JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — This week’s community hero knows the importance of giving students the best shot at success. She is a school counselor, whose love for kids goes beyond the walls of the school.

Clarinda Whitson loves greeting her kids in the hallway before and after school. She knows first-hand the importance of giving students their best chance at succeeding. That’s what led her to her position as Jonesborough Middle School counselor.

“My childhood was not necessarily ideal, and I saw things that would have helped my family that I knew as a young child would have helped me that I wanted to be able to do for families and just take some stress off,” Whitson said.

So Whitson stays busy long after the school day is over, making sure her students have the necessities. She organizes back-to-school events for students who need a little extra help. She offers school supplies, a chance for students to trade in old shoes for new ones, and even provides haircuts for students. Whitson also organizes a Christmas gift collection every year and partners with the Shop With A Cop program. She says no child should miss out on the magic of Christmas.

Another necessity for students is food. Whitson set up food pantries and backpack snack programs in several schools. She says fulfilling basic needs like food takes that stress off parents and prepares students to learn.

Whitson knows her efforts are making a difference. She says the more students in need are shown that they are important and they matter, the better chance they have at succeeding in school and in life. She says a former student showed her the fruit of her efforts.

“And I had him (the student) for years and he never smiled and I just kept trying, you know, like but life at home was so hard he didn’t have anything to smile about,” she said. “And now I got a graduation invitation for him kind of thing. Like it made a difference in his life. He found confidence and belief in himself that I don’t know where he would have found it otherwise.”

Seeing her kids succeed and find the right path makes the planning and work worthwhile. And Whitson says she couldn’t accomplish a fraction of her list without the help of the community.

“I don’t single-handedly do anything. It’s, you know, it’s, ‘Hey, I need help with this. Hey, can you do this?’ And it’s people that I just pick up the phone and ask for help and yeah, people agree when it’s for kids, they’re ready to help. They want to help,” she said. “They just don’t know where to start. So I get that ball rolling.”

Whitson brings the community and resources together, to bring out the best in kids who need it most.