Students hug and high-five Collinswood custodian Leonard Richardson at his retirement celebration June 1.
For nearly half of its 60 year history, Collinswood Language Academy has sparkled thanks to Leonard Richardson. He's spent the past 29 years scrubbing floors, emptying the trash and making sure the school is ready for students every day. When he retires at the end of June, his legacy will live on in the cafeteria that was recently named in his honor and in the hearts of the teachers, staff and students he's helped.
The cafeteria was dedicated to Richardson in a special ceremony June 1. The school's 755 students gathered with parents, teachers and staff to celebrate Richardson and how he's made a difference in their lives.
"Everything here shines, physically and spiritually, because of Mr. Richardson," said Principal Jennifer Pearsall. "He has so much pride in his job and this school."
Science teacher Adrienne P'simer began her teaching career at Collinswood 11 years ago and said that Richardson was always a mentor and friend to her.
"He was so helpful from the very beginning," she said. "He was always making sure I was OK and checking to see if he could help me."
P'simer said she's always been impressed with Richardson's strong relationships with students.
"He has phenomenal interaction with our students," she said. "He's always looking out for them. He will definitely be missed."
During his retirement celebration, the school's PTA announced the cafeteria naming. A huge fan of the Carolina Panthers, Richardson also received some clothing donation from player Julius Peppers and a signed autograph from quarterback Cam Newton. Earlier in the year, some middle school students got together to collect money to send Richardson to a Panthers game.
"We knew that he was such a huge fan and we wanted to get him to a game," said Santiago Castro, who sent out a group text message to collect money for the tickets. "We were able to raise enough for tickets and a shirt to wear to the game. He opened the gift and thought it was just a shirt and he was so happy! He couldn't believe it when he realized there were tickets in the box."
Castro said that Richardson talked about the game for about a week when he returned to school.
"He's a really nice guy and he cares about all of us," he said. "We wanted to do something nice for him."
Richardson's made an impact on parents too.
"He always has a pleasant disposition no matter what is going on," said John Snelsire, the parent of a Collinswood fifth- and second-grader. "Once, I forgot to put money in my son's lunch account and Mr. Richardson paid for his lunch. That's one of those things he didn't have to do, but he did because he cares about every students."
Richardson said he was overwhelmed by the ceremony. Students held up signs declaring their love. Many asked for hugs as they headed back to class. A few students even stopped to ask for autographs.
"I tell my wife all the time, the best part of this job is these kids," he said. "I love all of them. I am so thankful to the staff here for making this such a wonderful career. Principal Pearsall has made the last few years of my career the best."
But he might be back. He's already expressed an interest in returning as a Collinswood lunch monitor.
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