DANA BLANTON COLLINS
Dana Collins left a promising career in which she was making a much large salary because she was not being fulfilled. Jones then entered into the field of Education and became a mentor and hero not only to the students at Bell High School, but also to the entire Gilchrist community.
A young woman in Florida had terminal brain cancer -Catlin Huggins. Catlin had passed the FCAT in spite of brain operations, the return of a tumor, and the news that she had only a few months to live. If the doctor’s diagnosis of Catlin’s life was to be correct, that meant that even after Catlin passed the FCAT, she probably would not live long enough to march with her class on graduation day. Although this child had very little energy and physical strength, she studied for the FCAT and passed. This story is amazing, but what stood out more was the dedication of Catlin’s guidance counselor, Dana Collins.
Collins was not only a mentor and friend to Catlin, but she served as a role model for all as to how we should love, treat and respect our fellow human being. She went well beyond her call of duty as a guidance counselor and allowed Catlin to rest on a mat in her office while she studied for the FCAT. She even went as far as to change Catlin’s diapers when her illness progressed to the point that Catlin lost control of her bodily functions. Jones also was involved in Catlin’s treatment.
When Catlin learned that she had passed the FCAT, Collins helped organize a special graduation ceremony so that Catlin would have the experience of wearing a much-earned cap and gown, and know the thrill of achieving her long-time dream of graduating from high school. Both the Governor and First Lady of Florida attended this special graduation service, and organizations such as Dollywood in East Tennessee became involved to help this young student and her family cope with the devastating news that Catlin had only a short time to live.
The story of Catlin is enough in itself to suggest that Collins is an exemplary volunteer because she has taken a new career as a guidance counselor and also become a community servant. Volunteering to help others is now her mission and calling. She is an example of charity, commitment and love that we all could only aspire to achieve.
Catlin was only one of many, many, many stories in which Collins had reached out and gone way beyond the call of duty. Time and time again she has been the mentor with a healing set of hands, a compassionate heart, listening ears, and willing personality to help the community cope with the aftermath of deadly drunk driving wrecks, students coping with abuse at home, poverty, and daily life stressors. Collins’ actions are an example how an average life can be transformed to greatness with a determined spirit and a willing attitude. Student after student after student has been given permission to succeed against great odds because Collins made it her calling to inspire those whom perhaps society might not have thought could succeed do so.