can go to whenever I have needed advice on a particular issue that we have been dealing with," Szarek said. "She’s the one my children can turn to when they might be struggling with something. Even after they have moved on to middle school or high school, she’s available."

Ms. Szarek takes time to speak with every child, calling them by name and making sure they know they are loved, valued and safe while they are at school.

"When she sees a need, she helps to address it. It could be Valentines for a class party, a forgotten lunch, school supplies, clothes, shoes or a warm winter coat. It could be backpacks full of food to take home over the weekend, and even gifts for families at Christmas," Bauer said.

Ms. Szarek also volunteers her time as one of the coaches for the Girls On The Run Program at Russell Elementary School. As a coach, she helps the girls learn about ways to boost self confidence and healthy lifestyle choices. She also cheers them on and runs the 5k with them.

"She is such a calming, compassionate individual, and she puts the children at ease. They are able to go to her office to talk about things that may be troubling them, and she always has encouraging, uplifting words for them. She treats them with respect and makes them feel valued. I can’t imagine our school without her. She’s one in a million, and we’re so lucky she’s at Russell," Bauer said.