Community Builder: Irmo woman uses green thumb to impact students’ lives

Published: May. 8, 2019 at 7:50 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - In the midst of Teacher Appreciation Week, Irmo High School’s principal is showing her appreciation for a former teacher and active school volunteer.

“She defines giving, she defines service and goodness and community,” said Dr. Robin Hardy, principal of Irmo High School.

Dr. Hardy said volunteer Linda Byars is helping to change the way students learn.

“In a day and age of device distraction and easy stimulation, the green spaces and our courtyard areas provide a calm inviting soothing and relaxing learning environment for our students,” added Hardy.

For the last five years, Byars has spent countless hours beautifying the school’s grounds including its three inside gardens, and many times she’s spent her own funds to do it.

“There have been many studies made that greenspaces make a big difference on a person’s mood and their capacity to feel good and those are very important qualities in the learning process,” said Byars.

But she didn’t want to just improve moods, she wanted to improve lives. Three days a week, she teaches special needs students how to tend to the school’s greenhouse and vegetable garden as part of their job skills class.

“We concentrate not on what we can't do but on what we can do and it's quite a bit,” said Byars.

We told Byars we wanted to interview her about the greenhouse and her green thumb and, in the middle of her interview, we let Matt Mungo surprise her.

“Ms. Byars, let me break in in here. I'm Matt Mungo with Mungo Homes and I’m here because of your efforts with beautification in the Irmo community you have been nominated and chosen as the WIS Mungo Homes Community Builder,” said Mungo. “Thank you very much and please keep up the good work!”

Not long after that surprise, Byars took her new hard hat to class and to the students she adores. Dr. Hardy said they adore her, too.

“There’s no one else like Linda Byars,” said Dr. Hardy. “We have a great partnership with so many people in our community is so supportive, but Linda Byars is one of a kind.”

Linda Byars said her $1,000 donation from the Michael J. Mungo Foundation will provide for even more possibilities in the school’s beautification efforts.

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