Jefferson Award Winner: Haley Gruber - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Jefferson Award Winner: Haley Gruber

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MAUSTON (WKOW) -- The kindergarten classroom is a place where young minds blossom and where Haley Gruber is helping the imagination grow at Mauston's West Side Elementary School.

The 19-year-old volunteers at the school 3 days a week, 6 hours each day.

"I just love seeing them learn new things every day and get so excited when they see me and when I get to work with them. I just feel really special," she says.

Haley began volunteering with her sister in her mom's classroom when she was in grade school.

By high school, she was tutoring kindergarten and second graders at West Side. Second grade teacher Mandy Brice says,  "I talk to my kids about that all the time. She's a volunteer. She's not getting paid for what she does."

Haley's sister, Jeni Gruber, says a lot of people think you have to be older to volunteer, but that's not the case with Haley.

"I think it's important for people to see that somebody who has had a lot of struggles in her life and a lot of things to overcome can start young and make a huge difference."

Haley was born with spinabifida.

"The doctors would always say that I wasn't gonna be able to walk, and school would be hard. I've made it this far and I learned how to walk."

"She's overcome everything through it," says Jeni. "She's supposed to struggle more than she does and she doesn't let it show, especially when she's working with kids."

Haley is balancing volunteer work with school work, studying to become a full-time teacher's assistant and hoping to get a job in the Mauston school district once she graduates.

"She's always got a smile on her face," says kindergarten teacher Lisa Vinopal. "She's always happy and just loves life and loves to do what she does."

Haley also volunteers throughout the summer with the rec program in Mauston.

"If I can help just one kid a day I know I'm making a difference."

"She's my hero," says Jeni. "She's made a difference in my life and in showing me there's nothing that can stand in your way if you have a true passion for it."

Haley's passion for helping kids, is what makes her our Jefferson Award winner for June.

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