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Columbia Missourian

TELL US: Who makes a difference in Columbia kids' lives?

By Hannah Wiese
April 21, 2012 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

Editor's note: This is part of a special section on Columbia's kids. Read more here.

COLUMBIA — As part of a special project about kids in Columbia, we asked readers to tell us who is making a difference in the lives of youth.


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We got responses from readers nominating all sorts of people who are working to make the community better. The nominations are listed below.

Sharen Garrett

Alyce Bader Cooley nominated Garrett and said: "Southwest Play School (SWPS) was Columbia's first parent owned and operated school and has been touching the lives of 3 and 4 year old children for over 40 years. Since 1984 Miss Sharen Garrett has provided a place where children could learn and grow in a positive, loving environment and allow parents to be a part of that magic. Through her knowledge and expertise in working with preschoolers, she cultivates children’s natural curiosity and desire to learn. Miss Garrett has a contagious positiveness about her that spreads quickly among the families she touches.

"I have two daughters, now nearly 22 and 17 who I credit their success in life to the wonderful start they received as very young children through the love and compassion of Sharen Garrett.  The focus at age 3 and 4 at Southwest Play School was learning to love thy neighbor, sharing, getting along, thoughtful playing, etc., which are all important tools for later in life." 

Sarah Bowman

Charles E. Dudley Jr. nominated Bowman. Dudley said: "She runs the Adapted Community Recreation Program at Paquin Tower where special needs children come to for art class weekly." 

Kristin Sohl

Robin Wilcox nominated Sohl and said this about the director of the Autism Medical Clinic at the MU Thompson Center:

"She instituted the C.A.R.E. program, as part of the pediatric and med/peds residents education. Through this program the residents do two, 2 week rotations. The first rotation, they visit various community partners who provide services to the children and families of Columbia and surrounding area. There they learn what those services are, the eligibility requirements and how to refer. Many times these physicians are not aware these resources exist.

"The second 2 week rotation the residents work on a community project that was started as part of the C.A.R.E. program by previous residents." 

Stuart Parnell

Cheryl Unterschutz nominated Parnell and had this to say about him: "Stuart coaches for the Columbia Youth Football League. For the past two years, my son has been on Stuart's team. While my son is big, and built for football, he's not the most athletic kid on the team but Stuart sees the value in him and in all of the kids on his team. He coaches them with discipline, high expectations, a good sense of humor and most of all love. He really cares about each kid that he coaches & works to bring out the very best in them.

"For the past two years his team, the Packers, has been the division champs for their age group. I think it's because Coach Parnell knows how to bring out the best in his players and makes sure they know that he's more concerned with their personal growth than with whether or not they win or lose a game (not that he doesn't enjoy a good win). His wife, Heather, is also very dedicated to the league, serving as part of the board & fundraising leadership.

"Coach Parnell donates 4 nights a week from late August to early October, at 2-3 hour stretches to coach his team & then is there with them every Sunday during the season for their games. He also spends a lot of time preparing for the season and after the season, working with those kids who want to go onto an all star game. My husband and I love and respect Coach Parnell and think he deserves to be recognized for his dedication & commitment to helping boys, like our son, be the best athletes and people that they can be!"

George Frissell

Mariah Miranda said this about Frissell, a teacher at Hickman High School: "He is the sponsor of amnesty club at Hickman High School and supports increasing awareness against human trafficking." 

Boy Scouts

Deanna Sharpe had this to say about the organization: "Boy Scouts helps boys to become more informed and active citizens, improve their physical fitness, find out about potential careers and hobbies through earning merit badges. Boys take on leadership roles and grow as men who can make a difference. Plus it’s a good adventure in outdoor life as well."

Misha Franks

Chris Brown said this about Franks, a teacher at Jefferson Junior High School: "She is a teacher at Jefferson Junior High School and is involved in many after-school activities — NJHS, volleyball scorekeeper — and she makes English fun to learn."

Susan Himmel

Mary Richardson had this to say about Himmel, a teacher at Columbia Catholic School: "She has been a teacher at Columbia Catholic for many years. She inspires all kids to be their best, to achieve their best and to achieve their dreams."

Amber Quest

Deborah Neff had this to say about Quest, a music teacher at Gentry Middle School: "She inspires kids to love music and make a lifetime commitment to it at Gentry Middle School." 

Do you know someone who works to make the lives of Columbia's youth better? Tell us about them at This project is part of the Missourian's partnership with the Public Insight Network. Learn more here, or send the name of the person and why you are nominating him or her to Make sure to include your full name as well.