The Hollister School District prepared it’s facility, staff and school board for the start of the upcoming school year the only way they know how, with a three-hour tour aboard the Showboat Branson Belle.

On Aug 8, members of the Hollister School District climbed aboard the Showboat where they were given the opportunity to enjoy their final hours of summer vacation. 

On top of a three-course meal, a tour across Table Rock Lake and live entertainment, attendees were treated to a handful of special presentation, as well as several small singing skits from each of the administrative teams. 

As the Showboat launched from the dock, members of the Hollister facility and staff were recognized for their respective years of service from five years, all the way up to a single 25 years of service award, which was presented to Robyn Gillum.

Following the awards, Special Education Director Kristina Smith took the stage as the 2019 Special Guest Speaker. Smith shared the story of how she lost her husband Joe to Stage IV Colon Cancer in 2014, just a few short months after giving birth to their son. 

When Smith’s husband was diagnosed, Smith shared she had just begun her career at Hollister.

“I remember calling Mrs. (Sandy) Leech, my building principal at the time, and telling her this is what’s going on, and I have no idea what that means for my job or if I can be there. If that wasn’t scary enough, my son, on the first day of teaching as a Hollister Tiger, decided to break my water and that it was time to come,” said Smith. “I remember telling Mrs. Leech, ‘I cannot do this’ and she looked back and said ‘But we can.’ I remember thinking, I don’t think she knows what she means by that. I’m still certain today that she has no idea what that answer looked like either.”

Smith shared that every Monday when she came to the school to drop off her lesson plans, there was boxes of diapers and wipes and cash donations waiting for her. 

When she was camping out in her husband’s hospital room with a new baby, there were teachers asking what they could grab from her house for her and bringing her gift bags full of Dr. Pepper.

“I’m also here to tell you that those guarantee moments of life, whenever you’re not sure how you’re going to make it, when you’re not sure what that health diagnoses that just came crashing in out of know where, maybe when a relationship has ended and your faith is tested, but we will get through it,” said Smith. “You may not, but we will all together.

“So as we embark on this year, I want you to think about how are you going to make the person next to you better. I want you to open your heart, because you are getting ready to be better, because you’re a part of the Hollister Tiger family.”

Before the regular Showboat show began, Nate Leech, husband of Hollister Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Sandy Leech, took the stage to name the recipient of the ‘Be the One’ Award. 

This award is presented to an individual who has made an impact in the life of a student. 

Nate Leech shared with attendees the story of how he met his lifelong friend and the recipients of the ‘Be the One’ Award, Kathy Sullivan. Nate Leech explained that when he was a teenager, he competed in a basketball tournament in St. Louis. 

Even though his father was a short three blocks away from the tournament, he didn’t come to cheer his son on. Nate Leech said it wasn’t until after his team had played multiple rounds and had won the tournament did he discover that he did have someone in the stands cheering him on.  

“I was changing my shoes. I looked up and there was this crazy lady. I noticed her because it looked like she had a mission. She’s weaving in and out of these people,” said Nate Leech. “She’s making her way towards me. At this point, I’m kind of gathering my stuff up and she’s coming to me. So I’m like, she obviously thinks that I’m her kid.

“When she made it to me, it was awkward. I’m going to be honest. I had no idea who this woman was. She looked at me and she said ‘I have been watching you all day. I am so proud of you. I am so proud of you. You are awesome. You are awesome. I watched you all day.’ She gave me a hug and, man, this woman could hug. I was little, so it was bad. She said, ‘You were great, I am so proud of you, and I love you.’ In that moment, she was the only one in the gym.”

Nate Leech said he ended up making the All Missouri Team and got to play in the national tournament. 

At that tournament, he said Sullivan was there cheering him on and has continued to be a friend to this day.

Hollister students will start their first day of the 2019/2020 school year on Aug. 15.

Visit hollister.k12.mo.us.

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