Since January 1984, the Board has recognized students and staff for major accomplishments beyond the District with Points of Pride awards. ABCD awards are presented to individuals or groups that go Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.
Spotlight – 2023 Rising Writers’ Student Expo
The Board recognized participants and winners of the district’s second-annual Rising Writers’ Student Expo, held Jan. 18 and featuring the work of Pre-K through 12th grade students in Spring ISD.
“Up first, we are going to highlight several of our students as part of our second-annual Rising Writers’ Student Expo, an incredible event where we got to really display and showcase our students’ writing abilities,” Chief of Academics Dr. Kregg Cuellar told the trustees during his introductory remarks.
This year’s submissions came from across the student body, representing Bilingual, Emergent Bilingual, CTE, Gifted and Talented, Special Education and general education students. Each campus also selected ambassadors to meet and greet community members in attendance at the expo event on Jan. 18 and to talk to attendees about the importance of writing in their lives.
Each campus submitted up to 14 exemplary writing pieces for consideration and commendation, with up to three medal recipients named from each campus in the districtwide contest. In all, more than 400 student submissions were read and evaluated by the contest judges.
Three student winners were invited to read selections from their pieces during the meeting, and the board members also heard from two published student authors who spoke about their work and what writing has meant to them.
Springwoods Village Middle School eighth grader Troy Caines Jr. read from an essay he wrote on the importance of role models; Wells Middle School seventh grader Ethan Vu shared a passage from his short story submission; and Dekaney High School sophomore Ximena Alejandra Cepeda Alvarado shared a bilingual excerpt from her essay about her relationship with her grandmother.
Carl Wunsche Sr. High School sophomore Sarah Salinas read a selection from her book “Here’s to the Day I Die.” After last year’s Rising Writers’ expo, Salinas attended the February 2022 board meeting to read her poem, “The Girl with the Blank Expression,” about a young person’s struggle with depression, mental health, loneliness, and thoughts of self-harm. Writing that poem, Salinas explained to the trustees, had helped set her on a course of renewal during a period of struggle in her own life.
“I've progressed so much from that,” Salinas said, “and writing has done so much for me in those times. It has helped me cope in ways that I can't even imagine.”
Spring High School junior RJ Walker also attended the meeting. Walker, a dedicated writer who published his first novel at 14, recently added a second book to his series about a talented high school basketball player growing up while navigating school, sports, and life. Walker’s latest is called “The Legend: Tournament (Part I),” and he told trustees he was excited to see the district’s Rising Writers’ event growing and impacting more students.
“When I was in middle school, it wasn't this big of a deal,” Walker said. “It's just really nice to see, so I appreciate you all, you know, paying attention to us, listening to us, hearing our voices.”
Executive Director of Instructional Services Dr. Marie Mendoza introduced the student guests and explained how the Rising Writers’ expo directly connects with the district’s Literacy Plan by supporting student growth in the important areas of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
“You see the power that writing has, and it's a beautiful thing,” Mendoza said after the students had each spoken. “So I just want to say thank you, and congratulations to all of our medalists.”
Trustees congratulated all of this year’s winners, and encouraged the students in attendance to continue practicing their craft as writers.
“My grandmother always said that reading was the key to knowledge. It opens up and strengthens the mind,” Board President Justine Durant said. “The strongest muscle in your body is your mind, and to be able to write something that can motivate and touch other people is a gift – it’s a gift to be treasured, and it’s a gift to celebrate.”
Spotlight – Black History Month Student Event – Africa’s Impact on the World
The administration also highlighted the district’s various Black History Month events and invited student winners from the districtwide competition to be honored at the meeting for their work on their Black History Month projects.
Students from every campus and grade level were invited to work individually or in small groups to research topics related to the district’s Black History Month theme, Africa’s Impact on the World, which connects with Spring ISD’s core belief in valuing diversity and treating everyone with dignity and respect.
“As we continue to embrace our theme this year of Africa's impact on the world, it was amazing to be able to see all of our scholars really showcase and display all of their incredible projects, their work, even their performing and visual arts demonstrations,” said Chief of Academics Dr. Kregg Cuellar.
Campuses hosted their own Black History Month events near the start of the spring semester, with the goal of having their students participate in the district event on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at Dekaney High School, which culminated with an awards ceremony featuring student dance and musical performances.
This year's event offered students an opportunity to learn about Africa's connections to the past, present and future. Students were invited to write, draw, rap, dance, or sing about individuals or groups connected to Africa and African heritage around the world. Trustee Winford Adams Jr. said the trustees were excited to see students utilizing a range of presentation tools to share about their projects during the expo.
“I just want to say how impressive these projects are,” Adams said. “I especially appreciate the different types of media you all used – PowerPoint presentations and video presentations, it’s all getting you ready for the future and what you will need to be able to do when you get into your professional lives. So again, wonderful projects, and we appreciate the great work you’re doing.”
ABCD Award – Eduardo Ocampo, Carl Wunsche Sr. High School Law Enforcement Pathway Student
The Board recognized Eduardo Ocampo, a Carl Wunsche Sr. High School senior enrolled in the Law Enforcement Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathway, for his bravery and quick thinking shown during an event on campus in December.
Chief Operations Officer Mark Miranda introduced Ocampo and gave trustees some background on the incident that took place at the campus.
“During an afternoon lunch transition, Ocampo saw a disruption in the main hall at Wunsche and took action,” Miranda said, “utilizing his CTE pathway training to support a Wunsche faculty member in de-escalating an altercation between two other students and remaining there until an administrator had arrived on the scene. He assisted the teacher without hesitation or concern for himself, and through his actions provided a positive example of quick, efficient de-escalation while remaining cool under pressure.”
Ocampo was identified for recognition by the Spring ISD Police Department for his actions, and for his support in keeping his campus a safe place for teaching and learning.
Spring ISD Police Department Sgt. Andre Jones was also on-hand for the presentation, and praised Ocampo for his character and commitment to the safety of staff and students at Wunsche.
“Eduardo, on campus you exemplified four cardinal virtues that we identified: fortitude, prudence, temperance, and justice,” said Jones, who went on to explain how Ocampo’s actions in ensuring the safety of his teacher were a testament to the strong community at Wunsche. “By you doing that, you showed great courage, and we truly appreciate you for that.”
Jones also presented Ocampo with a challenge coin on behalf of the police department. A military and law enforcement tradition, challenge coins are often given in recognition of special service or high achievement.
Wunsche Principal Dr. Alfred James also thanked Ocampo and congratulated him on his plans to enter the U.S. Marines after graduation.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done for us,” James said, “and I just want to publicly acknowledge your accomplishment.”
ABCD Award – Holy Comforter Episcopal Church
The Board also recognized Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, under the leadership of Rev. John Soard and Deacon Robert Lowry, for the congregation’s longstanding support of the district and its staff and students.
“Holy Comforter has served on the Spring ISD Ministerial Alliance for many years,” Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa told the trustees during her remarks, “and continues to support our district as a key member of the Ministerial Alliance, mentoring or tutoring our students, providing school supplies and other resources – financial, academic, and emotional – to help our students on their path to success.”
Hinojosa noted that Lowry, who was ordained to the diaconate in 2012, has helped expand worship services into local nursing homes, spearheads a nonprofit group devoted to supporting local families, and has served as a dedicated tutor and mentor at Spring High School, where he enjoys helping students build their reading skills.
“Whenever Spring ISD comes calling for support, he and the church are the first to deliver,” Hinojosa said, “and we appreciate all they have done to support our school district.”
In addition to Rev. Soard and Deacon Lowry, Hinojosa also mentioned the contributions of Linda Astala, a longtime member of Holy Comforter and the church’s coordinator of school partnership ministries. Astala helped form a mentoring partnership between the church and Salyers Elementary School that has lasted for a decade and has brought numerous mentors into the lives of students at Salyers and other Spring ISD campuses.
After inviting all congregation members in attendance to stand and be recognized, Trustee Kelly P. Hodges thanked the church for its service to the district and its students and families.
“On behalf of the Board, we want to thank you so much for all that you do for our kids and our students, our faculty and staff, and thank you so much for your commitment,” Hodges said. “We appreciate you doing all that you do to support Spring Independent School District.”
The church’s recognition was organized through the Board of Trustees’ Community Engagement Committee, which plans to launch an ongoing series of board recognitions honoring Spring ISD’s community partners.