Texas Public School Volunteers Earn SBOE’s 2021 Heroes for Children Award
Austin, TX – September 2, 2021 - Launching a Special Education Parent-Teacher Organization that supports parents of children with disabilities, securing financial sponsorships to provide critical scholarships, creating a foundation to provide grants for livestock projects, and taking free professional photos of a local school’s special events—these are just a few of the fine examples of volunteer activities performed by the fifteen recipients of the 2021 Heroes for Children Awards sponsored by the State Board of Education (SBOE).
Collectively, these award recipients have donated 210 years of service to Texas public schools and communities. Every year across Texas, one outstanding school volunteer is selected by each of Texas’s 15 SBOE board members to receive this award.
To honor the heroes, each will receive a plaque, a copy of the board resolution, a certificate of recognition from Governor Greg Abbott, and their names will be engraved on a perpetual plaque that is permanently displayed at Texas Education Agency headquarters. A resolution will be read in their honor during the general meeting of the SBOE on September 3, 2021. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m., will be livestreamed, and can be accessed via this link: http://www.adminmonitor.com/tx/tea.
With this year’s Heroes for Children recipients, the SBOE has now recognized 495 Texans with this prestigious award since its inception in 1994.
“I am so inspired by the stories of the Heroes for Children. With everything our students have been through the last couple of years, now more than ever, we appreciate how important our schools are to their local communities. These Heroes for Children, and all those like them, are helping our local schools change the lives of our children every day. We are so thankful for these dedicated volunteers,” said SBOE Chair Dr. Keven Ellis.
Below is a brief description of the volunteer work performed by each recipient:
Stephen Hambric (Socorro Independent School District – SBOE District 1)
Stephen Hambric has been a loyal volunteer at Socorro Independent School District (ISD) for the last 38 years. One of the district’s schools, where he continues to be part of its School Improvement committee, is named after his late wife, Jane A. Hambric. His strong advocacy for children’s education continues in his role as vice president of the Socorro ISD Excellence in Education Scholarship Foundation. As chairman of the scholarship committee, the foundation has provided over 40 students with scholarships worth more than $508,000. The success of each year’s fundraising efforts is attributed to Mr. Hambric’s leadership.
Mayra Lozano (La Joya Independent School District – SBOE District 2)
Mayra Lozano is an inspiration to the La Joya ISD community for creating a social media forum that gave parents much needed resources and ways to help each other during the pandemic. She has volunteered for the last 5 years and dedicated 480 hours working as prom and float decorator, student registration assistant, and was involved in various advisory committees where she served as a liaison between her school and the community.
Isaiah Riebeling (Yoakum ISD/Dewitt-Lavaca Special Education Cooperative – SBOE District 3)
Isaiah Riebeling is a one-of-kind firefighter who made special connections with students at the Dewitt-Lavaca Special Education Cooperative, which serves 9 school districts in the area. It started with the annual show of firetruck and emergency vehicles with the bells and whistles that gave students a thrilling hands-on experience of seeing, hearing, and climbing. Riebeling stood out by taking the time to take a photo with each student, to squat at their levels as he talked and listened to them, and to lift them into the ambulance or firetruck for a closer look. His thoughtfulness and kindness continued during the pandemic when there was a dire need for picnic tables so students could eat outdoors. Though he had never built a table before, he donated a picnic table from his own handiwork. His generosity was also displayed through innumerable year-round in-kind and cash donations that directly benefited both students and staff when cleaning materials were scarce during the onset of COVID-19. Mr. Riebeling is the embodiment of true compassion and altruism through his selfless actions.
Terence Narcisse (Galena Park Independent School District – SBOE District 4)
Terence Narcisse has given generously of his time, talents, and resources to help children and families throughout Houston’s east side. He has been a very active community volunteer for the past thirteen years through his service at the East Harris County Empowerment Council, which he founded in 2008. His fundraising efforts benefited thousands of school children in Galena Park ISD and East Harris County school districts with food and school supplies. To date, his organization has awarded more than $8,000 in scholarships. During the pandemic, more than $1.5 million was distributed to low-income families. Currently, his organization is helping families repair their homes from the Winter Ice Storm Uri. Mr. Narcisse’s service to the community includes the Buddy Program, which takes East Harris County students to the Rockets, Astros, Texans, and Dynamo games, and Houston Ballet performances that gives the students lasting memories for years to come.
Derrick Townsend (Austin Independent School District – SBOE District 5)
Derrick Townsend is a role model to a number of students, many of whom he has mentored over a course of 30 years. Students from elementary to high school look up to him as a father figure ready to inspire their young minds and to challenge them to their fullest potential. Growing up without a father himself, he knows how to relate to each student’s story. The support he gives each one of his mentees is invaluable. He instills in them a love of learning and encourages them to follow their dreams to go to college. In addition to mentoring, Mr. Townsend has been involved with and played leadership roles in local groups such as Dad’s Club, Men in Education, and his church community. This July, in yet another testament of him living by example, at age 61, he reached his dream of attaining a college degree. Through faith and perseverance, he is proud to show his accomplishments to the many students he mentored and to those he will mentor in the years ahead.
Beki Perkins (Klein Independent School District – SBOE District 6)
Beki Perkins found joy and excitement volunteering on various steering committees for Klein ISD as an operator of Klein’s SafeWay Driving, which gave her the unique opportunity to combine her love for children and education. Her enthusiasm and dedication became apparent when she joined the Unite for Understanding Council that emphasized the “No Place for Hate” program with the message that resonated with her by celebrating diversity, inclusivity, love, and tolerance. Her involvement naturally became a calling when she served as director of the district’s Education Foundation, a member of the Career and Technical Education Advisory Council, Strategic Planning Committee, School Bond Elections, and her all-time favorite, as judge at Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA). Ms. Perkins is honored to serve in the Grant Writing Review Committee of the Education Foundation, which delivers educator grants twice a year, and by 2019, it had awarded more than $1.9 million to campuses across the district.
Eilleen Crues (Friendswood Independent School District – SBOE District 7)
Eileen Crues launched the Friendswood ISD Special Education Parent-Teacher Organization eight years ago with a targeted focus on connecting, providing resources, and supporting parents of children with disabilities. As the liaison of the group, she played significant roles in hosting a district-wide annual art show participated by seven district campuses where the event showcased and auctioned student-created art. To date, the event has raised approximately $20,000 and has benefited special education students and classrooms across the district. Through Ms. Crues’ leadership, and in partnership with the district, she was able to offer parent training on topics such as applied behavioral analysis, guardianship and alternatives to guardianship, transition planning, and other related topics. Additionally, she serves on the School Safety Advisory Committee, Student Health Advisory, and Superintendent’s Advisory Committee. She is the voice for students with disabilities, and her efforts and dedication for the students of Friendswood earned her the “Golden Horseshoe” award by the Board of Trustees.
Harvey Oyler (Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District – SBOE District 8)
Harvey Oyler found fulfillment in volunteering when he joined the Partners in Education program with the Kiwanis Club of Baytown. After a year, he became the chairman, and his leadership showed in the incredible support it offered the students and staff at Alamo Elementary in Goose Creek ISD, especially during the challenging year of the pandemic. He enjoyed the interaction with the administration in the weekly or monthly planning of events and developing a budget to support student and staff activities. One of the highlights of his volunteerism was soliciting funds from Kiwanis members to purchase bicycles to be awarded to two students at each grade level who made perfect attendance for the year. Mr. Oyler values the tremendous work of each school personnel, and to show it he secured funds for breakfast and lunch appreciations. Before the pandemic, he and other members helped in the school’s book fair by managing cash registers. Over the past 3 years, he has served in the scholarship committee to select deserving seniors from all of Baytown’s high schools. For Mr. Oyler, every child deserves the best education possible, including mentoring and support by a caring community of volunteers.
Anna Marie Hornsby (Pleasant Grove Independent School District – SBOE District 9)
Anna Marie Hornsby has been involved in her fair share of snack donations and sorting t-shirts, but her volunteerism was truly transformational as an athletic and drill team booster club officer, Health Advisory Committee member, and Pleasant Grove ISD Education Foundation founding member. She helped the athletic booster club raise over $100,000 to better support the student athletes, celebrate their successes, and contribute to uniforms and equipment. The drill team has traveled to competitions, purchased new uniforms, and received special technique and choreography training. As president, the Education Foundation saw its highest grossing year, with the most recent fundraiser netting over $58,000. Ms. Hornsby’s openness to new ideas and implementation of new technology to support annual and staff campaigns has contributed to the foundation’s sustainable success. Since 2007, the foundation has raised over $500,000 and awarded over 150 grants that directly benefited students and teachers.
Terri Romere (Travis/Williamson Counties - SBOE District 10)
Terri Romere’s first volunteer work was as a mentor for disadvantaged elementary school children and for incarcerated girls. Her work eventually led her to serve on the Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees. When her term was over, she wanted to support local students with their livestock projects which were part of their supervised agricultural experience program, but this endeavor required raising funds to accomplish the goal. That’s when she and her husband created the Raise ‘Em Up Foundation with the mission to provide programmatic and financial support for agriculture students to learn life skills including personal responsibility, fair play, good sportsmanship, hard work, integrity, leadership, and community. In addition to the support provided for livestock projects, the foundation also offers grants for local programs to enhance education and training for students and staff in Austin, Del Valle, Dripping Springs, Florence, Georgetown, Jarrell, Lake Travis, Leander, Liberty Hill, Manor, Pflugerville, Round Rock, Taylor, Thrall, and Tomball school districts with the hopes of eventually reaching all school districts in Central Texas. Ms. Romere believes that this mission is consistent with the mission of Texas public education to raise up each succeeding generation of Texans to be active participants in the free-market economy and fully engaged as citizens.
Randy Cutshall (Weatherford Independent School District - SBOE District 11)
Randy Cutshall uses his talent in photography to offer his most valued time to the Weatherford ISD community. The magnitude of his volunteer service is displayed in each moment captured by his still camera on the sidelines on Friday nights in the fall. On a typical Friday night, he is seen taking photos of the varsity volleyball games and then making his way to the varsity football game. He captures photos of the plays on the field and also makes sure he captures photos of the band members, drill team, cheerleaders, trainers, coaches, and all recognitions that occur during the game. Throughout the school year, Mr. Cutshall is present at most extracurricular events, where he takes hundreds of action photos that parents cannot capture from the stands. He uses his expertise to offer assistance with camera settings and camera angles to the students taking photos for their newsletters and yearbook. Most importantly, he freely shares his photos on social media, where parents can download their photos at no cost. During the 2020 graduation ceremony, Mr. Cutshall was able to capture the moment with drone photos of the stadium filled with the senior class and their families.
Jon Boyd (Allen Independent School District - SBOE District 12)
Jon Boyd has been a valuable community partner with Allen ISD for many years. As fire chief, he consistently looks for opportunities to partner with the district, promote civil service and community education, and demonstrate support to students and staff. Mr. Boyd’s steady leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic helped provide a sense of calm throughout the school district and greater Allen community. In the early days of the pandemic, Mr. Boyd regularly hosted emergency-planning conference calls and ensured that Allen ISD had a voice at the table. His insight was invaluable as district leaders assessed the early numbers of active COVD-19 cases and made plans for the school year. An agreement was created between the district and the Allen Fire Department to utilize the parking lot of Allen Eagle Stadium as an official vaccination site. This partnership allowed for a centrally located vaccination site, ease of traffic flow, and efficiency for the distribution. Most important of all, it helped the community morale in uncertain times. In just a few months after educators were given the priority, the Allen Fire Department was able to administer more than 94,000 vaccines. Staff members, teachers, and the Allen community constantly complimented Chief Boyd and his team for such an incredible partnership with the district to get things done in an efficient manner.
Opal Lee (Fort Worth Independent School District - SBOE District 13)
Opal Lee is a true pioneer for social justice and education. A retired teacher, counselor, and activist in the movement to make Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday, she is often described as the "grandmother of Juneteenth.” Ms. Lee has done tremendous work to make Juneteenth a national holiday, along with creating a children’s book to help educate the youth on Juneteenth and its importance. She walked long miles in her quest to draw attention to the significance of the day. That Juneteenth is not just a day for festivities, but a National Day of Observance, for the freedom she sought for six decades. Ms. Lee is in the Fort Worth ISD Hall of Fame and has a mural in downtown Fort Worth dedicated to her works in education for Fort Worth, Texas.
Mary Ann Jack (Copperas Cove Independent School District - SBOE District 14)
Mary Ann Jack may be retired but has not stopped advocating for the children of Copperas Cove ISD.
She is a passionate and dedicated volunteer, and serving the students of her community is her primary focus. As a founding member of the Five Hills Scholarship Program, she has put her stamp on its fundraising efforts, including securing sponsorships, which requires a special talent to master. Under Ms. Jack’s guidance, the program awarded more than $110,000 in scholarships and prizes in 2021. Since 2014, the program has awarded close to $500,000 in various forms of scholarships and prizes, such as new laptops that greatly benefited deserving students. Her volunteer service extends to helping create graphics for the different activities and prepares music beds for student fundraisers. Often, she is found facilitating the front table at all fundraisers selling tickets and taking admission fees, and she also helps with set-up and tear down and never leaves before clean-up is completed.
Amy Punchard (Lubbock-Cooper Independent School District - SBOE District 15)
Amy Punchard is a passionate parent and community member who is devoted to helping every child in Lubbock-Cooper ISD succeed. She believes in the mission that every child deserves every opportunity and is making that a reality for the district. As president of the Lubbock-Cooper Education Foundation, she led the most successful fundraising concert to date. Over the course of the foundation’s existence, around $900,000 was contributed to the classrooms in the form of innovative grants and scholarships. More than half of the funds were raised under her leadership. She was responsible for securing media endorsements, distributing yard signs, handing out fliers, and making presentations to community meetings. She also co-chaired the committee that worked with the community to secure the funds to build a new middle school, high schools, and a football stadium, to renovate local schools, and proceed with other renovation projects that would benefit the fast-growing district. In her own words, “it was truly a team effort and a labor of love.” Her service is a testament to her volunteerism and passion to impact generations of Lubbock-Cooper families for decades to come.