WAHNETA — Earlier this month, Polk County Public Schools hosted a “Principal for a Day” program involving a handful of Winter Haven area schools.

The goal of the program, spearheaded by PCPS Community Liaison Director Steve Warner, was to welcome in local business leaders and allow them to soak in what goes into the day-to-day management of area schools. With that insight, the thought process went, those leaders might have a better understanding of how to lend a hand.

For one participating school, a helping hand didn’t take long to materialize.

Mathew Snell, a corporate engineer manager for Polyglass USA, spent his Principal for a Day experience alongside Wahneta Elementary Principal Nildalis Caraballo and her administrative team.

Polyglass is a leading manufacturer of modified bitumen roofing and waterproofing membranes and roof coatings for low- and steep-slope applications. The company has locations throughout the nation and internationally, as well.

Polyglass has a facility located off of Snively Road in the Eloise area, just south of Winter Haven’s city limits. It is minutes down the road from the Wahneta community, an unincorporated area south of Winter Haven, within which is Wahneta Elementary.

By spending the day with Caraballo and her staff, Snell had the opportunity to see the passion they bring to solving the challenges of serving a student community in an economically challenged area. The impact was profound — and immediate. By the end of the event, which took place on Friday, Nov. 1, Snell and Caraballo were discussing ways for Polyglass to help.

This past Friday, Nov. 22, that manifested itself in a $3,000 donation from the local company to Wahneta Elementary. Snell and other leadership for Polyglass’s Polk County facility presented the check to Caraballo and her staff in front of a room full of appreciate students.

“They have such a great team here and there’s a need here,” Snell said, explaining why he felt the need to do something. “We’re neighbors — and neighbors take care of neighbors. …

“We (at Polyglass) want to part of the community.”

The donation by Polyglass was significant on its own, but Caraballo utilized the match program through the Polk Education Foundation, bringing the total amount of money for the school to $6,000. That money, she explained, will be used to help fund classroom libraries for the 11 new teachers at Wahneta this year.

Caraballo expressed appreciation to Polyglass staff not just for their generosity, but for the beginning of what hopefully will be an ongoing relationship between the school and the company.

“I think it was such a great value for them to come and see the systems, how we work to aspire to create dreams for these kids,” Caraballo said. “Walking in and seeing the work happening here impacted him and, as a result, impacted his company.

“We have a lifetime friendship now.”

For more information on how to get involved with Polk County Public Schools in the Winter Haven area, contact Community Liaison Director Steve Warner at steven.warner@polk-fl.net.

Contact Steven Ryzewski at sryzewski@d-r.media.

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