State Board of Education News

2017 Student Heroes show caring and compassion

AUSTIN – Tutoring, preparing bags of essential items for foster care children, creating a drum line, assisting students with disabilities and hosting birthday parties for homeless children are just some of the caring and compassionate activities undertaken by 15 students selected to receive the State Board of Education’s 2017 Student Heroes Award.

The board created the award to celebrate and highlight students who voluntarily perform acts of kindness that benefit fellow students, their school or community. One award recipient is selected per State Board district. This year, they range from a third-grade student to a high school senior. Each winner receives a plaque in recognition of their volunteerism.

“One person can make a difference and these 15 Student Heroes prove it. Their work is inspirational and uplifting,” said Donna Bahorich, chair of the State Board of Education. “The State Board of Education is delighted to shine a light on these caring and compassionate students who have enriched their schools and communities.”

The 2017 Student Hero Award recipients are:

Amanda Aguirre – SBOE District 1
Amanda Aguirre, a fifth-grade student at Don Jose Gallego Elementary School in the Laredo Independent School District, was concerned about who cares for military dependent children when their parent is deployed. She decided to create care packages containing items such as toothpaste, tooth brushes, shampoo and deodorant for the children. She has also twice donated to Locks of Love, which uses human hair to create wigs for cancer patients, and collected plastic bottle caps to raise funds to help pay for the administration of chemotherapy, which can be a financial burden on families.

Jade Sosa – SBOE District 2
As a sixth-grade student in Valley View ISD, Jade Sosa became concerned when she realized how many of her classmates had suicidal thoughts or were dealing with family issues such as alcoholism. She decided that these students needed more caring adults in their lives. After several years of preparation and planning, this year as an eighth-grade student at Valley View Early College High School, Sosa launched Project 2.0 “Do Something,” a mentoring program in which community leaders meet one-on-one and in group settings with students. The adults provide a positive relationship and encourage students to make good choices that will improve their future.

Harlie Montez – SBOE District 3
Harlie Montez, a senior at Memorial High School in Edgewood ISD, volunteers each year with the summer T-STEM Bridge program, which helps incoming freshmen learn engineering and robotic concepts. She also works with elementary school children each summer through the Mexican American Unity Council. Additionally, Montez works with special needs students, as well as students who are struggling with the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) Biology end-of-course exam.

ZaDarius Webber – SBOE District 4
ZaDarius Webber, a senior at Klein Forest High School in Klein ISD, is an active volunteer. He works with organizations such as North East Men of Distinction, North Houston Junior Frontiers Club, and the Klein Forest African American Heritage Society. Webber is also the volunteer manager of the girls’ track team, the boys’ basketball team and the girls’ volleyball team. His counselor describes him as “having a natural aptitude for helping his peers develop skills to be successful.”

Hunter Beaton – SBOE District 5
Hunter Beaton, a sophomore at Boerne High School in Boerne ISD, found it sad and unsettling that foster care children, including some that joined his family, often arrive at their new homes with all their possessions in a trash bag. For his Eagle Scout project, he decided to create “Day 1” duffel bags containing items such as toiletries, blankets, underwear and books. He voluntarily continued to grow and expand this program long after his Scout project ended. First, it went regional, then statewide and now “Hunter’s Bags” are going national.

Madeline Neff – SBOE District 6
An eighth-grade student at Salyards Middle School in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Madeline Neff is a leader in a service project called Rachel’s Challenge. Originally the group was going to meet once a month to work on a service project but she decided that wasn’t frequent enough. She encouraged the group to meet weekly because she wanted volunteer service to become part of her campus’ culture. The students have visited a residential care facility for children. They’ve sponsored a cleaning supply drive with the donations given to the residential facility. Neff’s other volunteer activities include writing notes of encouragement to classmates; helping multiple students each week organize their school work and helping the janitors.

Sarah Schilberg – SBOE District 7
Sarah Schilberg, a junior at West Brook High School in Beaumont ISD, volunteers at a nursing home, serving breakfast and providing companionship to seniors with Alzheimer’s. She also founded Bruins Aiding in Community Service, a student group that visits a local retirement home each week to provide activities, gifts and companionship. She’s collected Christmas donations for low-income children, tutors fellow students in math, piano and clarinet and volunteers at the local soup kitchen.

Dylan Keene – SBOE District 8
Dylan Keene, a third-grade student at Whitcomb Elementary School in Clear Creek ISD, has been called “kind, compassionate and caring in a way far beyond his eight years.” Keene has taken it upon himself to look out for a classmate who is new to the country and who has a medical condition that requires her to check in regularly with the school nurse. Each day Keene takes this friend to lunch, recess, physical education or to special events. After lunch, he escorts her to the nurse’s office for her check-up. He makes sure she is included in conversations and games and helps her with her school work. He saw a classmate in need and “chose to be the most kind, loving friend he could be,” his principal says.

Bao Catteau – SBOE District 9
Bao Catteau, a senior at Denison High School in Denison ISD, spent the first five years of his life in a Chinese orphanage.  Adopted by a Texas family, Catteau is now a high-performing student who finds time to perform many volunteer activities such as mentoring a student through the Big Brother, Big Sister program, delivering food through Meals on Wheels, collecting and sorting canned foods through Helping Hands, serving as a group leader at vacation Bible school and working as part of a disaster response team to assist tornado victims.

Corey Carroll – SBOE District 10
Milano High School in Milano ISD had lost its band program. When Corey Carroll, now a senior, transferred into the school, he decided to fill that void. He started a drum line that brought school spirit and energy to the community. Carroll found old instruments, students interested in percussion, and sponsors who would underwrite the group’s expenses to away games. Carroll organized rehearsals, served as the drum major for the group now known as The Music Machine and wrote most of the cadences and cheers used for pep rallies and football games. The drum line is expected to continue after he graduates.

Brock Crymes – SBOE District 11
Brock Crymes, a senior at Birdville High School in Birdville ISD, is the founder of the Birdville High School Senate, which gives students a voice in the school. He volunteers in the Fish Camp program that welcomes freshman to the campus. He assists students with special needs through the Best Buddies program. Crymes works to promote a positive climate on campus through Rachel’s Challenge, a program named in memory of a student killed during the Columbine shooting. He serves his community outside of school by working as a senior teen court attorney for seven years at the North Richland Hills Municipal Court and volunteers at the North Richland Hills Animal Adoption and Rescue Center.

Emilee Gant – SBOE District 12
Emilee Gant, a senior at Lovejoy High School in Lovejoy ISD, is passionate about cheerleading and working with children with special needs so she combined those two activities. She volunteers at Special Olympics coaching, organizing events, games and award ceremonies. She’s voluntarily coached a cheer squad at the Special Olympics for four years. Gant goes out of her way to make sure students with special needs are included in activities.

Cooper Philpot – SBOE District 13
Cooper Philpot, an eighth-grade student at Bailey Junior High in Arlington ISD, has volunteered as a party enthusiast and junior party coordinator for three years at Safe Haven, a shelter for women and children who are escaping domestic violence. Each month, the shelter hosts a birthday party for children in the shelter. Philpot comes to the parties faithfully and assists by unloading supplies, decorating for parties, and working to bring happiness to those in the shelter. He has adopted the motto “Joy changes lives.”

Cole George – SBOE District 14
Cole George, a ninth-grade student at Lorena High School in Lorena ISD, saw a need and decided to personally address it. While eating in the school cafeteria, he saw a special needs student whose disability affects her motor skills, making it difficult to bring her fork to her mouth. After watching her struggle, he began researching different tools that might help her. He found a battery-operated adaptive fork that bends and levels to help a struggling eater. He began doing extra chores to raise the money to buy the fork. George raised the $240 necessary to buy the fork with an additional spoon attachment for his classmate.

Christabel Salinas – SBOE District 15
Christabel Salinas may only be in fifth grade at Bean Elementary School in Lubbock ISD but she has already earned the title “Most Valuable Philanthropist” due to her commitment to the Bean Leadership Council. She led and participated in organizing a clothing drive that collected 5,000 articles of clothing for those in need during the past two years. She’s organized an annual coin drive to raise money for the Haven, a non-profit, no-kill animal shelter that cares for elderly and disabled animals. Other activities include regularly picking up trash in neighborhood parks and she is currently researching how to best implement a recycling program at her school.