Irving ISD rolls out red carpet for ICE Awards

Photo: Students collect prizes at the 17th annual Irving ICE Awards, a celebration showcasing achievements by students, teachers, and administrators in the Irving ISD. /Photo by Joe Snell

Stylish suits and formal gowns graced the Irving High School red carpet at the 17th annual Academy Awards-styled ICE (Irving Celebration of Excellence) Awards on Thursday, Feb. 16.

The ceremony, which promotes and rewards the achievements by Irving ISD’s programs, students, and staff, kicked off with remarks from Irving ISD Associate Superintendent of Academic Services, Adam Grinage.

“The whole reason we’re doing this is because we have so many kids who do things that go above and beyond what they do in their classrooms,” Grinage said. “It’s our opportunity to say, ‘congratulations, you’re doing a great job.’ It’s a way to motivate kids. It’s also a way to inspire kids and teachers.”

Jose L. Parra, Irving ISD Superintendent of Schools, welcomed nominees and their guests, and highlighted the significance of showcasing outstanding achievements.

“Tonight you will see a snapshot of the incredible success happening in Irving ISD schools every day,” Parra said. “The achievements we celebrate this evening are the result of all of us coming together, united as Team Irving. We work as a team when our administrators, teachers, parents, students, and community members come together with a focus on student achievement. It’s amazing what we can accomplish.”

Before ICE nominees were announced, nine students across the school district were recognized for perfect attendance, including three (Derek Adonay Escobar and Carlos Vidal Estevis from Nimitz High School and Farishah Nahrin from Singley Academy) who have not missed a day of school in 14 years.

The month-long nomination process for ICE nominees began in October, when teachers and school administrators were encouraged to highlight outstanding students, teachers, and programs.

A seven member volunteer selection committee, chosen by the board of trustees, serves a two year term as half the committee rotates every year while the remaining group stays on. The committee reviews nominees in November and this year they reviewed over 231 nominations.

“Typically [in a selection committee member], we look for somebody who’s really passionate about our community, who really is interested in supporting our schools, which we’re very fortunate because all of them are,” Grinage said. “It just so happens that this year, six of the seven are former educators. Although it’s not necessarily a criteria, it definitely helps.”

Catherine Whiteman, Irving Community Television Network personality, followed the perfect attendance recognition with the ICE introductions. Seven categories were presented across elementary, middle, and high school divisions for a total of 21 awards including: humanities, math/science, fine arts, physical education/athletics, community service/citizenship, special campus/district, and parent involvement activities. The criteria the selection committee looked at included how the kids and community were impacted, the level of creativity, and how much time went into the organization and execution of the event.

The evening culminated in ‘The’ ICE Award, an honor that highlights the best in show. The winner also received $5,000 plus a lunch catered by Chick-fil-A. This year the award went to Irving ISD’s de Zavala Middle School for organizing a Hispanic Heritage Month. The event rallied parents, students, and teachers to make projects about historical figures, bring in historical food, and increase a sense of Hispanic culture.

“What we wanted to do was celebrate the culture of the whole entire month,” said Anika Horgan, Principal of de Zavala Middle School. “[This allows] people to see how wonderful our kids are and how wonderful our staff is and the great things the kids are learning and doing, which is our next generation of society. I’m still speechless, because it means so much and it speaks to the hard work our kids are doing.”

“It means that we’re doing our job as a school in the community,” said Eddie Robles, an Administrative Liaison at de Zavala. Robles initially approached Horgan with the Hispanic Heritage Month idea and started working with teachers and parents to make the project a reality. “We’re bringing in people, and we’re making them part of the school culture and the campus. They feel welcomed to come into the school, and their voice matters.”