Friday, May 26, 2017

Rewarding the Determination to Succeed

Having a high grade point average (GPA) is great, but proving that you have the drive to roll with life’s punches on your journey to college is also important. And for three Mansfield ISD seniors, that trait is being rewarded.

The Dell Scholars Program annually awards $20,000, a laptop, textbook credits and ongoing support to students who demonstrate that they have a different type of GPA—grit, potential and ambition.

Medina (left) and Ali (right) said they value service
and want to make a difference in people's lives.
Timberview High School’s Maria Medina and Hana Ali, along with Summit High School’s Samira Bideh, were three of the 400 finalists nationwide.

Medina said she has come a long way from being the little girl who moved to the U.S. from Mexico and didn’t learn English until the second grade. Despite the naysayers and doubters she encountered, she was determined to make something of herself.

“I started getting really good at English by fourth grade,” Medina said. “The next year, I was taking Pre-AP classes. I was nervous at first, but my teachers kept encouraging me to try it.”

The senior is now graduating from high school with enough credits to enter Texas A&M University as a sophomore this fall in hopes of becoming an immigration lawyer and, eventually, the president of Mexico.

Her classmate Ali also knows a thing or two about not letting life’s experiences deter the future. The fellow Dell Scholar lost her father when she was in the eighth grade. Instead of making excuses for herself, she pushed herself even harder.

“It was a hard time for my family,” Ali explained. “But I’ve always valued education, and I knew it’s what my dad would have wanted. Doing good in school would make my parents proud, and that’s what I wanted to continue to do.”

And there’s certainly a lot to be proud of. Ali will be graduating as valedictorian of her class. She will also be attending the University of Texas at Arlington with a full ride and some leftover money for medical school.

Bideh said she's ready to take on college
and further her education in graduate school.
Over at Summit High School, Bideh spent her high school years striving to succeed by juggling school, a job and her extracurricular activities—all while still keeping up with her grades. She said her determination comes from her parents who came to America from Somali speaking little to no English when she was an infant.

“They didn’t know the system or how anything worked since it was a new country,” she recalled. “I just kept putting education first. But even if you don’t have the best grades, showcase the different things you’re good at to prove to colleges that you have what it takes.”

Bideh, who is one of six siblings, said that she plans to attend the University of Arlington. She wants to major in biology to become a physician assistant.

Although these ladies may have had different life paths and obstacles, they kept their positive attitude through it all. Now, with the welcomed surprise of being a 2017 Dell Scholar, they will be able to use their positivity to help others through their respective careers.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Elementary Students Get Innovative in the Classroom

Visitors at Elizabeth Smith Elementary School this week had to watch out for photographers, flying Frisbee discs and even students taking part in military formations. The different activities were all part of the school's first ever Innovation Week.

Innovation Week is an opportunity for students to step outside of their everyday curriculum and explore subjects of interest in a project-based learning environment. Project-based learning is a way of instruction in which students gain knowledge and skills by investigating and responding to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge over a longer time period rather than just one class session.

Each student had the opportunity to select one of 15 areas to work with for the entire five days. Areas ranged from baseball and softball to movie making and Frisbee golf. Teachers and parent volunteers with experience in these areas were on campus all week to help the students through the process of learning their exploratory area.

A student in the gardening class works on her fairy garden
project for Innovation Week at Elizabeth Smith Elementary.
Stormi Berry, Smith Elementary physical education aide and instructor for the Innovation Week’s hair design classes, feels that while the students are learning a new skill, seeing them intermingle with students from other grades is the real story of the event.

"Students from all grades participate in each area. They are all together, kindergarten through fourth grade, and it has been really fun seeing the older kids become big brother or big sisters to the younger ones," Berry said. "The older kids are excited to be a mentor to the young ones, and the younger students just love hanging out with the older kids."

For Cody Cross, taking part in the photography club and learning from some really great teachers has made this the best week ever.

"I love photography group because we take so many pictures, our teachers are amazingly nice and this is just the best time I have ever had at school."

Principal Lea Boiles hopes her students leave Innovation Week with an even further love of learning.

"My hope for Innovation Week is for students to engage in creative critical thinking activities that include building relationships, collaboration and community service," she said. "All of this is done in an atmosphere that promotes a love for learning and a desire to make a positive impact on our little part of the world, leaving it a better place than when we started."

Friday, April 7, 2017

MISD Departments Work Together After Storm

Storms rolled through Mansfield ISD in the early morning hours on March 29. The damage caused by these storms forced MISD to close the district for the day while repairs were made to campuses.

Not all employees were free from work that day. In fact, many departments put in extra hours in order to make sure classes were ready to resume the following day.

To dealing with power outages and fallen trees, many employees found themselves doing jobs that may not fall in their respective duties.

Mark Williamson, MISD's director of maintenance, and his team were up early assessing and repairing the damage made.

"I had plumbers getting batting cages off backstops. I had electricians helping with the removal of trees," Williamson stated about the flexibility of his staff. "I had carpenters working with the grounds team collect and remove debris. It was all hands on deck."

The scoreboard at Timberview High School's
baseball field was damaged by the storm.
When the power goes out on a campus, it affects more than just the classroom environment. The Student Nutrition department has to immediately begin to implement a plan for their food inventory on campuses. Many of the campuses powered back up before the inventory could be affected; but for five campuses, plans had to be made to maintain the quality of the food.

Dr. Paul Cash, executive director of facilities and operations, was very pleased with the districtwide effort that was made to help these campuses.

"The distribution department rounded up their freezer trucks and arranged pick ups at the five campuses needing assistance," Cash said. "Student nutrition technicians, members of the MISD Energy Team and other district employees were on site to load these trucks in order to maintain quality of the food."

The ultimate goal on any weather-related school dismissal day is to get students back in the classroom as soon as possible. Through the efforts of numerous departments working together, MISD was able to return to class the next day.

"The majority of teachers returned to class the next day with lights on and food being served to students," Cash explained. "Not once during all the work that lead to that did one person make a negative comment about the job that had to be done. They got up and came to work committed to stay as long as they needed to stay in order to get kids back to school."

Friday, March 31, 2017

Industry Certifications Prepare Students for Future

Walking through the halls of Ben Barber Innovation Academy (BBIA) and Frontier High School, you may see students operating a hand-built robot, filming a short film about the effects of coffee or even working on a full engine rebuild for a classic car.

Principal Cathy Hudgins is proud of not only the numerous choices her students have, but also what opportunities those choices open up for them.

"We offer a wide range of career classes here, but what is more impressive is that we offer over 70 different industry-level certifications within those courses," Hudgins said.

The availability of industry certifications or certificates aligns directly with one of the guiding statements found in the Mansfield ISD’s strategic plan, Vision 2020. Vision 2020 states that all students will graduate with 24 or more college hours and/or an industry certification or certificate.

In support of Vision 2020, Hudgins and her staff have been investigating more certifications that could be offered through the current courses at BBIA and Frontier High. They are excited to add many new options in the 2017-18 school year that will help students become more career-ready upon leaving high school.

A culinary arts student prepares to cook an entree at Savvy's Bistro,
BBIA's student-run restaurant.
One such certification is the ProStart Certification in Culinary Arts. Students working in the culinary arts department are currently required to obtain their ServSafe certification in food handling, but the ProStart Certification will be the first skills-based certification in this program of study.

"This certification will allow our students to walk into any restaurant in the United States and immediately get a heads up on everyone else," Hudgins continued. "This is a proven industry certification that shows they are at the highest level of skills and ability."

The Arts and Audio/Visual (AV) Department will begin to offer students the opportunity to get a certification in the video editing software Adobe Premiere CC. This is an editing platform that is used at local news stations, large media companies and major Hollywood studios.

Hudgins is also excited about a new certification that will be coming to BBIA's marketing program.

"We are bringing a new certification to our marketing department that is called School-Based Enterprise Certification," Hudgins explained. "As the students work through the student store, they will learn the backend of store management, marketing, pricing and more. That is all included in this certification."

Also included in this guiding statement from Vision 2020, students will graduate with 24 or more college hours. Frontier High School offers a program that can help students interested in the area of health science to get a head start on their college education. The Health Science Academy through Tarrant County College Trinity River East Campus (TREC) allows students to earn up to 48 hours of college credit before graduating high school. Students who complete all 48 hours will earn their associate degree before they walk the stage and receive their diploma.

"Earning certifications is a great way for students to measure their achievement in classes," Hudgins said. "It also gives them a leg up as they are trying to get into colleges or go into the workforce."

For more information about MISD’s Vision 2020, visit the district website.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Elementary Schools Unite to Create Jr. Hoops Basketball Club

Sports fans around the country have been filling out brackets and following along with the NCAA basketball tournament, but a group of Mansfield ISD elementary schools are taking part in their own version of March Madness.

Early in the school year, Janet Brockett Elementary School principal, Tamara Liddell, was introduced to the district’s guiding statements for the newly introduced strategic plan Vision 2020. One of the guiding statements states that all students will be involved in at least one extra or co-curricular activity, Liddell immediately had an idea.

"My colleagues and I began talking about how we could support Vision 2020, I threw out starting a basketball league,” Liddell said about the creation of the league. "We started and he had six schools that wanted to be involved. Our children were ecstatic to now have, what they have asked for quite often, basketball."

The team from Imogene Gideon receives the trophy
after winning the championship game of the playoffs
For the first year of the MISD Elementary Basketball League, teams from Janet Brockett, Imogene Gideon, Louise Cabaniss, Thelma Jones, Erma Nash and Glenn Harmon elementary schools played weekly games against each other and concluded their season with a playoff tournament.
In order to give these elementary students the feel of the 'big leagues,' the games are played at James Coble Middle School. Coaches from within the school community volunteer their time to help these young hoop hopefuls hone their skills and prepare for each game.

These games are more than just basketball competition for the students on the team; many of the schools have started a cheerleading club to support the students on game nights, as well on campus. The cheer clubs are responsible for organizing pep rallies for the teams on game day, providing signs and spirit sticks to fans, but most importantly they are there to cheer their team on at the game.

By having so many students involved in various ways, this event is truly bringing the MISD community together. During these games, the stands in the middle school gyms are packed with parents, grandparents, and other students from their campuses.

The students are not only getting to play a sport they love, but also getting to learn teamwork, sportsmanship and also having the opportunity to make new friends. Juelz Harris, an Imogene Gideon fourth grader, is really enjoying this experience.

"We have built a lot of friendships and it has been very fun working with our coaches. It’s my favorite sport, I am glad we get to play now."

For the principals of these campuses, the league isn’t about a trophy or wins and loses. Shanee Charles, Principal at Imogene Gideon Elementary, appreciates what this league is teaching, not only her students, but the school community as a whole.

"I feel like this basketball league has not only given us a stronger sense of community, but also, a stronger sense of school pride. The other students that are not on the team come to school asking who we play this week and if we’ve won the game. Next year we would like to see this program grow to more campuses."

Friday, March 10, 2017

MISD Elementary School Trains Leaders of the Future

An eye-opening trip to the Ron Clark Academy inspired MISD principal Tameka Patton to bring a very special program back to Nancy Neal Elementary School.

"At the Ron Clark Academy, we were greeted by students who asked us questions and asked what was our mission there,” Patton said. “I’ve got students at Nancy Neal that can do this."

Superintendent Dr. Jim Vaszauskas spent time with the Neal
Ambassadors earlier in the year teaching them the importance
of being a life-long learner.
The Nancy Neal Ambassadors are the student body representatives that assist in campus community outreach efforts and serve as hosts for special guests to the campus.

They are a key component of telling the “Neal story” to guests who visit the campus.

"Students had to complete an application and meet an application deadline,” ambassador co-sponsor Erica Carswell stated about the selection process of the students who would become ambassadors. “They were then brought in for face to face interviews. We selected the top ten students and they became Neal Ambassadors."

For Turner Hawkins, applying to be an ambassador was an obvious choice.

"I chose to join because I thought I would do a great job because I love helping people. This has taught me that if you work together, you can get more done." Hawkins said.

Through the direction of their sponsors, school leadership and the many special guests they have welcomed into their meetings, the Neal Ambassadors are learning character, responsibility and the value of a heart for service.

The students have had the privilege of learning leadership traits from a number of guest speakers. Superintendent Dr. Jim Vaszauskas spent time with students early in the year talking about what it means to have a heart for service and the importance of being a life long learner. Recently, the ambassadors welcomed Leigh Collins, district director for Senator Konni Burton, who talked about the importance of goal setting. The students listened to her speak and ask questions about her educational path and her career.

Ultimately, the Neal Ambassador Program is about building leaders of the future in areas such as public speaking, responsibility or introductions; the possibilities are endless.

Co-sponsor Monique McGrew says it’s all about their character.

"The one thing we have really honed in this year, and tried to instill on each student is character, who are you when no one’s looking."