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Never Quit winner is office assistant who helps keep Hawaii school ‘community oriented’

An aerial view of Haiku Elementary School, where Never Quit award winner Suzy Aguirre works. Photo credit: Haiku Elementary School
By Pablo Ros ·

Marley Vida-Kehano was in fourth grade at Haiku Elementary School in Haiku, Hawaii, when Suzy Aguirre, the latest AFSCME Never Quit Service Award winner, began working there.

“She supervised us on the playground, but she also took on a lot of extracurricular roles,” recalls Vida-Kehano. “Whatever we would ask of her that was appropriate for the school, she would figure out a way to make it happen.”

Today, Vida-Kehano is the school baker. And she counts Aguirre, an office assistant at Haiku Elementary, as a co-worker.

“Now I have a different appreciation for what Suzy does,” says Vida-Kehano. “She’s very dedicated to the school. She’s here on weekends and her days off.”

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Suzy Aguirre. Member-provided photo.

Theresa Haberstroh, a fourth-grade teacher, agrees.

“Suzy just steps right in and takes charge when there are needs,” Haberstroh says. “She sees what needs to be done and does it even when she’s not asked. She creates programs for our school; she runs the yearbook; she meets with kids all year long and teaches them photography.”

“She just makes me feel like I’m not worthy,” Haberstroh said with a laugh. “She’s just so inspiring!”

For her service to her community, Aguirre, a member of Hawaii Government Employees Association (AFSCME Local 152), is a winner of our union’s Never Quit Service Award, which seeks to recognize public service workers who go above and beyond the call of duty to make their communities better.

“When I started here, Suzy was my mentor,” recalls Tammie Plunkett, who nominated Aguirre for the award and serves as school administrative services assistant. “She mentored me for a good year and then she finally said: You got to fly. That faith she had in me encouraged me to do this job. Suzy is a great co-worker, mentor and friend to all around her.”

Aguirre is the kind of co-worker who remembers everybody’s birthday and decorates for the holidays. She is the kind of school employee who puts the students first, volunteering to guide them on how to make the yearbook and taking a leading role in the school’s fundraiser.

When asked what motivates her to go above and beyond the call of duty, Aguirre says she doesn’t overthink it.

“Everything starts from the heart,” she replies. “Everything I do is for the students, staff and school.”

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Photo credit: Haiku Elementary School.

Born and raised in the community of Haiku, on the island of Maui, Aguirre herself attended Haiku Elementary School. She says lots of things have changed about the school since she was a student there, but its spirit has stayed the same.

“I haven’t worked in any other school, but I feel like here the community and the workers, we’re like family,” Aguirre says. “We call our school, ‘The little school with a big heart,’ and it’s true.”

Aguirre began working for the school in adult supervision and as a meal clerk. For more than 10 years, she has been a full-time member of the staff, working in the school office.

Vida-Kehano, who was a student when Aguirre joined, says she is grateful to Aguirre for the commitment and dedication she brings to Haiku Elementary.

“Even though a lot has changed since I came to school here, the values are still the same,” she says. “It’s a very community-oriented school, and Suzy has been a big part of that.”

Never Quit Service Awards

Know a co-worker who goes above and beyond the call of duty to make their community better? Nominate them for AFSCME’s Never Quit Service Award.

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