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TEA News Releases Online May 28, 2015
State Board of Education honors school-aged heroes

AUSTIN – A group of 16 Texas public school students who provided outstanding acts of charity and kindness for their fellow students were announced today as the 2015 Student Heroes by the State Board of Education (SBOE).

This inaugural group from all grade levels – kindergarten through 12th grade – is being recognized for such unselfish acts as raising funds for sick children, gathering donations for low-income students, offering peer tutoring and just being a friend to a child in need. Students in each board district were nominated by school officials, parents and community members.  Each SBOE member then selected one recipient for each district. 

“The State Board of Education wanted a student program that looked beyond academics and recognized students for their heart,” said Barbara Cargill, chair of the SBOE. “For this inaugural year, the board received more than 150 eligible nominations, and it was heartwarming to hear about so many amazing Texas students who exhibit strong character and integrity by helping other students.”

Students were recognized at district events with a certificate recognizing them as a Student Hero by their SBOE members and local school officials.

The students being recognized are listed below:

Laurel Paige Kelly-Peterson – SBOE District 1
A seventh grader at Devine Middle School (Devine ISD), Laurel Paige Kelley-Peterson has been doing her part to help abused and neglected children since she was six-years old.  She has rallied family, friends, church members, businesses and community members to supply truckloads of toys, stuffed animals, food and clothing for distribution to needy children through the non-profit Helping Abused and Neglected Kids (HANK) in Hondo. She also has marshaled fundraisers, established cooperatives with nearby universities and sought grants to assist the non-profit.

Juan Daniel Rangel and Noe Isai Rangel – SBOE District 2
Twin brothers Juan and Noe Rangel did not hesitate when it came to saving the life of one of their classmates. When a fellow student at Veterans Memorial Early College High School (Brownsville ISD) suffered a medical emergency, the two sprang into action, grabbing up the nearly unconscious student and taking him quickly to the school’s nurse’s station. Their quick thinking and quick response saved their young friend’s life.

Alexander Castillo – SBOE District 3
Alexander Castillo, a senior at Southwest Academy (Southwest ISD) in San Antonio, took his personal goals of a healthy lifestyle and implemented them to benefit his fellow students. Utilizing a grant from the San Antonio Mayor’s Fitness Council, Castillo had a salad bar installed at the school to provide a healthy choice alternative for students’ lunch.  He channeled his personal success of losing more than 100 pounds to challenge his classmates to follow a healthier lifestyle.

Gernise Boyd – SBOE District 4
Gernise Boyd is a Student Hero because she considers the needs of others who may not have support or someone like a peer or role model to help them make wise decisions or to feel better when they are down. It is not uncommon for her to commit random acts of kindness, such as helping a fellow student with purchasing new clothes and getting her hair done, or to intervening in a situation to teach another student right from wrong. She is always seeking a way to “pay it forward” to the other students of the Beechnut Academy (Houston ISD) who might be in need of a helping hand.

Soleil Guckian – SBOE District 5
Soleil Guckian, a seventh-grade student at Bradley Middle School (North East ISD), has made it her mission to help feed hungry students in San Antonio. In October 2014 she organized a school food drive that raised 1,200 items for the San Antonio Food Bank. But Guckian didn't stop with the drive -- she is still collecting donations and raising awareness about hunger, even making the rounds in her neighborhood to get her community involved.

Katherine Dodgen – SBOE District 6
Katherine Dodgen, a student at Klein Oak High School (Klein ISD), launched a program to provide beginner orchestra instruction for low-income students in her district. Two years later she is still working on ways for Super Strings Saturday to continue in the Klein ISD long after she goes to college.  The Super Strings Saturday program is an outreach program offering underprivileged, aspiring orchestra students with one-on-one instruction and encourages them to continue orchestra in middle school and beyond.

Edward Romero – SBOE District 7
When Edward Romero learned a badly-injured student would be transferring to the Brazosport ISD and joining his class at the Clute Intermediate School, he immediately offered to be the one to show the new student around and help him adjust to the new school. In addition, Romero learned the family was struggling due to the nature of the injuries suffered by more than one member of the family. Romero took it upon himself to begin fundraisers and a Christmas fund drive to help the family cover their basic necessities as they recovered from their injuries and to provide them with a good Christmas.  

Barrett Kenny – SBOE District 8
When Foster Elementary School (Humble ISD) student Barrett Kenny lost his best friend, as he says his “brother from another mother,” to cancer in May 2014, he made a brave decision to turn his pain into hope for others by starting the L3 Foundation. Through the L3 Foundation (Live Love Landon), Kenny has set a goal to participate in 10 races a year (both running and biking) to raise money to fund research that would benefit children and families that are fighting childhood cancer.   

Kinley Cunningham – SBOE District 9
Establishing “The Giving Tree Project” is Kinley Cunningham’s way of raising funds for low-income students in the Elkhart school district.  The kindergartener took the lessons she learned from her character guidance classes at Elkhart Elementary School and decided on her own that she wanted to earn and collect money on behalf of students who didn't have money. Students who participate earn money that is then donated to the Giving Tree project and benefits patients as Dallas Children’s Hospital, and others in the community.

Alexander Christou – SBOE District 10
Alexander Christou, a student at Fulmore Middle School (Austin ISD), is helping others by spreading his love for books and reading. The goal of his project “Hooked on Books” is to give a book to every student in AISD’s Travis Elementary School. He has partnered with four publishers and started a GoFundMe account to provide books for every grade level at Travis. To date, the seventh grader has raised more than $1,200 to buy books for these students and encourage them toward a life-long love of reading.

Sophia Rojas – SBOE District 11
An eighth grader at Travis Middle School (Irving ISD), Sophia Rojas has a strong desire to positively impact the lives of those around her. She put this desire into action by volunteering as a tutor for the Travis afterschool program. The tutoring sessions have also been a means for her to befriend and benefit those students who are outside the mainstream school environment. She has also made it her mission to actively recruit other students to participate and lend their help and create a positive influence for others.

Meagan Elmer – SBOE District 12
Meagan Elmer, a senior at Prosper High school (Prosper ISD), has shared her gifts and talent through many volunteering activities. For the last four years she has been a youth cheer coach and choreographer and has participated in the Best Buddies program, where she planned social events for special needs students. She is also active in the school health science program coordinating the annual blood drive.

Monica Orozco – SBOE District 13
Monica Orozco, a sixth grader at the North Hills Preparatory School in Irving, loves to spread the joy of book ownership in her community. For five years she has led a crusade to ensure kids in her community have age-appropriate books in their home. To date, she has run an annual book drive and distributed more than 10,000 books to students in grades kindergarten through fifth at two local elementary schools. She created the Gift of Reading Team and, together with other students, meets every week to work on donation requests and fundraisers to purchase books.

Ashley Prax – SBOE District 14
Copperas Cove High School junior Ashley Prax knew she couldn't perform a medical miracle to save a fellow student’s life, but she wanted to do something to help the family deal with the stress of caring for a child dying from cancer. She decided to have a mega-garage sale to raise funds to help with the family’s finances so they could just concentrate on getting their daughter well.  Prax organized a collection drive at her school and a GoFundMe account to raise funds.  She spent hours collecting items for the sale, which generated more than $600. Her plan is to continue with a monthly sale to support this family through their time of need.

Cierra Knox – SBOE District 15
Her love for a cousin helped Cierra Knox, a senior at Sweetwater High School (Sweetwater ISD), find a serious passion for volunteering and also a path for her future. Knox started as a volunteer at Camp Rehab in 2014 and found that she loved making a difference in others’ lives and helping special needs children. After volunteering this summer, she plans to carry that passion further with her upcoming college studies and continue to volunteer helping special needs children.


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