Chowning Wins We Deliver Award
May 13, 2015
Student success coach Kristina Chowning was named Hillsborough County School District’s 2015 We Deliver winner this morning with students, teachers and district officials watching. Chowning received a $10,000 check as part of the award, which honors a district employee who goes above and beyond to deliver excellence to students.
This year, the award also honored someone who helped the district while dealing with a personal struggle of their own. Chowning was nominated for the award by several students and parents.
Every day in October, Mitchel Chowning (’15) wears pink. Sometimes, it’s a shirt. Sometimes, a tie. Sometimes, it’s socks, the vivid color peeking out from the legs of his pants.
Every day in October, Chowning honors his mother, Kristina Chowning, the student success coach at Robinson. October is breast cancer awareness month, and Kristina is a breast cancer survivor.
“I feel like [her cancer] has shaped me a lot because even though it wasn’t very serious cancer, it was still cancer. It could have been the complete opposite where I would have only a couple more months with my mom,” said Mitchel. “That really gave me a reality check that I could lose somebody that close to me.”
Mitchel calls his mother a strong woman, one who affects both her children and the school.
“[She’s] very independent. Once she puts her head to something she can get the job done and you can clearly see that by the spirit buses [for the regional baseball game] that we only had one day to do and she got it done in 24 hrs,” he said. “I feel like she’s just a second mom for a lot of people here.”
Chowning also spearheaded this year’s Relay for Life event, held annually at Robinson. As both a cancer survivor and a person affected by cancer, Chowning is familiar with the lasting effects of the disease.
As a teenager, Kristina’s grandmother was diagnosed with mouth and throat cancer and would later pass away due to the disease.
“Over the course of that year I watched her life deteriorate,” she said. “She lost the bottom half of her face; it was someone I loved that I couldn’t look at.”
Everything came together, she said, when she joined the Relay for Life at the school she worked at.
“It was the most amazing night of my life when “Hope” was lit up with luminaries. From that point on I knew I was going to do this for the rest of my life,” she said. “I got on the leadership committee recently and that’s when it really sank in. The year I joined the leadership committee was also the year I was diagnosed with cancer so it was even more of a reason to help join the fight.”
Kristina, who lead the Relay for Life at Robinson this year, credits the American Cancer Society with helping her deal with cancer.
“They were able to give me support in times when I was at emotional low points, they encouraged me and gave me information and helped me feel better, by empowering me with information and knowledge,” she said. “Without the research that ACS does my chances of survival wouldn’t have been what they are, and now I can say 4 years later, I am cancer free.”
She thought she was walking into her year end evaluation with Principal Johnny Bush. Instead, she walked in amid clapping and silly string as her two oldest sons presented her with a check for $10,000.
“I’m without words, which doesn’t happen often for me,” Kristina Chowning said. “I spend so much time paying it forward and to have it come back to me, it’s overwhelming.”
There to congratulate her were some of her students, teachers, and school district officials, including Superintendent Jeff Eakins, who chose Chowning out of about four finalists for the award.
“It [was] obviously the impact she’s had on the students, but it’s the parents and the people who work with her and recognize the great work she does,” said Eakins about the reason he picked Chowning for the award. “This is about not only the people that see you every day, but students and parents really telling the story of how she’s impacted their lives or their child’s lives and that was extremely profound.”
Eakins called Chowning a person who always put others before herself, even when going through personal struggles with cancer, one of the criterion for the award.
“People noticed that she does things for others… and that’s what this award really is all about,” he said.
Chowning mentioned using the money to help fund the spirit bus, which will on Friday take students to Fort Meyers to support the baseball team in the state final four, and to pay to fly her son Mitchel up to Western Kentucky University in June.
“Once I heard what the award was, I couldn’t think of a better candidate than my mom,” said Kristina’s middle child Mathew. “She gives 110% percent in every task given to her. She goes above and beyond to help every kid in every way possible, whether that’s her time or her effort or even money.”
Chowning’s eldest son, Mitchel, echoed his brother’s sentiment.
“I had no doubt my mom deserved it because she does give everything back,” he said. “She’s just a woman who cares so much about everything.”
Chowning, who also leads the school’s chivalry club, emphasized being able to mentor students as a rewarding part of her job.
“[My students mean] the world. Really and truly. The opportunity to start out at Madison and be there for six years and then follow those same kids to Robinson, and watch them grow into the men and women they’re going to be when they get older, it is a blessing. It is extraordinary.”
This story was updated at 1:47 p.m., 5/13/15.
Isabel Hanewicz is a senior at Robinson High School and is the editor-in-chief of RHStoday. She was named the 2014 Emerging Young Journalist of the Year...