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A Tree Grows at Bentley

Featured Photo from A Tree Grows at Bentley

There’s a lot going on outside Bentley Elementary School. Check out this poignant tree planting and a valuable new learning garden.

Frank Kingston was a Seminole County Sheriff’s Crossing Guard at Bentley Elementary. Though he’d only been at Bentley for two years, he left an indelible impression on all he encountered, especially the children who he’d famously welcome each morning by name with a playful fist bump that brought as big a smile to his face as it did theirs.

In 2018, Frank was one of six nominees for Seminole County Sheriff’s School Crossing Guard of the Year.

Under his watchful eye, parents and school staff knew they could count on Frank to keep their children safe. His dedication to his post and the children had become well recognized in the community.

When Frank died late last year, his loss was immediately felt, especially by the children who counted on his kindness, compassion, and humor to start off their day. For many, his fist bumps, high-fives, and words of encouragement would be sorely missed.

To honor Frank’s memory and service to the community, a young oak was planted on the northeast corner of the Bentley Elementary property, adorned by a plaque at the foot of the tree to memorialize the man who everyone agreed went above and beyond.

A special unveiling ceremony of the tree and plaque was held in late April for the community. In attendance were Frank’s wife and daughter, school officials, students, parents, and fellow Crossing Guards.

JoJo Sturm, the district’s Crossing Guard supervisor, addressed the children at the ceremony:
“Mr. Frank was a talker and a fun guy. He looked after you to make sure you were safe. It was all about you. I want you to remember him. This is an oak tree, strong like Mr. Frank. Smile at the tree. Fist bump the tree.”

As this tree grows at Bentley, so will the memories of a man who made each day better for everyone he encountered.

Holden Swanson, a 17-year-old student at Crooms Academy of Information Technology, has accomplished what few young people ever do: He earned the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest and most prestigious rank bestowed by the Boy Scouts of America. Becoming an Eagle Scout is no easy feat. It requires following stringent rules and meeting benchmark accomplishments, not least of which is to propose, plan, and execute a community service project that must be approved by the District Eagle Scout Board. Succinctly put, Holden is an extraordinary young man who, through his service, has improved his community.

“Last year, I was looking into projects in Sanford,” says Holden. “I asked my father for suggestions. He told me about his Eagle Scout project when he built a butterfly garden.”

That got Holden thinking. His dad’s suggestion made him recall the butterfly garden that existed at Bentley Elementary School when he was a student there. Holden contacted Martha Garcia, Bentley’s principal, and told her his plan to revitalize the garden. Eager to  help, she invited Holden to come and visit the school’s outdoor science classroom.

“It was worse than I thought,” recalls Holden. “It wasn’t being taken care of. I saw dead plants and trees and algae growing in the pond.”

Though his original plan was to rebuild the butterfly garden, seeing Bentley’s outdoor classroom in disrepair inspired Holden to do more. With Ms. Garcia’s approval, he formed and executed a plan to restore the outdoor classroom for the students of Bentley Elementary.

With the help of his dad, members of his troop, community partners, family, and friends, Holden raised $3,800 for repairs and improvements. The project took seven months and more than 300 man-hours collectively to convert the neglected garden into a living, vibrant outdoor classroom once again.

In late April, Holden and his family were invited back for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to honor his work and well-earned Eagle Scout Badge. Bentley students and staff members gathered outside, surprising Holden with loud cheers and applause as he entered the garden.

Along with the many new improvements in the garden sits a monument with a plaque honoring Jackie Grimes, the teacher who Holden says had a great influence on his life while at Bentley.


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