Sunny Booker has worked since she was old enough to have a job.
At only 12 years old in her hometown of Ypsilanti, Michigan, young Sunny would dash down to the hardware store each Saturday morning to pick up her necessary equipment.
“I would rent a carpet cleaner from the local hardware store and do as many houses as I could in one weekend,” she remembered. “My neighbors loved me!”
That same industriousness has carried over into her professional career where she currently serves as the Safe and Healthy Schools Coordinator for the Monroe County School District.
In fact, for the past five years, Sunny has also served as the Volunteer Director of the Monroe Youth Challenge Program.
Sunny first came to the Keys when she interviewed for the assistant principal position at Marathon High School. It was there that she first met civic leader and parent Judy Greenman a decade ago when she partnered with her on the first “Challenge Day” in the Keys.
After witnessing the one-day workshop in California that sought to reduce teen drug, alcohol, and tobacco use; absenteeism and teasing and violence in middle and high schools, Greenman rallied to bring the program to her own community in Marathon. Challenge Day grew into the Monroe Youth Challenge Program (MYCP) that now provides year round programming for youth throughout the school district.
“I will miss it so much,” Sunny confessed, adding that though it was a tough decision, fresh leadership will be great for the program.
“Judy was the founder and trusted me with her ‘baby’. Now it’s time it moved on to a paid position so it can grow again to the next level,” she continued.
School Superintendent and Monroe County Education Foundation Board Member Joseph Burke commended Booker for her commitment to the program.
“MYCP is poised to advance its many youth-serving programs to the next level,” he commented. “Significant foundational work has been accomplished under Ms. Booker’s leadership in recent years, and the school district has benefited from this work.”
Greenman, who continues to volunteer with the organization added, “I appreciate that our Superintendent would like Sunny to dedicate her attention to some new projects for our school district because anything she touches turns to gold. Her commitment to excellence and her passion to help our kids is evident in the multitude of programs she runs year round on her volunteer time.”
“I will always be their number one volunteer!” Sunny promised.
MYCP currently serves more than 8,000 students and adults across the county, and a majority of the programs, designed to develop young leaders and help adults raise safe and healthy families, were actually created by students.
MYCP programs currently include: Parent to Parent classes; splash events school-wide or to large audiences at prevention assemblies; crime and substance abuse/violence-prevention classes; life skills and Developmental Asset® classes; MYCP signature programs like Challenge Days, 8th-Grade Transition Programs (8TP); service learning and community service projects; experiential trips such as the Holocaust Museum and Student Awareness Day; Be the Change Playgroups for parents and babies; as well as the global action movement with PEACEJAM.
“I wouldn’t leave MYCP unless everything was going right,” Sunny professed. “The team members and scores of volunteers are experienced and strong enough to handle a transition and even expand under a paid leader’s direction. Doing this work has been one of the highlights of my life.”
Sunny earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in English and theater arts and a minor in education from Nazareth College in Rochester, NY. She continued her studies by earning a Master’s Degree in educational leadership at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.
She also studied at the University of London.
She plans to continue her advanced education in conjunction with her new responsibilities in the school district.