KEARNEYSVILLE, W.Va. — The cafeteria of North Jefferson Elementary School now bears the name of a beloved former educator.
Marie Cipriano served for about 20 years as an aide in Jefferson County. During her tenure, she helped students with special needs at Ranson, T.A. Lowery and North Jefferson Elementary Schools. She died unexpectedly last June at the age of 64.
Marie’s husband, Dr. Rocco Cipriano, is a founding member of the Kiwanis Club of Blue Ridge West Virginia. When the club was chartered, members asked Marie how they could help children at North Jefferson.
“So many of the children at the school need positive adult role models,” Marie said at the time. “Be there for them in whatever and however many ways you possibly can.”
Dr. Cipriano and fellow Kiwanis Club members have become actively involved in North Jefferson. Members volunteer at the school every Tuesday and Wednesday. They are currently working on a healthy dining program focusing on healthy living, table manners and social skills.
“Our club has been very involved in North Jefferson,” said Blue Ridge Kiwanis Treasurer Phil Porterfield. “We’re a brand new club (that) started one year ago. Right from the get-go we decided North Jefferson was some place that needed help. It’s got a lot of low income families, a lot of single parents and we felt we could make a difference here.”
Members, school officials and students have taken another step to make sure Marie Cipriano’s legacy would be remembered. As of a Friday ceremony, the school’s cafeteria is now known as “Cipriano’s Cafe”.
“You cannot say her name in this building without somebody having an amazing story,” said North Jefferson Principal Nicole Johnson. “It’s always child-centered. Her entire life focused around children and the children who needed a little extra…she was a voice for them.”
The volunteers are encouraged to highlight academic achievement and creativity, both of which were important to Marie. Porterfield said one of the most rewarding aspects of volunteering with the school is seeing the positive changes students begin to exhibit.
“The children’s attitude towards themselves. It gives them some self-esteem and (will) make lunchtime a time that they’ll enjoy. We’ll hopefully be able to do some projects in there with them and that kind of thing.”
Other projects at North Jefferson by the Blue Ridge Kiwanis include the Monarch Butterfly Way Station. Students can tend to the gardens during the day, but Kiwanis volunteers help take care of it after school. This year, they are also sponsoring the “True Grit” Awards program and the North Stars Kids Club to teach leadership and community service.
Johnson added all of these programs and volunteering efforts are fitting ways to honor the legacy of Marie.
“She was just warm. If you walk in some of the classrooms her picture is hanging. So just a warm, caring person.”