Friday, November 20, 2015

MISD Students Create Stroke of Kindness for Children in Need

Portraits that are ready to be shipped to children overseas.
The students in Summit High School’s Pre-AP and AP art classes have a knack for bringing objects to life on a piece of paper; but they never expected that their talents would be able to change the lives of children in impoverished countries.

Through The Memory Project, the students created portraits for youth around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as neglect, abuse, loss of parents, and extreme poverty. The finished portraits are then sent back to the nonprofit organization and personally delivered to the child.

Art teacher Jennifer Messer learned about the project and presented the idea to her students. She said it can be difficult for an artist to give away his or her work, but her students didn’t think twice about it.

“They were super excited about the project,” said Messer. “I wanted them to have a sense of how much their talent would mean to somebody else and the kindness that the child would see from getting such a personal art piece.”

Junior Drew Johnson putting the finishing touches on his artwork.
Many people wouldn’t consider having a picture of themselves as being a luxury; but for thousands of underprivileged children around the world, it is the one thing they can finally call their own.

“A lot of times, these kids have to share their belongings, so this is something just for him to keep,” said junior Drew Johnson about the boy from Madagascar who will receive his portrait. “I hope he’s really happy with it.”

Senior Katelynn Sigrist used her portrait to share a message of thinking past current circumstances and setting bigger goals.

“The background of his portrait is outer space because I wanted him to feel like he can go anywhere and do anything,” said Sigrist. “I wanted to put him somewhere he wouldn’t have thought to go.”

Katelynn Sigrist paints a picture she hopes will give
inspiration to the young boy who receives it.
Messer said she’s proud of her students and is not surprised about the level of talent she saw with the finished artwork.

“They all did a fantastic job,” Messer added. “Each of them got to use their own artistic voice, and they brought true passion to each portrait.”

With the help of talented artists like the students in Summit High's advanced art classes, The Memory Project has been able to create more than 80,000 portraits for children in 35 countries.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Land of the Free Because of the Brave

No matter which Mansfield ISD school you stepped foot into on Veterans Day, there was a recurring theme of extreme gratitude from staff and students.

Veterans were invited to an array of events, which included flag raisings, free breakfast, patriotic programs, and parades. It may not seem like a big gesture—and compared to the sacrifice our service men and women make to serve our country, it’s not—but it was a token of appreciation that went a long way for those who served and are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

A veteran at one of the campus events wearing
a reminder that freedom costs.
For Lyle Keith, who retired from the U.S. Army with a ranking of Spec. 5, programs like “Bring a Vet to Lunch” at Elizabeth Smith Elementary are special.

“I’m the only vet in the family for my granddaughters, so I took a day off to be here,” said Keith who has two granddaughters at Smith Elementary. “I feel it’s very important because it gives these children a heritage and teaches respect for veterans.”

Grace Lindsay, second lieutenant in Summit High School’s JROTC program, said she’s proud to celebrate Veterans Day because veterans are the foundation of the country.

“They’re the people who’ve given us what we need—the people who’ve shown us that we can do our stuff with them as our front line,” said Lindsay. “They can protect us and still keep us safe even when we’re at school.”

Because we realize that freedom is not free, MISD thanks all those who served the U.S. in times of war and peace. Veterans Day is celebrated once a year every Nov. 11, but our appreciation will last a lifetime.

View the full Mansfield ISD Veterans Day 2015 photo gallery here.

Friday, November 6, 2015

MISD High School Art Camp Quadruples in Size

Dallas Williams (left) and her art camp students.
When it comes to creating art, there is an element of surprise that can sometimes lead to a stroke of genius. The same concept came into play when Timberview High School art teacher Dallas Williams prepared to launch an art camp seven years ago.

When Williams was in high school, she experienced a tough time, and it wasn’t until she connected with her art teacher-turned-mentor that she gained clarity about her future.

“I went from being a very poor student to a straight-A student,” recalls Williams. “It was definitely the relationship I made with my art teacher that made all the difference for me.”

Williams went on to receive the “Bootstrap Award” for improvement her senior year. It was then that she decided she wanted to work to inspire positive change in the lives of students, just as her mentor had done for her.

Williams has now been teaching art for 20 years, 10 of which have been in MISD at Timberview High School. Seven years ago, she began offering an art camp for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Middle school and high school students also participate in the camp as volunteer helpers and counselors. As the camp gained popularity, Williams gladly developed a plan for expansion. There are now four art camps offered throughout the year.

The camp has drawn students from all across the district, as well as some out-of-district students. For Williams, the greatest surprise has been watching the relationships develop between the campers and the high school students that volunteer as counselors.

“Watching the creative connection between the kids is so rewarding,” Williams said. “A lot of them continue to come back each year and they build on those relationships. It’s really special for me because I can say firsthand; you never know when you’re going to meet that one person or mentor that could change your life forever.”

A student learning how to sculpt clay.
Many of the counselors enjoy helping out with the camp so much that they continue to volunteer even after they’ve graduated from Timberview.

“My absolute favorite thing about the camp is getting to know all of the little kids and seeing their personalities come out through their artwork,” said 12th grader Keshayla Gainer, who is considering returning to volunteer at camp after graduation this spring.

In addition to being an avenue for the development of many friendships and mentor-mentee relationships, the camp also serves as a substantial fundraiser. This year, Williams will be taking some art students on a trip to New York where they will have an opportunity to view lots of famous art and take part in a workshop at the legendary Guggenheim Museum.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Respect Yourself. Be Drug Free.

Red Ribbon Week, the nationwide campaign to take a stand against drugs, is 30 years strong and continues to gain momentum. The annual initiative is held every year on Oct. 23-31.

Joe Scriv, Champ, Principal Rita Ashley, and Mavs Man
getting ready to inspire kids to be drug free.
Campuses around Mansfield ISD joined the effort to show the importance of living a drug-free lifestyle. Students and staff took part in activities like putting a cap to drugs by hearing hats, showing that they have power over drugs by dressing up as super heroes, and turning their backs to drugs by wearing their clothes backwards.

Mary Lillard Intermediate School had something special in store for their students to kick off Red Ribbon Week. Dallas Mavericks mascots Champ and Mavs Man visited the campus to encourage the kids to stay confident and resist peer pressure.

“We talk to the kids about making sure they stay drug free and make better choices so that they can stay on the path to success,” said Joe Scriv of the Dallas Mavericks Organization.

Organizers said the performers were the perfect touch to get the message across.

“We really wanted to provide something students could relate to,” said Lillard PTA chairperson Lisa Huff. “After brainstorming, we thought this high-energy show would bolster student morale and let the students know that cool people really don’t do drugs.”

Mansfield Mayor David Cook and Principal Rita Ashley
after the proclamation of Red Ribbon Week.
The finale was certainly one to remember as Mavs Man dunked over several students and staff who were standing under the basketball net. It was yet another reminder to the kids that they can’t perform at those optimum levels if they start using drugs.

Mansfield Mayor David Cook ended the event by proclaiming it to be Red Ribbon Week in the City of Mansfield. He inspired the crowd to take the Red Ribbon theme to heart throughout the entire year: Respect yourself. Be drug free.

Friday, October 23, 2015

MISD Basketball Team Looks to Continue Two-Year Undefeated Streak

Coach Alex Howard holding a trophy with his 2014-15 team
after being named tournament champions.
T.A. Howard Middle School basketball coach Alex Howard has been coaching for 20 years; but when he first came to Mansfield ISD three years ago, he said he knew there was something special about the group of boys who would later make up his eighth grade team.

“Those guys were really good and competitive,” said Howard. “They had natural talent, but they also had a relentless work ethic. They were always willing to get better, and you don’t see that all the time. Everyone who saw them play noticed it too.”

The team went undefeated as seventh graders in the 2013-14 school year, and continued to be unstoppable as eighth graders the following year. The boys dominated in all in-district games, out-of-district games, and tournaments. Howard said his eighth graders never shied away from tough teams all over the metroplex.

“Parents, referees, workers—people from everywhere we played would always stop and ask how I was able to get all of those highly skilled players on one team,” Howard continued. “It was a sight to see, and all of them were MISD-bred.”

Eighth graders Timi Efunboade and Jaedaun Slack after
a day of drills in basketball class.
With that type of notoriety, there’s a lot of pressure on T.A. Howard’s new eighth grade basketball team to carry on the tradition this season, but Jaedaun Slack says he’s up for the challenge.

“I want to keep it going,” said Slack, who looked up to the undefeated team as a seventh grader. “It’ll take hard work and teamwork, but I think we can do it.”

Timi Efunboade, who is also ready for a flawless season, said he thinks the 2015-16 team can do it again if they learn to cooperate on and off the court.

“On the court, last year’s team played every game with all their hearts like it was their last. Off the court, they were really good friends. I want to do an even better job of that this year,” said Efunboade.

The Howard Knights will get a chance to carry on that legacy in the coming weeks. Tryouts are Nov. 9-11, and the first game is Nov. 19.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Day of Fun for MISD Students with Special Needs

A student getting support as he prepares for the 100m dash.
Several weeks of planning and several hours of coordinating logistics among every campus at Mansfield ISD was all worth it when staff and volunteers saw one simple gesture—the smile of a child.

MISD’s 11th annual Special Education Field Day was held on October 14 and 15 at the track behind Brooks Wester Middle School. It was a chance for all students in the district’s Fundamental Academic Living Skills (FALS) classes to kick back and enjoy a half-day of games, sporting events, and dancing. More than 200 students attended the field days. Intermediate-level students attended on the first day followed by elementary students the next day.

The Special Education Field Day was created by the Adaptive Physical Education Department, made up of David Jimenez, Rudy Dominguez, Dana Beal, and Becky Poggensee. The group said the event started as a Special Olympics tryout event, but later expanded to provide recreational opportunities to all MISD students with special needs.

“It’s just a great opportunity to see the children be successful,” said Poggensee. “They get to be the kids that they are without worries, and the parents love to see their children having fun too.”

Jeremy Green with his son Ashton after Field Day ended.
Jeremy Green, parent of a fourth grader with Pitt-Hopkins Syndrome, said he remembers back when he was in school and not every child was given the fair chance to participate in field day events.

“They didn’t have days like this when I was in school, so I love that Mansfield ISD does this,” said Green. “My favorite part is seeing the kids run against each other and the excitement on their faces when they finish the race.”

Although field day is a day of fun, there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. Transportation ensures every student leaves and returns safely, and dozens of staff take the necessary precautions to keep every child safe at the event.

“It’s overwhelming to me to see what our teachers do every day to make sure these children are taken care of,” said Carmelynn Bragiel, director of special education. “I call them the unsung heroes.”

With the help of those teachers and staff, along with student and parent volunteers, cheerful grins were seen all around; and that’s what keeps the Adaptive Physical Education Department motivated to keep getting better each year.

 View a full photo gallery of the two-day field day event here.