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Ex-sergeant ‘enlists’ for kids

first_imgPALMDALE – Retired Army Sgt. Leroy Garner volunteers so often at Highland High School that when he’s gone, students call him on his cell phone to ask why. Called “Coach G” or “Mr. G” around campus, he regularly puts in eight- and 10-hour days, dispensing advice to teens, mentoring them in their senior projects, helping out swamped school staff during class registration and coaching boys basketball. “He is such a great person with a great personality, someone you can talk to, especially with the boys here,” parent volunteer coordinator Monica Barrus said. “If there’s a student who wants to learn to drive, he takes time to teach him. He’s got a heart of gold. He’ll do anything for anybody.” Garner puts in more hours than any other volunteers at the high school, where he assists in the counseling and attendance offices and the cafeteria. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsHe compiled 617 hours in 2005 and 443 hours in 2004. Between January and March of this year, the total is 154 hours. He also is varsity assistant basketball coach, for which he receives a stipend, and this year he has started working as a substitute custodian. Garner also helps Highland coach Jeff Smith run a summer basketball league, and he is facility manager for the Antelope Valley Athletic Club’s basketball program for 600 boys. Garner, who spent 22 years in the Army, was named the school’s Volunteer of the Year in 2005, and this year he was given special recognition and a plaque by the board in April for his exemplary service. Principal Stacy Bryant said Garner is an integral part of the school. In running banter with her, Garner says she will have to hire him because he is at the school so often. She jokes back: “Why would I pay you for 40 hours when I get you for 80 hours for free?” “He’s everywhere,” she said. “He hangs out at lunch, helps kids, facilitates things if they are having trouble with class. Or if they have a problem on campus, he goes and helps them work through it. “He’ll set up meetings with teachers to find out what students need to do to get a better grade. He’s very much a parent to a lot of kids on campus, at-risk or otherwise,” Bryant said. “He fills in where we need any kind of help. He happily does it. He loves kids, and the kids know that. He holds their toes to the fire. He makes them do what needs to be done, but he also is their advocate, and that’s important. The kids know they can go to him,” Bryant added. Garner, a Lancaster resident, began volunteering at Highland to keep track of one of his foster children. He had volunteered at other schools when the children were younger. Garner was a foster parent for nine years and helped raise 89 children. He assumed guardianship over several of them. “After I came out of the Army, I bought a big house. It had spare rooms. I loved kids. I just started taking care of foster kids,” said Garner, who is not married and has two grown children of his own. One summer he noticed the Highland staff was just swamped during registration, so he started to help out. “I got attached to Highland and fell in love,” Garner said. Guidance clerk Dianamarie Prevatt described Garner as very compassionate and kind. “He helps us out with registration, talks with parents when they come into register, helps review paperwork to make sure they live in the attendance area,” guidance clerk Dianamarie Prevatt said. For his birthday in April, students brought him a cake. “I like working with the kids. God gave me a gift of working with young people,” Garner said. “A lot of them come to me with problems, stuff they don’t go to their parents with. When they come to the counseling office, they ask for me: Is Mr. G. here?” Senior Ron Holden said Garner has been like an uncle to him. “He’s real big in the sports community. People who didn’t think they could play, he always gives them a chance, welcoming people with open arms,” Holden said. “My freshmen year he asked me to join his basketball traveling team. From then on, he helped me improve my basketball skills. He helped me become a young man besides being a good basketball player.” Board member Jim Lott, who suggested that the board honor Garner, said his own son is among players Garner has coached. Garner takes children home after practice if they don’t have rides or waits with them, sometimes up to an hour, for their parents to pick them up, Lott said. “He keeps hundreds of kids off the streets. That’s critical at this age level. They love him,” Lott said. “He disciplines like a sergeant in the Army. As a person they respect him. He counsels them about classes. He teaches respect and character. He follows them to see how their grades are doing. He follows attendance. He’s a neat person for kids.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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