DV schoolkids honor top nurse
The Arizona Republic
May. 12, 2004 12:00 AM
The school nurse was blindfolded, unsure of where she was going or what was happening.
The principal was leading her through the corridor and to the cafeteria at Greenbrier Elementary School.
"Surprise!" the student body erupted as the blindfold came off.
Last Wednesday, the Deer Valley Education Foundation named Raianne Hodges-Melton the 2004 School Nurse of the Year and said formally what the kids of Greenbrier have known for years.
"She's so nice. She's the best," said Allison Gudenkauf, 10, who wants to be either a veterinarian or a nurse.
It was the first time the foundation, which sponsors the district's Teacher of the Year program, named a best school nurse. It went all out.
Representatives from John C. Lincoln Hospital-Deer Valley presented Hodges-Melton with $200: $100 to spoil herself and $100 for supplies for her office. The fourth- through sixth-grade chorus sang, and "Nurse Mendy," the John C. Lincoln hospital mascot, presented gifts and passed out hugs.
It was hard to keep the celebration a secret, Allison said. All of the kids love the school nurse and tell her everything, she said. Her deep bond with children is what makes Hodges-Melton's health and prevention programs so strong, school officials said.
"I've worked with a lot of school nurses," said Greenbrier Principal Jody Brammer, who nominated her for the award. "She's the best of the best."
Hodges-Melton, 50, has been the school nurse at Deer Valley's Greenbrier school in Glendale for 11 years. She oversees prevention programs and talks with children about making positive choices and the value of citizenship. It was no surprise to the children when their school nurse told them that she was going to Africa this summer to help sick children.
"She'll be helping people get better with the medicine she brings," said Breanne Spence, 10.
Hodges-Melton originally had no intention of going to Africa. But she was moved by a recent television news report about sick children in Africa orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. They had no parents, they were sick with measles and dysentery, and what they wanted most stunned her: school uniforms.
"They can't go to school unless they have uniforms," she said.
She cried for a week after seeing their images. She wondered what kind of citizens they would grow up to be.
"There is no support system for those children," she said.
Not long after the news report, her church pastor asked the congregation for donations to send to Uganda, where the money would be used to build a clinic.
Hope 4 Kids International, an organization that provides supplies and manpower to poor countries, was going to take a team of 30 people to Tororo, Uganda, for two weeks. Hodges-Melton pledged to help by raising money. But they wanted her.
"I said, 'What? Go to Africa?' "
Her husband, Michael Melton, said maybe the reason she has been a school nurse for 11 years was to prepare her for this trip. She leaves in July.
"I only know how do things one way, whole hog," she said.
In Tororo she will perform physical assessments on the children and provide health information to those who will run the clinic.
The Greenbrier students could not be more proud. They have raised $2,200 to buy medical supplies to send with their favorite nurse. They have been studying Africa and the people who live there. Hodges-Melton will take some drawings from her students to the children in Africa and promises to bring back photos of her time there.
"I want to show them that it takes very little effort to make a big impact on the lives of others," she said. "Hopefully this will be a lesson that stays with them forever."
Her trip across the globe already has children thinking about what it means. In honor of the citizenship the children are learning, the fourth- through sixth-grade chorus ended the surprise celebration for 2004 School Nurse of the Year with the song Sing World Peace.