Program celebrates good kids in middle school

A group of outstanding Irving ISD middle school students received recognition at the Celebrate Good Kids program held at the Irving Masonic Lodge on Tuesday, April 25.

Created by the Irving Masonic Lodge five years ago, the Celebrate Good Kids program honors both students and educators in Irving ISD with the lodge’s prestigious Lamar Award. The award is named after Mirabeau B. Lamar, the second president of Texas often referred to as “the Father of Public Education in Texas.” The program is one of many similar award ceremonies held all over Texas.

Past Master David Gisler said there are not many ceremonies that honor middle school students.

“The Masonic fraternity has long supported public schools,” Gisler said. “In the early days, most lodges were in two-story buildings. The lodge met on the second floor and encouraged churches or schools to meet on the first floor. In fact, in many cases, the Masons started the school and even paid the teachers’ salaries.”

Each year, one 8th grade student from each Irving ISD’s eight middle schools is selected by the faculty to receive this award. Faculty representatives came forward during the program to introduce their recipient and explain why the students were selected for the award, as well as sharing some of their teachers’ comments and praises with the crowd.

Mark Hinkson, 8th grade assistant principal of de Zavala Middle School, feels programs like Celebrate Good Kids help to acknowledge the often-overlooked students in Irving ISD.

“I’d like to thank the Masons for this opportunity that they give us every year,” Hinkson said. “Too many good students do everything right and are overlooked in this district. We’re trying to correct that and this [program] is one of those steps.”

Kathleen Dang from Houston Middle School received the award. Her principal, Jeffery Dorman, shared with the crowd a number of her academic and musical achievements. Dang herself was humble about her achievements, but also happy to receive the Lamar Award.

“I feel very privileged to receive this recognition,” Dang said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the support that my teacher, my previous teachers, my family and my friends have given me. I’m very happy for that. Maybe they overdid their descriptions of me, but I’m very grateful for them.”

Alondra Godoy Escobar from Bowie Middle School was another recipient of the Lamar Award.

“When they first told me [about the award] I was like, ‘Are you sure it’s me?’ because I‘m not in school much,” Escobar said. “But I feel incredible because even with all of my doctor’s appointments that I have, I still try to be in school. Bowie has been the greatest experience of my life, and I will never forget it, and I will really miss it.”

Additional students honored at the program were Eric Martinez Limon of Austin Middle School, Ashli Gafford of Lady Bird Johnson Middle School, Eduardo Serrano of de Zavala Middle School, Sakina Bivili of Travis Middle School, Samira Velaquez of Crockett Middle School and Thara Thekkedath of Lamar Middle School.

The program also recognized two Irving ISD teachers. Dennis Ramon, an algebra teacher at MacArthur High School, was awarded Secondary Teacher of the Year. Angela Snyder, a PE teacher at Townsell Elementary School, was awarded Elementary Teacher of the Year.