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I’m Blessed to be Doing this Work: An Interview with Shannon Griffin

Written by John White

Shannon Griffin is a social worker at Hauppauge High School and had been working in the district since
1993 when she started as an intern after her Master’s work at SUNY Stony Brook. Shannon coordinates
the district’s “Share and Care” program which helps to support students and families living in need. She
also manages the “Friends of Families” program and is the faculty mentor for the Natural Helpers
program, a group of students who act to resolve differences among their peers.

Q: Tell us about the Share and Care initiative.

This program is designed to help and support families in the district who may have trouble making ends
meet on the basics of living. We do a variety of fund raisers with the students and especially with our
faculty to bring food, clothing, school supplies and other things to these families. I adopted this from
other building teachers and also involved the Student Councils to help with the fund raising. Many
people are surprised when they see the sometimes severe need that exists in our community. We have
a number of Title I children in our district and their needs are significant (Note: According to the U.S.
Department of Education the purpose of Title 1 funding, “is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal,
and significant opportunity to obtain a high quality education and reach, at minimum, proficiency on
challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.”)

Q: How do you identify students and families who might be in need?

Those students who are receiving meal subsidy at school is one place to start. We also look to identify
those who are living in a shelter, possibly living without parents, or might be out-and-out homeless.
Often the kids can be very embarrassed at their life situation, so obviously the confidentiality of the
programs is very important. While we involve our students at some levels, this is mostly an adult led
organization. Our students will get involved through their club activity or through the school’s Interact
initiative. Sometimes the student volunteers don’t always see the fruits of their effort, but they
recognize that they have made an impact on someone’s life.

Q: What are some of the programs that you’ve put in place?

Kicks for Cancer is a great example of where we will involve the students to bring awareness and to raise
money. We also will pay for caps and gowns for students who couldn’t afford them. It makes them feel
they are that much more included in the school. In the past we’ve paid for prom tickets for some kids.
And interestingly, they are the ones who stay to the very end of the event! Safe Halloween is another
program that we’ve put together with the students and they take a very active role in this. We’ll also
put together food baskets at Thanksgiving for those in need. We are always open to taking donations
like caps & gowns, food, and cash.

Q: Do the students that you help “pay it forward” at all?

Most definitely. They will write thank-you notes long after high school is over, they volunteer at
homeless shelters, and help us in preparing sandwiches for those in need.

Q: How do you recruit your volunteers?

It’s not too hard as most of the district is very aware of the work we do through Share and Care. People are always stepping up to volunteer time or money. The students are so amazing. And the generosity of
our community is often overwhelming and it is a privilege to work here. I love doing this work and I am
truly blessed to be doing it here in Hauppauge.

Q: Who has been an inspiration to you?

My Mom primarily. She worked at Hope House Ministries for many years. My predecessor, Colleen
Raffini, was also a big impact on me. Going back to my undergraduate studies and rotating through a
psychiatric hospital opened my eyes to the needs that exist everywhere in all our communities.

Our interviewer, John White, is a long time Hauppauge resident who recently retired from a rewarding career as a pharmacist, clinician, and pharmaceutical industry consultant.  In addition to his work with the Hauppauge Public Library, John volunteers his time with St. Thomas More’s youth ministry and the Boy Scouts of America.  In his spare time, John is an avid reader, an active runner, and loves to travel.

Do you know of someone in the Hauppauge community who should be featured on The Buzz? Please contact us by phone at 631-979-1600 or email at and let us know.