Rotarians present ‘Youth Citizenship Awards’

These 16 local elementary students were selected by their respective school principals for high character and leadership traits and were selected to receive Rotary Club of Kerrville's Youth Citizenship Award.

Recognizing exemplary characteristics of 16 local elementary students, the Rotary Club of Kerrville hosted the annual “Youth Citizenship Awards” event at its regular meeting Aug. 5, partnering with Schreiner University, eight different school districts and a host of volunteers.

In addition to recognition and awards, each student will receive a four-year, $5,000 scholarship, for a total of $20,000 toward attending Schreiner University.

While the large luncheon was not feasible this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, the club organized a virtual event that included the students, their parents, school administrators and teachers.

“The awards luncheon was originally scheduled last spring, but there was no way to make it happen at that time, so we rescheduled it to Aug. 5,” Rotary Club of Kerrville President Tammy Prout said. “We still didn’t feel it was safe to bring a large crowd together, but didn’t want these amazing young people to be overlooked. Event organizer Jeff Anderson and club administrator Kristy Vandenberg did an excellent job creating this online experience.”

Anderson and his committee of volunteers made sure all students and their families could log on to the meeting to be recognized. He also coordinated with Kroc Center staff to provide a socially-distanced gathering for families without access to the internet.

“We still got to see all of their faces and we hope that they felt as special as they are,” Prout said.

The students were selected by their respective school prinicipals last spring as fifth graders. The criteria for selection includes the concept of “Service Above Self,” the Rotary motto; and the six pillars of “Character Counts,” which are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

This year’s Youth Citizenship Award recipients are:

Izaiah Ortiz

Center Point ISD

He dreams of traveling the world, producing YouTube content and becoming a Master Lego builder.

“Izaiah has a quick wit, hilarious charm and outstanding work ethic. He is always willing to help and makes everyone feel comfortable and welcome. Schreiner University is fortunate that Izaiah plans to be a future Mountaineer,” Center Point Elementary Principal Jennifer George said.

Izaiah is the son of Hector and Maria Ortiz.

Jaycee Crawley

Center Point ISD

Jaycee looks forward to riding horses professionally and dreams of becoming a teacher like the ones who have inspired her.

“Jaycee is a strong, independent woman in the best possible ways. Asserting attributes of kindness and tenacity, she will excel at all challenges. A Schreiner legacy, she has her eyes on the goal of becoming a Mountaineer,” Center Point Elementary Principal Jennifer George said.

Jaycee is the daughter of Shanna and Billy Crawley.

Cleighton Cox

Hunt ISD

Cleighton hopes to become a missionary or preacher and dreams of becoming an inventor of STEM programs.

“Cleighton is a ‘We’ person who consistently practices ‘Service Above Self.’ Always available to help other students, he is exceptionally gifted in making others feel comfortable and always sharing a positive ‘can do’ attitude,” Hunt Elementary Principal Tammy Brown said.

Cleighton is the son of Katie and Brandon Cox.

Emery Neal

Hunt ISD

Emery would like to be an elementary teacher, because she enjoys teaching kids new things. She dreams of traveling the world and of having her own farm with lots of animals.

“Emery Neal is a hardworking, creative thinker. She is engaging, with tremendous strength of character and integrity. She is sensitive to the ideas and needs of those around her and her peers respect her as a ‘We Focused’ person,” Hunt Elementary Principal Tammy Brown said.

Emery is the daughter of Marissa and Ryan Neal.

Christopher Gloria

Ingram ISD

Christopher dreams of studying medicine to become a doctor so he can help care for other people.

“Christopher is a detail-oriented and caring young man who is passionate about his endeavors. He is always there for a friend in need with his kind heart and caring personality. Even in the face of adversity, he brings strength to resolve each situation,” Ingram Elementary Principal Donna Jenschke said.

Christopher is the son of Dalila Flores and Christian Gloria.

Paola Limones Estrada

Ingram ISD

Paola dreams of becoming a doctor or teacher to help others. She also wants to travel across the world.

“Paola is an exemplary student and leader. She is very bright, with an incredible work ethic and attention to detail. Her positive attitude, respect for others and willingness to practice ‘Service Above Self’ in helping others make her an exceptional candidate for Schreiner University,” Ingram Elementary Principal Donna Jenschke said.

Paola is the daughter of Rosa Estrada Limones and Jose Carlos Limones.

Giovanni Salinas

Notre Dame Catholic School

Giovanni wants to pursue a career in an archaeology-related field and is especially intrested in traveling to Japan.

“Gio exemplifies the attributes of a ‘We’ oriented young man. He is kind and compassionate with his classmates and is admired as a conscientious student,” NDCS Principal Sandi Killo said.

Giovanni is the son of Lindsey and Jorge Salinas.

Danica Blaker

Notre Dame Catholic School

Danica wants to be a lawyer so she can make a difference in the world. She plans to travel to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower and to experience French culture and cuisine.

“Danica’s growth as a voracious reader inspires others. She exemplifies ‘We’ attributes in her willingness to help others with her positive ‘We’ attitude,” NDCS Principal Sandi Killo said.

Danica is the daughter of Shelly and Brandon Blaker.

Mauricio Fierro Puebla

Nimitz Elementary

Mauricio dreams of being a first responder as a police officer or a fireman. He also loves to cook with his dad and would enjoy being a chef.

“Mauricio is one of the most polite, respectful and hardworking young men we have come to know. He serves many roles in the Nimitz Admirals Leadership group and always leads with the utmost character,” Nimitz Elementary Principal Julie Johnson said.

Mauricio is the son of Raquel Fierro and Cesar Puebla Benitez.

Baleria Sanchez

Nimitz Elementary

Baleria would like to be a teacher or a doctor and dreams of traveling to Paris.

“Baleria puts ‘Service Above Self’ and is a wonderful asset to the Nimitz campus. Her leadership and determination and drive are an inspiration to her peers,” Nimitz Elementary Principal Julie Johnson said.

Baleria is the daughter of Oralia Benitez and Jaime Sanchez.

Tennyson Mejia

Starkey Elementary

Tennyson dreams of becoming a marine biologist or paleontologist. He is also interested in becoming a professional soccer player or musician.

“Tennyson is a hardworking, kind-hearted, ambitious student, who is a leader and role model. He participated in Character Council, Starkey Stiners, Boys of Steel and Sensational Scorpions,” Starkey Elementary Principal Jenna Wentrcek said.

Tennyson is the son of Diana Yanez and Abraham Mejia.

Paulina Orta

Starkey Elementary

Paulina dreams of becoming a lawyer to help with environmental and climate changes issues. She would like to visit Paris, Rome and China.

“Paulina is exceptional, talented and hardworking. She always strives for excellence in academics and in her others activities. Paulina is a true leader and role model,” Starkey Elementary Principal Jenna Wentrcek said.

Paulina is the daughter of Maria Mejia and Martin Orta.

Trevin Vegara

Tally Elementary

Trevin dreams of becoming an architect and hopes to play soccer in college. He also aspires to travel to Alaska and explore the great outdoors.

“Trevin puts ‘We Before Me’ when it comes to serving our community. He is goal-focused and possesses the grit to be succesful in all he undertakes. He is a pleasure to have in class, with his attributes of kindness, laughter and critical thinking,” Tally Elementary Principal Gena Robertson said.

Trevin is the son of Casandra and Alveniz Vergara.

Danna Cisneros

Tally Elementary

Danna plans to major in pre-med and then specialize in oncology so that she can help those who suffer from cancer.

“Danna is an outstanding young lady who is poised for great achievements. She exudes gracefulness and wisdom, is kind and a friend to all. She always has a positive outlook on life. Danna models all six of the pillars of ‘Service Above Self,” Tally Elementary Principal Gena Robertson said.

Danna is the daughter of Marta and Carlos Cisneros.

Carlos Lopez

Tom Daniels Elementary

Carlos likes science and technology and dreams of becoming an engineer.

“Carlos is intelligent, articulate and mature. When asked a question, he takes time to consider many ideas. He enjoys being creative and is a loyal friend. With his leadership skills, he is a valued member of his school community,” Tom Daniels Elementary Principal Amy Billeiter said.

Carlos is the son of Edna Lopez and Carlos Lopez Torres.

Rhesa Huerta

Tom Daniels Elementary

Rhesa dreams of a career focused on helping animals, where she can expand her passion for puppies and make the world a brighter place.

“Rhesa is a kind, intelligent and thoughtful young lady. She is self-motivated and is filled with creative ideas. Rhesa has been a joy to have in class and is a ‘We’ person who places ‘Service Above Self’,” Tom Daniels Elementary Principal Amy Billeiter said.

Anderson, Rotarian and event coordinator, welcomed guests and highlighted the reason for hosting such an event.

“What brings us together today is to highlight the achievements of 16 youth here in Kerr County, who throughout elementary school have engaged in ‘Service Above Self’ and become ‘We Are Greater Than Me’ people,” Anderson said. “They have been examples in their schools of encouraging youth citizenship, of educating themselves and others, and have been a part of helping to recognize what differentiates an active citizen.”

Anderson said the Rotary Youth Citizenship Awards is “about rewarding those youth and its about honoring the teachers, schools and parents.”

Anderson explained that he and his volunteers coordinate with the local elementary schools to introduce the “We Is Greater Than Me” curriculum through the Read2Win program, with the help of Steve Schmidt, Ph.D, also known as “Chief Golden Eagle,” who visits each school to help facilitate the program.

Anderson said he was pleased and humbled by Scheiner University’s gift to each student of the $20,000 total scholarship.

Dr. Charlie McCormick, president of the Schreiner University, congratulated each student and said he looked foward to seeing them on campus.

“Schreiner is absolutely delighted to be part of this award ceremony today and I thank all of our other partners who helped make this happen,” McCormick said.

McCormick said that while students around the nation each year are trying to select the college or university that is the “right fit” for them, Schreiner University staff and also trying to determine which students are the “right fit” for Schreiner.

“You’ll find there are community colleges and technical colleges … there are universities that are focused on research … and then there are group of schools that are called ‘Liberal Arts Schools’,” McCormick said. “And that’s where Schreiner fits in.”

He explained the origin of the term “liberal arts” as being derived from an ancient Greek notion of education that promoted the concept of being a critical thinker, analytic reasoner and be able to communicate effectively.

“These are the things that Schreiner is really concerned about,” McCormick said. “We want to prepare students for meaningful work, so we know you are going to have a professional career. We want to make sure you are ready to thrive in that career. We also want to prepare students for purposeful lives, so we know you are going to be more than just a worker and we want to help you develop that aspect of yourself, too. That’s the fundamental reason why we think this award is so important, and identifies you as such a good fit for Schreiner University.”

McCormick said the mission of the staff at Schreiner University is to prepare students for “whole-person development” upon graduation.

Mark Tuschak, VP of student recruitment at Schreiner University, also congratulated the students and explained that the admissions staff will be prepared to help them when they are ready to attend classes at Schreiner. And, even if they choose not to attend the local university, Tuschak offered assistance to each of them through the university advisors.

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