Carlton Center honors its Class of 2018 graduates

May 29, 2018—Graduation season will be in full swing May 31 through June 2 at the Berry Center, but it officially got underway with 10 graduates from the Dorothy Carlton Center leading the way May 25.

The Carlton Center offers specialized programs to serve students with disabilities. Several graduates completed a pre-vocational program, preparing them and gearing each toward independence and potential paid employment. The training can last one or multiple years with partnerships with community businesses.

A number of graduates already had jobs secured following graduation.

“It’s just a day of celebration for not only the students, but their parents and the educators who have worked with them,” said Rhonda Turns, the Carlton Center director.

Jessica Ann Powers of Jersey Village High School raises her arms in celebration after she and nine other Carlton Center graduates were honored at a ceremony May 25 at the center. She was among eight graduates who were part of the Vocational Independence and Training for Adult Living program and also previously walked with their home campuses.

Jerome Clinton Bell of Langham Creek High School and Jassiel Garcia of Jersey Village High School each donned or carried their respective caps and gowns representing the Class of 2018.

The remaining eight graduates honored were part of the Vocational Independence and Training for Adult Living (VITAL) program and previously walked with their home campuses:

  • Carson Travis Berg, Cy-Fair High School;
  • Zachary Renard Dumas Jr., Cypress Springs High School;
  • Jacob Ryan Dunshie, Cypress Creek High School;
  • Keyana Marie Hayes, Jersey Village High School;
  • Ericka Rubi Hernandez, Cypress Lakes High School;
  • Jesse Hernandez, Cypress Springs High School;
  • Jessica Ann Powers, Jersey Village High School; and
  • Ashley Renee Wilkinson, Jersey Village High School.

“It was really good. I learned a lot,” Dunshie said. “I think people can benefit from the Carlton Center because it teaches them skills that they need in the future. These people are really nice and really good. They’re actually the best teachers I’ve ever had.”

Jerome Clinton Bell of Langham Creek High School holds is diploma during the Carlton Center graduation May 25 at the center. Ten graduates were honored, as the center offers specialized programs to serve students with disabilities. Several graduates complete  pre-vocational training geared toward independence and potential paid employment.

Said Dr. Mark Henry, superintendent of schools: “We see that our motto comes to life – that it’s ‘Opportunity for All.’ Every student, no matter what their challenges are, we have a spot for them in Cy-Fair ISD.”

Members of the Cypress Woods High School wind ensemble performed before the ceremony and also during the processional, while the Cypress Woods Air Force JROTC color guard presented the colors.

Dan McIlduff, assistant superintendent for educational support services, gave the graduation address, while a reception followed for the graduates and guests.

“Thank you to the district for supporting us and providing all the resources we need to help our young people,” Turns said.


Science Resource Center offers support outside the classroom

Part of ever-evolving education, curriculum and instruction is learning and delivering new methods to students that may go beyond the four walls of a classroom and the pages of a textbook.

CFISD offers a number of opportunities just like this in many subject areas. When it comes to science, one such opportunity is the Charlotte Davis Burns Science Resource Center (SRC) located across the street from Arnold Middle School at 11206 Telge Road. Established to provide support to science teachers and students at all grade levels, the SRC offers demonstrations and training, as well as hands-on activities and field trip opportunities among other things.

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The Charlotte Davis Burns Science Resource Center provides support to CFISD science teachers and students at all grade levels, offering demonstrations and training, as well as hands-on activities and field trip opportunities.

The facility houses hundreds of animals, many which were donated. There’s also an adjacent “pocket prairie,” which is a part of the Prairie Builders Schools & Parks program designed to form a bridge between the classroom and prairie science, culture, economics and global environmental stewardship.

“I was a generalist – an elementary science teacher,” said Denise Martin, SRC curriculum specialist. “For me, it really helped me to bring good science into my classroom. We’re very fortunate that we’re able to offer this resource to the teachers in Cy-Fair.”

In addition to working with teachers, SRC staff work with volunteers and parents on demonstrations and training, deliveries, lab kit preparations and usage, gardening and field trips. The volunteers in turn, are able to bring real-life science into the classroom and assist teachers in their instruction.

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In addition to working with teachers, Science Resource Center staff work with volunteers and parents on demonstrations and training. Field Trips also put students together with real-life science, including “Animal Odyssey,” a two-hour trip for kindergarten where they visit teacher- and volunteer-run stations housing fish, reptiles, birds and small mammals.

“The demos are all parent-driven,” said David Wallace, SRC manager. “And they’re only done by parents at the different schools.”

Added Martin: “So it’s exciting to be able to teach a child’s parent to take snakes into their classroom and they become superheroes for the day. Once they come to one training, we’ve hooked them in.”

Among the field trips available are “Animal Odyssey,” a two-hour trip for kindergarten where they visit teacher- and volunteer-run stations housing fish, reptiles, birds and small mammals. “Gulf Mysteries” allows first-grade students to explore the Gulf of Mexico and both the plants and animals that live in the environment. Third-grade students can participate in “Simple Machines,” where groups work through activities with inclined planes, levers, pulleys and wheels and axles.

But the curriculum can evolve, with the SRC ready to assist teachers who communicate their needs. It may be transporting and showcasing animals in a classroom for a day, to scheduling and overseeing a field trip to the facility.

“We just try to help the teachers any way we can,” Wallace said. “They’re just so appreciative of whatever we can help them do. I mean, that’s the whole reason we’re here.”

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Adjacent to the Science Resource Center is a “pocket prairie,” which is a part of the Prairie Builders Schools & Parks program designed to form a bridge between the classroom and prairie science, culture, economics and global environmental stewardship.

CFISD recognizes numerous volunteers with VIPS Appreciation Event

Though many of the thousands of volunteers who help serve CFISD aren’t motivated by recognition, the district made sure to let all the extra supporters know how important they are.

CFISD does this annually with its Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS) Appreciation Event, put on by the VIPS Executive Board. The 2018 ceremony was held May 2 at the Berry Center, with the event and reception underwritten by PBK and supported by many other sponsors.

0509 VIPS Appreciation 1CFISD Board members join Ault Elementary School students for a special cheer during the VIPS Appreciation Event at the Berry Center on May 2. 

An addition to collectively recognizing all district volunteers, the ceremony highlighted 11 individuals and supportive businesses and faith-based organizations with awards that included outstanding volunteer and mentor at elementary and secondary levels, Bus Buddies Award and community engagement awards for both nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

“All the volunteers, every single day throughout the school year, are coming in and serving but we don’t know (and) we’re not able to truly recognize them until this event,” said Kelli Ray, a VIPS Executive Board member leading community outreach.

Volunteers provide support at district, campus and organizational levels by serving as business partners, Adopt-a-School partners and mentors. They even include Board of Trustees members, who give up many hours of their personal time to help steer the third-largest school district in Texas and 22nd-biggest in the nation.

“You get to see the kids on an everyday basis (and) what they’re doing,” said Krista Guerrero, who serves as Post Elementary School’s PTO president. “When they see you, it puts a smile on their face and there’s nothing better.”

Added Klaudia Weston, a volunteer with the Langham Creek High School band: “You get to know all the kids, get to know all the parents and actually support the staff and administration.”

0509 VIPS Appreciation 4Heath Rushing, right, Memorial Hermann Cypress CEO, accepts a Community Engagement Award for the hospital from Becky Souther, CFISD Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS) executive board member at the VIPS Appreciation Event on May 2.

The VIPS Appreciation Event filled the Berry Center arena, with administrators from individual campuses bringing signs and balloons to show their support for their volunteers.

Attendees were treated to numerous performances from students across CFISD. They ranged from the Cy-Fair High School Air Force JROTC presenting the colors and Sampson Elementary School first-grade student Coral Khieu performing Sonatina on the piano, to Spillane Middle School’s percussion ensemble performing a piece with dinnerware and Cypress Ranch High School senior Abigail Ayala singing I Dreamed a Dream.

The Board of Trustees joined Ault Elementary School cheerleaders for a combined performance to end the ceremony.

“The VIPS Appreciation Event is a wonderful opportunity each year to recognize our district volunteers and business partners,” said Leslie Francis, CFISD director of marketing and business relations. “We are so fortunate for the incredible support from our sponsors, who completely underwrite the event, as well as our extremely talented students and staff which provide the entertainment.”

AFJROTC offers students leadership, team-building opportunities

A number of programs, classes and organizations within Cypress-Fairbanks ISD offer students the ability to assume leadership roles, work together in a team setting and learn discipline and structure. One that represents more than 1,100 high school students at all four grade levels is Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC).

Hosted on eight of CFISD’s 12 comprehensive high school campuses – students from non-hosting schools combine with other units – JROTC is a federally-sponsored program by the United State Armed Forces and dates its origin to the National Defense Act of 1916. At its core, the program is designed to help develop students learn and understand good citizenship, leadership, respect, community service, the importance of physical fitness and self-reliance.

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Cy-Fair High School Air Force Junior ROTC students participate in the Military Drill Competition on Feb. 3 at the Berry Center. 

There is no military obligation and the program isn’t designed to steer participants toward military service, though the influence includes curriculum (aerospace science and leadership in CFISD) taught by retired military personnel and cadets required to wear a uniform. The focus is instead on building those soft skills to help students thrive in any career path they choose.

“The students run the program,” said Dr. Sharon Hogue, CFISD AFJROTC and career and technical education coordinator. “It’s a cadet-run program, and so the instructors build up the cadets and the cadets take charge.”

Within each JROTC unit are a number of activities and teams in which a cadet can participate, including the drill team and color guard. Units participate in competitions, team-building activities and community service. Earning a letterman jacket is also possible in JROTC.

“I really love ROTC because of everything it has to offer after school,” said Sayra Rodriguez, a Jersey Village High School senior and the school’s AFJROTC corps commander. “There are so many teams that you can join and it actually gave me my first leadership position.”

Cypress Falls High School AFJROTC cadets lead the “Pass in Review” at Pridgeon Stadium on April 21. 

CFISD and its AFJROTC units hosted a Military Drill Competition on Feb. 3 at the Berry Center, in which 25 units from across CFISD and the Houston area participated. Langham Creek High School placed third overall, as cadets competed in events that included academic presentations and testing, inspections, exhibition drill and physical training. Units were evaluated by military training instructors from Lackland Air Force’s 737th Training Group, University of Houston ROTC cadets and Texas A&M University cadets.

The district also hosted its 16th Annual AFJROTC Pass in Review, which was held April 21 at Pridgeon Stadium. A military tradition designed to display the readiness of troops and their units to a newly assigned commander, the Pass in Review showcased the cadets’ discipline and uniformity to a crowd that included family, friends, Board of Trustees members and campus and district administrators.

Cypress Falls High School AFJROTC Unit TX-20003 served as the host school and senior Josephine Ngo served as the commander of troops.

“This event is steeped in military tradition dating back to the American Revolution at Valley Forge,” Hogue said. “These cadets carry on the proud tradition of excellence with their precision maneuvers, as evidence of the hard work, discipline and dedication of the instructors and cadets.”

Though a four-year program, JROTC has the ability to help students build long-lasting relationships beyond high school.

“We are a big family, so all the connections with people are really strong,” said Fatima Medina, a Cy-Fair High School junior and cadet captain. “You find friendships and connections and bonds that can’t be broken. It’s really a special thing.”

Technology Festival offers showcase for student projects

When speaking about the 2018 CFISD Student Technology Festival, R3: Rethink, Recreate, Redefine, Becky Cook, director of instructional technology, beams with pride when discussing two main points about the event and its nine-year history.

First is the fact that the projects, demonstrations and showcase items displayed by nearly 1,000 CFISD students April 12 at the Berry Center were the same projects, demonstrations and showcase items they work on in the classroom.

“These aren’t extra projects,” Cook said. “These are things that happen every day in our classrooms. What we love is being able to allow our kids to come here and have parents, community members and whoever see all the work that they’ve done.”


Second is the growth experience in less than a decade. The festival started with 200 students at Cypress Ridge High School’s cafeteria and a minimal crowd.

More than 4,100 total guests visited the ninth edition, seeing displays that not only canvassed the entire arena, but the atrium and conference center as well.

“Every year, I have people that come up to me and say, ‘I had no idea,’” Cook said. “They’ll walk through the arena, come out and say, ‘I didn’t know we did automotive, I didn’t know we did Cisco Networking or health sciences.’

“And for others who have been around for nine years, they’re not shocked. They’ve seen this over and over again, and they’ve seen the growth.”

The event is a districtwide celebration of student technology projects and curriculum offerings with students in grades pre-K through 12 showcasing the use of technology in the classroom. Students demonstrated devices, software and programs to help solve problems, simulated collaboration inside and outside the classroom and modeled products they created using technology.


As technology evolves, so does the festival and its projects.

The 2018 event featured an exhibit making its debut, with Tipps Elementary School pre-K students showcasing Bee Bots, a bumblebee-looking robot that maneuvers around an activity mat after it’s programed through coding by the students. The students, many only 4 years old, program the bot to move across the mat, learning shapes, letters and numbers in addition to coding, team-building, language and social skills.

“It’s amazing and everybody is into this,” said Yasmin Ahmad, a Tipps pre-K teacher. “They’ve never done this coding system before and never done this technology in pre-K. We have other technology in our classrooms as well, but this technology is more hands-on. They are directing the Bee Bot themselves and coding the Bee Bot themselves.”

And like many other events and showcases throughout the school year, the Technology Festival is just another example of CFISD offering opportunities for every student.

“From 4 years old all the way to seniors, there is something that will pique somebody’s interests,” Cook said. “It’s all about exposing our students to everything so that they have lots of choices when they decide a path.”