Annual ICE Awards program recognizes excellence in Irving ISD

Photo: For her dedication and outstanding service to Irving ISD, Laurie Gahan receives the Golden Apple Award from Superintendent Dr. Jose Parra. /Photo by Lorri Kennedy

A plethora of students and campuses throughout the Irving Independent School District were showcased, Feb. 18, when IISD board members hosted the 16th annual Irving ICE Awards show. Awards were presented in seven categories at the elementary, middle school and high school levels.

The ICE Awards honor original, creative learning methods in the areas of humanities; math and science, fine arts, physical education and athletics; community service and citizenship; special campus/district; and parent involvement activities.

The highest honor, the Golden Apple, went to two recipients – parent volunteer, Laurie Gahan, and group volunteer, the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) Greater Dallas section, for its HIPPY program.

The overall “best-in-show” ICE Award, which is accompanied by $5,000 to help support the future of the program, went to Irving High School for its inaugural Biomedical Sciences Academy Science Fair. Students participating in the science fair partnered with UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas (UTDW) to spotlight educational excellence. Through the science fair program, students demonstrated their ability to identify a scientific problem, conducted research and testing, developed a hypothesis, and solved the problem. UTSW graduate students provided guidance and mentoring.

Daphne Rickard, biomedical sciences academy coordinator at Irving High School and science fair coordinator, attributes the award to the approximately 70 junior and senior-level students who participated.

“I have such great students who did their project so well and rose to the occasion. I was real excited for them,” Rickard said.

As to the $5,000 prize, Rickard said one of the options discussed for its use is the establishment of a scholarship endowment for graduating seniors in the program.

A long-time parent volunteer in the Irving school district is Golden Apple award winner, Laurie Gahan.

“I was surprised and I was excited. It was pretty neat,” said Gahan, when she learned she was honored for her volunteerism. Gahan serves as a volunteer at her first-grade son, Clayton Brainerd’s campus, Stipes Elementary. With the exception of a five-year absence from volunteering at the campus upon the birth of Clayton, Gahan has volunteered at the school since it opened. Her eldest son, Cody Brainerd, was in the school’s inaugural third-grade class after he was rezoned from Davis Elementary. Cody is now a senior at Singley Academy.

She enjoys helping the staff with time-consuming tasks such as laminating, cutting, checking-in and shelving library books, and making the ever-popular Sonic runs. The staff’s appreciation of her efforts, she said, keeps her motivated to return to the school year after year. The day after receiving the Golden Apple, Gahan received a bouquet of roses from the school’s principal, Bonnie Richardson, and a basket of treats from one of the second-grade teachers.

“I guess the reason I like doing it so much, is because I know that it is appreciated so much. I’m glad it makes a difference,” Gahan said.

Trustees also recognized NCJW volunteers and its parent involvement school readiness program, HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters). The program helps parents of three-, four-, and-five-year-old children prepare their children for success by igniting and exploring their children’s creativity. NCJW volunteers in the HIPPY program assist families by coordinating culturally appropriate field trips to the Dallas Arboretum, the Perot Museum of Science and History, the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Dallas Museum of Art.

“We have been working with HIPPY in the Irving schools for many years. It’s wonderful recognition for the volunteers who work with these families. They love what they do,” said Caren Edelstein, NCJW board president. “They’re so proud of the children when they graduate.”

The effectiveness of the HIPPY program is tangible, according to Edelstein. Many of the children helped by HIPPY have gone on to attend and graduate college.

“We know early childhood is important,” Edelstein said. “It is important to us that children get the right start in school, because we know that children who are better educated have less poverty. The proof is in the pudding when you see these children are getting scholarships and going on to college. Most of these parents have not been to college and this might be the first generation in their families that have [attended college].”

A complete list of ICE Award finalists and winners is available online at www.Irvingisd.net/IceAwards .