Friday, March 9, 2018

Character Without Question Awards

Forty-nine Spring Branch ISD students enrolled in prekindergarten through 12th grade were honored as Character Without Question Award recipients during a recent public ceremony for the students and their families held at Northbrook High School.

This year’s annual award presentation was conducted at the Feb. 26 Board of Trustees meeting. Youth of all ages were honored during a special event presentation that attracted many family members.

SBISD’s Character Without Question Award honors students who exhibit a variety of great character traits and habits. They include honesty and integrity, responsibility and dependability, respect, perseverance and effort, courage, caring and kindness, and citizenship and civic virtue.

“You are receiving this award because of the outstanding character and positive actions you have demonstrated to your teachers and fellow students,” said SBISD Superintendent of Schools Scott R. Muri, Ed.D., in a prepared statement for the annual awards.

“According to them, you are responsible citizens who show respect, caring and kindness to everyone and are always ready to ‘do the right thing’ in all situations. You truly make a difference in your school, your community, and in the lives of others,” Dr. Muri also said.

As a part of this year’s event, all student award winners received a book, Be Brave, Little One, by the Marianne R. Richmond as well as a framed, personal photograph

The awards presentation program and pre-event reception are supported by Wells Fargo and the Spring Branch Education Foundation.

SBISD parent Tom DeBesse,  who is Wells Fargo-Houston North regional banking area president, was the presenter this year for Wells Fargo.

Additional support was provided by Northbrook High School and by Lion Market Catering at Landrum Middle School. SBISD Community Relations Program Specialist Sarah Murphy and Paul Bryant with Communications provided planning and publication support.

2018 Character Without Question Award Recipients

Schools for Early Learning (Prekindergarten)
Bear Boulevard – Rosangel Vasquez
Lion Lane – Josiah Davis
Panda Path – Madison Gonzales
Tiger Trail – Audrey Ferguson
Wildcat Way – Laila Rezanejad

Elementary Campuses
Buffalo Creek – Navaeh Love, 5th Grade
Bunker Hill – Mary Claire Pounds, 5th
Cedar Brook – Emily Garcia, 5th
Edgewood – Nayeli Onofre, 4th
Frostwood – Marin Goebel, 5th
Spring Branch Academic Institute – Sarah Haywood, 5th
Hollibrook – Angel Miranda, 5th
Housman – Isabella Romo, 5th
Hunters Creek – Cydney Lopez, 5th
Meadow Wood – Ben Pearce, 5th
Memorial Drive – Bella Blasi, 5th
Nottingham – Luke Rasch, 5th
Pine Shadows – Nabil Tlass, 5th
Ridgecrest – Eliana Rivera, 2nd
Rummel Creek – Haley Alexander, 5th
Shadow Oaks – Janet Cort├ęs, 5th
Sherwood – Alexis Martinez, 4th
Spring Branch – Brenda Ortega, 4th
Spring Shadows – Sydney Elizabeth Leal, 5th
Terrace – Braden Rentrop, 5th
Thornwood – Nicole Delgado, 4th
Treasure Forest – Kendy Pavon, 5th
Valley Oaks – Joely Nguyen, 5th
Westwood – Emily Limas, 4th
Wilchester – Camden Grace Hopper, 5th
Woodview – Ivory Tran, 5th

Middle School Campuses
Academy of Choice – Emanuel Flores, 6th Grade
Cornerstone Academy – Emily Camden, 8th
Landrum Middle – Karla Sanchez, 8th
Memorial Middle – Carissa Nair, 8th
Northbrook Middle – Edwyn Gonzalez, 8th
Spring Branch Academic Institute – Will Larrabee, 8th
Spring Branch Middle – Devesh Achari, 8th
Spring Forest Middle – Valentina Chelala, 8th
Spring Oaks Middle – Hannah Kmiecik, 8th
Spring Woods Middle – Jahyden Franklin, 7th
Westchester Academy – Divine Ozomma, 7th

High School Campuses
Academy of Choice – Emanuel Padilla, 10th Grade
Guthrie Center for Excellence – Santiago Arzate, 12th
Memorial High – Daniel Ramos, 12th
Northbrook High – Kendrick Coleman, 12th
Spring Woods High – Addison Jacobs, 12th
Stratford High – Steven Bradshaw, 12th
Westchester Academy, Angelo Teco, 11th

Stratford High Violins Delight United Passengers 30,000 Feet Up

Screenshot courtesy of KHOU11
It was music – specifically, Bach – that won a round of sky-high applause from passengers earlier this week.

The two young violinists strolling the aisles on the New York to Houston bound United Airlines flight were Stratford High Orchestra students.

On March 5, students Andrew Askounis and Max Heitmann performed Concerto for Two Violins by J.S. Bach during the flight. They were recorded and their performance posted to Facebook by several passengers, including a United flight attendant. The Stratford High School Orchestra was on its way home after performing at the famed Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

The young violinists won first place for their performance with the SHS Orchestra at Lincoln Center, where they also performed music by Mozart, Peter Warlock and Astor Piazzolla. Since it was posted to Facebook, thousands of views have watched and heard a beautiful piece of music. Several local TV stations have posted the spontaneous performance, too.

Watch the video on KHOU11's facebook page >>

7 Rings of Gold Walk Honors Memorial-Area Student

The Houston chapter of a foundation founded in loving memory of a Memorial-Spring Branch child invites the local community to stand up to pediatric brain cancer by walking, running or strolling the Memorial High School track seven times on Saturday, March 24.

The 7 Rings of Gold Walk, as this annual fundraising event is known, will begin at 8:30 a.m. on March 24.

The Cure Starts Now Foundation was formed seven years after Nicole, a daughter of Althea and Henry Lee, lost a hard-fought, 18-month long battle with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) – a rare, inoperable pediatric brain cancer that attacks the brain stem.

Nicole, who was 7 years old when she died, would be a Memorial High sophomore this year if she were alive. Her sister, Natalie Lee, is a senior at the high school.

Nicole’s parents founded the Houston chapter of The Cure Starts Now Foundation seven years after her death. The foundation’s mission is to find the “homerun” cure to her disease through research into pediatric brain cancer.

Last year, the 7 Rings of Gold Walk netted $40,000, with 97 percent of proceeds going to fund pediatric cancer research, the foundation reports. The year, the goal has been set at $100,000 to fund research through a grant.

Through fundraising events like the 7 Rings of Gold Walk, crucial and vital funds are raised for DIPG and other pediatric cancers research. Currently, the federal government funds 7 percent or less of all research into pediatric cancer.

Event walkers and runners will enjoy a variety of food and entertainment options that include PitaPit, Chick-Fil-A, bake sale, music, games, raffle and auction. Top highlights include  Houston Rockets tickets and a signed George Springer World Series’ jersey.

Individual and team registrations are available. Entry fee is $25/person, $100/4-person family now through March 23; $30 for walk-ups on walk day.

To register for this family-friendly event, please visit Rings of Gold.

For more details or queries, email Althea Lee at

Advanced Placement Art Class Reaches Out to Florida Students

Artwork by Ellie Antestenis

If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, then Elisa Barry’s Advanced Placement art students delivered tens of thousands of words of strength, compassion and love to those grieving after the tragic Florida shootings.

Art teacher Barry recently mailed art work and personal cards by Memorial AP students to one history teacher at Stoneman Douglas High School who asked online for support in the aftermath of the deadly shooting incident in suburban Broward County.

Art images and student-created cards were mailed in individual envelopes so that as many Florida students as possible might be reached personally.

“I approached this project as a way for students to create something that would express kindness in a visual form,” Ms. Barry recalls. “I was deeply moved and touched by the images our students created and by how they reached out to comfort students thousands of miles away. I’m so proud of them and for their compassion for others.”

Senior Sarah Cowan was first moved to do something when she reflected on the Florida shooting, noting that the Stoneman campus and its student body resembled Memorial to her.

Friends showed her the history teacher’s post asking for letters, which she posted on her Instagram and Snapchat social media feeds. Barry saw one of them and suggested the class project.

Cowan thought hard about her own message. “I wanted to let the students know that they were not alone. I decided on a piece in the style of [artist] Keith Haring, one that resembled love spreading from so many places and from unified love and support.”

She was surprised by how big the art project became, and by the interest it generated among fellow students and from the wider community, including one KHOU TV-11 news posting.

“I did not expect this big a thing, but I’m very happy. The pieces created by people are gorgeous, and receiving art work in the mail is always special,” said Cowan, a National Merit semifinalist and Memorial co-valedictorian.
The range of student responses to the art project prompt are captivating in many ways, but emotionally perhaps above all.

Junior Ellie Antestenis created 17 flowers to reflect the 17 people killed. On her mailing card, she wrote: “Sending light to your beautiful garden! The 17 flowers will continue to grow among the angels.”

Junior Christina Ofori’s image was in an abstract style. “You can interpret it however you want to,” she said.

“I saw this project as something more than just a moment of silence. I can’t relate to what actually happened there, but I can relate to their emotions. I don’t know what they went through there, but I did want to connect to the emotions they must be feeling,” Ofori also said.

SBISD Principals of the Year Named

Left to right: Northbrook Middle School Principal Sarah Guerrero and Pine Shadows Elementary Principal Chris Winstead
Pine Shadows Elementary Principal Chris Winstead and Northbrook Middle School Principal Sarah Guerrero have been named as Spring Branch ISD’s Elementary and Secondary Principals of the Year.

The two 2018 principal recognitions were revealed during a surprise visit by Superintendent of Schools Scott R. Muri, Ed.D., to a special leadership and school redesign planning meeting held Feb. 21.

The principals will be honored soon during both regional and district events, including SBISD’s annual Service Awards Celebration on April 24. Teacher of the Year finalists will also be named soon, and a pair of top teachers will be named at the upcoming Service Awards event.

SBISD Principals of the Year are selected by their principal peers based on the following criteria:
  • Concern for all staff and students and the ability to inspire both of these groups
  • Ability and willingness to work cooperatively with all staff and administrators
  • Proven drive to initiate and implement effective strategies supporting continuous improvement in student performance
  • Ability to work with diverse community groups and all district stakeholders
  • Proven desire for continuous personal and professional growth
  • Ability and willingness to make meaningful contributions to education
SBISD Elementary Principal of the Year
  • Chris Winstead, Pine Shadows Elementary School
“I am thoroughly happy and thrilled and very excited to be a part of Spring Branch ISD,” said Principal Winstead minutes after being surprised by the superintendent with her recognition.

“All of our school, staff and community supports Pine Shadows. I am truly blessed and humbled to receive this award.”

Dr. Muri, in his surprise appearance, said that he had to apologize because the flowers he brought did not “sparkle” enough, a reference to the glittery, positive message T-shirts often worn by the principal and her staff.

“I have renamed her school,” he joked. “It is no longer Pine Shadows. It is now Pine Sparkles Elementary. If you have seen the T-shirts that Chris and her team wear, they always have some kind of bling. It is an honor today to present you with these flowers and to say, ‘Well done!’”

Pine Shadows leader since 2015, Principal Winstead has more than four decades of teaching and administrative experience. In addition to a public education record of service, she has taught at private schools and at area universities and community colleges.

Before being named Pine Shadows principal, she served three years there as assistant principal. For more than two decades, she was a teacher and a principal in Spring ISD. She also served as an adjunct professor at Lone Star College’s Tomball and University Park campuses, and was employed by Texas A&M/Sam Houston State Universities as a supervisor.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Concordia Teachers College in River Forest, Ill, and later earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.

The Pine Shadows students, staff and community have a passion for living and learning, which keeps her engaged and energized.

“I can’t wait to get to school each morning,” she has said, “to see what our students are learning in their classrooms and to see staff so engaged. We are supported, encouraged and assisted in educating our students by so many families and neighborhood partnerships.”

Principal Winstead has adult grandchildren who live in Georgia and closer to her in Cypress, she has several younger, school-age grandchildren.    

SBISD Secondary Principal of the Year
  • Sarah Guerrero, Northbrook Middle School
“I was shocked today to be named the Secondary Principal of the Year for Spring Branch ISD,” said Principal Guerrero, reflecting Feb. 21 after being named a top district principal.

“It’s totally an honor to be selected. I know this award is something that my peers voted on. I love being a part of this district. I love my school and our school community. I have one amazing team, and I work with an amazing group of principals. It’s just such a huge honor!”

In his surprise remarks, Superintendent Muri thanked her for “serving our kids, and for doing a great job.”

Northbrook Middle principal since 2015, Principal Guerrero now has more than a decade of public education service, including years in Houston ISD as a middle school teacher, assistant principal and principal.

She taught math for four years at HISD’s Patrick Henry Middle School, was an assistant principal there for two years, and then was principal for several years before joining SBISD.

Principal Guerrero earned twin bachelor of science degrees in physics and Spanish from Azusa Pacific College in Azusa, Calif. She holds a master of education degree from the University of St. Thomas, but has also received a Rice University MBA, or master of business administration degree.

She is also a graduate of the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, or REEP, which is designed for area educators.

Northbrook Middle, in several ways, has been focal point for innovation and change in SBISD. The campus is a co-partner with YES Prep at Northbrook Middle in the SKY Partnership, which supports the public and public charter middle programs inside the same school building.

“I love working with my team to personalize learning for every child at Northbrook Middle,” she said. “It’s exciting to be part of a district that recognizes the individual needs of each student and empowers campus leaders and teachers to be creative and innovative to better meet the needs of each student. At Northbrook Middle School, we have an amazing team that is truly committed to be better every day. It’s important, hard and joy-filled work.”

Outside Northbrook, Principal Guerrero enjoys great food experiences and likes to be active. She also loves spending time with her family and friends, including a soon-to-be new child.

Shattered Dreams Wake Students at Stratford High

Stratford Oracle student news writer recounts anti-drinking and driving event

Early on the morning of Feb. 22, those whose commute typically brings them down Fern Drive found themselves searching for an alternate route, and those who paid particular attention to the road closure may have been shocked to notice the wreck in front of the Stratford High School.

The crash contained several students, and hundreds more lined Fern Drive on either side of the scene to observe the various paramedics, firemen and police officers who pulled students out of the wreckage.

The parents of those involved in the wreck stood off to the side, rushing to their children as soon as they had been liberated, if they were liberated.

This pseudo-wreck was orchestrated by Shattered Dreams, a company that travels to high schools in the Houston area and enlists students to take part in a fake car crash to illustrate the devastating effects of driving while intoxicated to teenagers, especially for driving-age juniors and seniors.

“Shattered Dreams is an incredibly powerful program that can make meaningful change in the lives of students,” Stratford High Principal Chad Crowson said. “Impaired and distracted driving is a serious problem in our community, and I hope that this program will help students to see the light and change their behaviors.”

The Stratford students selected to take part in this emotionally charged demonstration spent the day as corpses, wandering their high school with their ghoulish makeup and decorated cardboard tombstones.

“It was so crazy, seeing my peers all bloody and seeing their parents crying over them. It’s an image I will never forget,” junior Audrey Katherine Ford said.

The next morning, Stratford’s junior and senior classes met in assembly where students and parents who participated shared their experiences from the simulation and from the events that followed during the day.

These students spent the evening in the hospital emergency room, and they also heard testimonials from people whose lives had been forever changed by drunk driving.

“It can happen in the blink of an eye,” said Ann Goss, a junior who was carted off to the emergency room via ambulance from the wreckage. “It’s crazy to think that stuff like this happens every day but it does, it really does.”

This account was written by Charlotte Benes with The Oracle student newspaper staff at Stratford High.

Opportunity Culture-Texas (OC-TX) Expands in Spring Branch ISD

To help provide every child with the best possible instruction and help close achievement gaps, Spring Branch ISD (SBISD) now supports 13 campuses in developing a new Opportunity Culture-Texas (OC-TX) for teachers with a goal of creating greater personalization of student learning.

By next school year, it is expected that many more SBISD schools will join this cutting-edge educational movement in research, design and practice. Applications for OC-TX positions are now open to both SBISD employees and external applicants. (See related link below)

Opportunity Culture is an educational term describing formalized, planned school efforts focused on expanding the reach of excellent teachers and campus-based teams, while helping all educators to hone and improve their craft in the classroom.

A recently released study by the American Institutes for Research and the Brookings Institution found that students in team teacher classrooms led by “multi-classroom leaders” showed significant academic gains.

The multi-classroom leader is one of the new OC-TX positions being used by participating SBISD schools. Teachers in this position often lead teams, providing guidance and on-the-job coaching while also continuing to teach, often by leading small-group student instruction.

In the January 2018 study, teams led by the new position “multi-classroom leader” produced student gains that rose from about the 50th percentile, on average, to the equivalent of students with instructors in the top quarter, or quartile, in math, and nearly that in reading. SBISD was not included in the study’s review data; the district program is in its first operating year.

During the 2017-2018 school year, 13 SBISD schools began piloting the new OC-TX initiative. These include two high schools, two middle schools, eight elementary campuses and one prekindergarten center. Across these schools, 46 separate OC-TX positions were created for the first time.

Secondary schools involved this year are Spring Woods and Northbrook high schools, and Landrum and Northbrook middle schools. Elementary campuses include Bunker Hill, Edgewood, Pine Shadows, Shadow Oaks, Spring Branch, Sherwood, Spring Shadows and Cedar Brook Elementary. A prekindergarten, The Lion Lane School for Early Learning, is part of this first-year effort.

At these campuses, design teams made up of administrators and teachers met last school year to design school models that resulted in new roles for classroom teachers and support staff. These school models also integrate technology in new ways, and created career and compensation pathways to attract, develop and retain great teachers.

In participating schools, OC-TX teachers with proven records of success:

  • Reach more students for more pay in roles that take advantage of their talents. They also develop and advance in their careers without having to leave the classroom.
  • Improve outcomes for students by working on teams with teachers who may be novice or experienced. OC-TX instructors will provide job-embedded development opportunities, increased collaboration time, and may earn more as part of an Opportunity Culture school.
Looking ahead, SBISD has up to seven more district schools considering Opportunity Culture design work. As more schools are added, the district hopes to approach or meet the following goals:
  • Ensure that a greater number of students are led by an OC-TX trained teacher;
  • Pay reach-extending teachers at least five to 15 percent more – or  from $2,000 to $15,000 extra – than in traditional teaching roles, in a financially sustainable, budget neutral way; and
  • Offer multiple pathways for teachers to advance and develop their careers without leaving teaching.
“We are all impressed with the creativity and hard work these Opportunity Culture school design teams have brought to this process. It is inspiring to see what our teachers and school leaders come up with when they set an ambitious goal and then think creatively about how to meet it,” said SBISD Superintendent of Schools Scott R. Muri, Ed.D.

Opportunity Culture in SBISD was one of several topics highlighted by Dr. Muri during a recent State of the Schools district breakfast. He noted that the 46 current OC-TX positions enable up to 5,393 students to be reached by one or more teachers, far more adults than in a traditional classroom.  Several campus leaders spoke about experiences with new OC-TX teacher options at the breakfast, too.

“We’ve seen a good bit of growth in our students, but the biggest support I think multi-classroom leaders are providing is the scaffolding that they are giving teachers – to take risks, to plan more thoroughly together, and to support teachers as they begin to implement the practices that will allow our system to move to student personalization,” Sherwood Elementary Principal Stefanie Spencer said.

Pine Shadows Principal Chris Winstead praised OC-TX as a way for teachers to excel and move forward without becoming either a principal or administrator, supporting educators who wish to grow in their field in another dynamic way.

“For our new teachers, for veteran teachers, for grade-level teams, we now have a person who is directly part of that team and can be there every day, 24-7, to help with student interventions, to help with planning, to help with assessments, or other needs,” she said.

Headiyeh Matthews, a multi-classroom leader at Pine Shadows, agrees. “I thought that this would be a perfect career path for me because I don’t necessarily see administration in my future. I do love working with teachers, and I love the curriculum aspect of teaching so being a multi-classroom leader seemed like the perfect fit for me.”

Nationwide, Opportunity Culture initiatives are now under way in more than 160 schools in nine states. SBISD is among 20 participating districts.

Beginning March 1, SBISD employees and external applicants interested in new OC-TX positions are encouraged to apply for open positions. Positions were opened to SBISD employees for applications a month earlier.

For more information and for links to open position applications, please visit SBISD's Opportunity Culture website.

View SBISD’s related State of the Schools video.

This posting was compiled with assistance from, which carries a copyright through the Public Impact organization.

All-State Award Students Named

Memorial High School choir members. Photo by Josephine Diehl
Eight highly talented Spring Branch ISD students, including five high school choir performers, have gained the highest honor possible from their musical studies. They’ve been named as Texas All-State award recipients this year, reflecting top student performances in orchestra and choir.

In Texas, about 1,500 students are named All-State musicians. Every fall, tens of thousands more begin the All-State selection process. Winners are invited to perform during the annual Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) meeting, which was held Feb. 14-17 in San Antonio.

This year’s SBISD student winners will also be recognized during a regular monthly meeting of the SBISD Board of Trustees scheduled for March 26.

In SBISD this year, five Memorial High School Choir members received All-State honors. This choir’s high performance matched its achievement last year (also five All-State recipients), which marks the highest-ever totals for SBISD choirs in the district’s history.

Memorial High Choir, directed by Lawrence Johnson and Assistant Director Sarah Stagg, auditioned 18 singers during the past four years; 14 of those choir students have been chosen for an All-State ensemble. All five of this year’s MHS choir award recipients are senior females.

“These young women have competed with students from Cy-Fair, Conroe, Spring, Aldine and Galena Park ISDs, and many others, in their fourth and final round of competition,” Choir Director Lawrence told choir parents. “So many hours and hours of practice paid off immensely.”

“These young women have done a tremendous job and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” he also said.

The five Memorial High Choir students who qualified for All-State are:
  • Lola Budimir, Choir, Alto 1, 12th grade, (2nd Year All-State)
  • Katherine Coe, Choir, Alto 2, 12th grade
  • Allison Gentry, Choir, Alto 2, 12th grade, (2nd Year All-State)
  • Mariam Haider, Choir, Soprano 1, 12th grade, (2nd Year, All-State)
  • Anna Zimmerman, Choir, Soprano 2, 12th grade
Lawrence Johnson is the Memorial High Choir director.

Two Memorial High Orchestra students qualified for All-State. They are:
  • Emily Sonn, Violin, 10th grade
  • Sophia Yoon, Cello, 9th grade
Memorial High Orchestra co-directors are Bingiee Shiu and Danielle Prontka.

One Stratford High Orchestra student qualified for All-State:
  • Catherine Wu, Violin, 10th grade
The path to All-State recognition is lenghty and arduous. Each fall, tens of thousands of student musicians and singers from across Texas perform in a dozen or more separate music ensembles. Students perform set musical selections for a panel of judges.

From this first ranking, musicians and singers advance from region to more competition, which may qualify them to perform in All-State musical groups.

Miss Texas Thrills Students at Reading Events

After reading to a group of second-graders at Shadow Oaks Elementary, Miss Texas Margana Wood took questions.

Are you a princess? asked one student, referring to the tiara Wood was wearing.

“No, but I get to act like one,” she said, before describing some of her duties as Miss Texas.

What does it feel like to be Miss Texas? asked another.

“It’s the biggest honor in the whole world,” said Wood. “I’m very proud to be Miss Texas.”

And while the questions were fun, it was the reading that was and is important. The students delighted in the animated manner in which Wood read to them, responding to her audible and visual cues to get involved with the book.

Sponsored by SBISD partner Citgo to kick off National Reading Month in March, Miss Texas also read to students at Cedar Brook Elementary earlier that day. Last year, Citgo hosted reading events for approximately 30,000 children at more than 52 schools across the central U.S, and will host reading events in 19 states this year.

Wood read “The Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister, about a beautiful fish who learns to make friends by sharing.

“Our students at CBE were very excited and eager to learn about Miss Texas and the work that she does,” said Cedar Brook principal Alejandra Perez. “It was such a wonderful experience for our students.”

Each student at both schools received a book to kick off National Reading Month.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Help Needed: Eleven Trips of a Lifetime

In a few days, many Spring Branch ISD families will pack their bags and drive or fly to destinations near and far – a Spring Break beach getaway, new big cities to explore, maybe a wilderness hike.

Stephanie Brain, an eighth-grade Landrum Middle School history teacher, remains focused on one travel objective – raising enough funds to pay for 11 of her own students to visit and tour Washington, D.C., this June.

For many, it promises to be the school trip they will never forget. But now, they need extra help to make it happen. 

Her 11 students were chosen by their grades, behavior and interest in the history of the United States and how our government works. The efforts to raise enough to make the group trip happen isn’t without a history of sweat equity from Landrum students and families.

Students have held tamale sales, sold concessions at sporting events, and even conducted weekly morning donut sales to raise dollars. Ms. Brain and her students took part in Spirit Night at Chick-Fil-A on Silber.

A Pledge Cents fund-raising page was created for community donors. Ms. Brain and eighth-grade student Paula Simon were even featured recently on Fox 26 during a weekend special broadcast.

The cost for the June trip to Washington for the 11 students is estimated at $1,733 each. As of this week, about $7,000 is still needed to make a dream come true for Ms. Brain’s students.

“Our eighth-grade students have worked incredibly hard this school year. I couldn’t be more proud of all the success they will have beyond the middle school,” Brain said of her students.

“Working at Landrum Middle School for three years now,” Brain told the TV station, “I can attest to the unfortunate reality that for many of our students, this will be the first time they travel outside of a 5-mile radius of their home. Opportunities like this one are hard to come by, especially for students like ours.”

“This trip means so much to us because it will be the first time that most of us travel out of state with teachers and friends,” eighth-grader Paula Simon told Ruben Dominguez, host of Hola Houston on Fox 26.

Her dream is to see the “new” White House after reading about how it was burned during the War of 1812. “It’s amazing to me because we’ve been learning about [U.S.] history since school started this year. Now, we’ll be able to see it in real life!”

The Landrum history teacher believes that no similar student trip to the nation’s capital has ever been organized at the middle school. Her national background plays directly into her effort to tour D.C. with her own students.

“I am British born and raised,” she said. “Due to living in England, growing up and having family that lives there, I have had the opportunity to travel all over the world. I travel somewhere every summer.”

After her students visit D.C. in June, Ms. Brain has planned a backpack trip across South America for 23 days during July.

“I honestly feel that traveling has made me a better person,” she said. “I have learned now to communicate better with other people, how to respect and value other cultures, to build my confidence, and get out of my comfort zone.”

“The experience of travel has made me a better person, and I want more than anything for my students to be able to reap these benefits as well,” she also said.

Find more resources about this special fund-raising effort: