Larry Walker is the type of parent every school administrator dreams of having.
The 50-year-old Ellicott City resident developed a Saturday mentoring and homework session for black boys. He has helped organize Asian and Hispanic parent groups. He's also found time to serve on various parent groups and committees throughout the Howard County public school system.
Walker was honored last night as the inaugural statewide winner of the Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Award.
The award honors parents, guardians and parent groups for their work in support of Maryland public education, according to the Maryland Department of Education and Comcast, which is sponsoring the award.
State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick holds up the award as the first of its kind in the nation.
"This is a way of shining a spotlight on people who have done an excellent job of helping our students," she said. "It speaks to our recognizing that the engaging of the community is absolutely critical in the success of our students. We can't do some of the things that these people have done."
Walker was awarded $1,000 as the statewide winner during a ceremony last night in Annapolis at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. Five semifinalists received $250 each.
Walker said he feels a responsibility to help.
"What I have been doing for the past 20 years was not to get awards and acknowledgment," said the father of two sons. His eldest, Lawrence II, is a senior at the University of Maryland, College Park. Brandon is a senior at Mount Hebron High in Ellicott City.
Walker said he honed his knowledge of the education system through his wife, Alfreda, a teacher at Steven's Forest Elementary in Columbia.
"Being able to encourage students and parents is a reward that continues," Walker said. "It's the best investment I've ever made."
Mount Hebron's principal David Brown says Walker is one of the school's "key parent stakeholders."
"He's one of those valued parental leaders who really works to make a positive change in the climate culture of our school," Brown said.
Walker has served as the president of Parents of African-American Students at Mount Hebron, a group that fosters learning and community. Walker also has organized community-building activities, an educational field trip to New York City, and a student-produced African-American Awareness Month assembly. He has served as a member the Mount Hebron PTSA and school improvement committee. He's also worked on the Citizens Advisory Committee for the school board's operating budget process.