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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

Record-breaking Superintendent’s Fun Run continues to grow

Growing from a simple idea to bring CFISD employees together and raise money for the Cy-Fair Educational Foundation (CFEF), the Superintendent’s Fun Run and Festival has grown into a community event that even Dr. Mark Henry, CFISD superintendent of schools, couldn’t imagine.

Now in its fifth year, the Fun Run and Festival has exceeded most – if not all – expectations. In addition to the 5K and 1-mile races, event organizers and support staff have been able to lean on numerous school, community and business partners, who have reciprocated through participation, sponsorships and support, helping turn races into a carnival-like atmosphere featuring on-site vendor booths, food trucks, bounce houses and student performance groups.

And the fifth edition, held March 24 at the Berry Center, was historic – representatives from CFISD and Memorial Hermann Cypress Hospital, the event’s underwriter, presented the CFEF with a check worth $100,000, a total nearly doubling any of the Fun Run and Festival predecessors.

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“That was my goal five years ago,” Dr. Henry said. “To eventually get to $100,000, but I thought it would take longer than this. But I will say that number is significant because that endows a scholarship for a student – $100,000 is a very, very nice scholarship for a student and that goes on into perpetuity. It never ends because we just take the interest and investment earnings off of that $100,000 and create a new scholarship every year so I’m really excited about that.”

The Fun Run and Festival featured a 5K and a 1-mile run that took place in and around the Berry Center and Lone Star College–CyFair. An added addition this year was the sleep-in pass, giving those who couldn’t attend an opportunity to still contribute.

Helping start the 5K was Arnstar from GoNoodle’s Blazer Fresh, who led race participants in stretching exercises before Dr. Henry signaled the official start. Memorial Hermann Cypress Hospital, the event’s underwriter, sponsored GoNoodle Plus for CFISD K-6 teachers, students and parents for the 2017-2018 school year. A classroom movement program aimed to fuel learning through the power of movement, GoNoodle is used in 80 percent of U.S. elementary schools.

“The energy, the electricity – it was impactful,” Arnstar said. “And just to know that Blazer Fresh is making a difference in the way it is, I’m super grateful.”

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In all, 60 sponsors helped make 2018’s Fun Run and Festival the biggest to date. That included Memorial Hermann Cypress, which has firmly entrenched itself as an ally of CFISD in just its first year. Hospital representatives were among the 80 vendor booths that helped give the event a carnival-like feel.

“Cy-Fair ISD knows how to do it right and knows how to put on an event,” said Heath Rushing, Memorial Hermann Cypress and Katy senior vice president and CEO. “We’re just proud to be a part of it.”

And while the Fun Run and Festival supports CFISD students through helping fund CFEF scholarships and other opportunities, the event also prominently featured hundreds of students of all ages.

More than 1,400 registered for the two races. More than 500 participated as volunteers. The 17 performances featured groups from a number of schools, including the Jersey Village High School cheerleaders, Andre’ Elementary School Leopard Steppers, Rennell Elementary School Redhawk Dance team, Cypress Ridge High School Dazzlers, Anthony Middle School Glee Club and Cypress Lakes High School R.E.D. Storm.

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“One of the things I take great pride in is the adults that work and live in this district have great relationships with the students that go to school in this district,” Dr. Henry said. “That’s a culmination of great parenting, great school system and instilling in students the idea of giving back for the things they have so much to be thankful for. I just really appreciate all the parents, the teachers and the employees, and of course our students for making this a success.”