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.


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.”

HORIZONS program meets needs of gifted and talented students

Livestock Show and Sale an exclamation mark for FFA students

The program’s highlight came to a finish with a live premium auction Feb. 10, but the CFISD Livestock Show Association’s 24th annual Show and Sale is just part of what CFISD students and community members can experience through FFA and Agriculture Science education.

It’s still a topic that can open one’s eyes, said Corey Taylor, a Cypress Falls High School FFA adviser and Agriculture Science teacher, thanks in large part to Houston’s enormous urban footprint and the overall lack of exposure.

Sometimes, it’s just as simple as getting past that first question.

“We hear, ‘Does a student have to raise an animal to be a member of take the class?’” said Katie Dale, a Cypress Woods High School FFA adviser and Agriculture science teacher. “And we start off by saying you do not have to raise an animal to become involved.”

FFA Panorama 2

The CFISD Livestock Show and Sale – like FFA – is way beyond animals in the show ring at the CFISD Exhibit Center during the Premium Sale during the show’s final day. Every aspect, which includes agriculture science certifications, showing livestock, agriculture mechanics and horticulture, can offer lifelong skills for students. The program can prepare them for careers and become confident in the decision-making process.

“Beyond this, it allows students to get a hands-on feeling for what it takes to become dedicated, responsible and invested in something that will make them grow as young people in both humble wins as well as defeat,” Taylor said. I like to tell my students involved in the program that ‘You either win or you learn.’ Either way, you aren’t losing.”

The three-day CFISD Livestock Show and Sale is the peak for most students involved in the program, as they are able to showcase their work to the CFISD community and business partners. Now in its 24th edition, the 2018 show and sale saw approximately 800 students combine for nearly 900 entries.

The first two days are the shows and judging to determine champions in 11 separate divisions (Broiler, Turkey, Ag Mechanics, Horticulture, Goat, Lamb, Steer, Heifer, Market Rabbits, Breeding Rabbits and Swine).

The final day brings the sales, with first the silent auction and freezer sale before the Premium Sale (live auction) ends the showcase event. A final amount for total sales generated is not yet available, but the Premium Sale unofficially raised nearly $340,000.

Students are expected to seek out buyers and donations, tying those marketing and social skills back to what the learn in the classroom. Sales, pledges and donations to show entries are used to help fund higher education or further a student’s experience in the program. The 2017 Volume Buyer Award went to Mike and Darlene Jarrar of Jarrar & Company, Inc., which contributed $93,600 to the nearly $800,000 in sale generated at last year’s event.

“You can see the passion in the students’ eyes and all their hard work surface, and it is a privilege to cheer for them on the side lines,” Dale said. “To watch my students in their big moment makes every late night and early morning worth it. I believe that FFA helps grow students into the best version of themselves. It teaches them responsibility, manners, sportsmanship, and financial responsibility. Watching a student transform into the best version of themselves through their livestock project and through everything else our chapter has to offer has been a major blessing and the best feeling in the world.”

Carlton Center prepares students for future success

The top of the school’s stationery states “Carlton Center…Opportunity is Here” and that’s what is available for students at the campus named for a former educator instrumental in CFISD’s development of a comprehensive program for students with disabilities.

The Carlton Center provides its students with two distinct programs:

  • LIFE Skills classes and programming for students primarily middle school age through 21 years old requiring a highly structured setting; and
  • four specialized vocational programs focusing on pre-vocational, training and social skills to promote independence and readiness for paid employment. The programs are for students in their later high school years, providing both campus- and community-based instruction.

0205 Carlton Center 1
Cypress Falls High School senior Andrea Mendieta measures out ingredients during Commercial Foods Service at the Carlton Center, which provides vocational programs focusing on pre-vocational, training and social skills to promote independence and readiness for paid employment.

The campus currently serves 71 students, with attendance varying annually based on the recommendations from their home campuses. Of those, 37 students are in the vocational training programs, which include Commercial Foods Service, Business Media Production and VITAL (Vocational Independence and Training for Adult Living).

“In CFISD, we can meet the diverse needs of all of our learners,” said Leigh Ann Crank, an instructional specialist at the Carlton Center. “Carlton Center provides a specific pathway for that. For our students with disabilities, particularly those that are adults with disabilities, we can offer them specialized training to grow their independence within their preferred job field.”

0205 Carlton Center 2
Jersey Village High School senior Lamon Hanna organizes place settings during VITAL (Vocational Independence and Training for Adult Living) at the Carlton Center. The program helps students develop skills for after graduation, which may include readiness for employment or independence in their home.

Vocational programs are for students who have completed all their course requirements for graduation and continue to need vocational training. Commercial Foods Service and Business Media Production serve as two-period block classes, while VITAL is a full-day program.

In the vocational training, students go out and work with community partners, using skills learned in the classroom and using them as they transition closer to independence. It could be job readiness skills for potential employment or simply becoming more independent in one’s home.

“It’s such a great feeling to see our students you’ve seen for so many years go through some of those classes and progress and have that paid job and a paycheck,” said Heather Browarek, Carlton Center vocational team leader. “It’s very rewarding. A lot of hard work, a lot of teachers, a lot of influential people have helped these students and it’s amazing to see the end product, which is a happy working young man or young lady.”

0205 Carlton Center 3
Cypress Creek High School senior David Granados uses a jig saw to cut out an outline of Texas during Business Media Production at the Carlton Center, which provides vocational programs focusing on pre-vocational, training and social skills to promote independence and readiness for paid employment.

The center is named for Mrs. Dorothy Carlton, who was hired by CFISD in 1957 as the district’s first and only teacher for special education. Carlton helped shape the program, serving as supervisor and director of special education before retiring in 1977.

Originally dedicated in 1980 at the Cy-Fair Annex, the Carlton Center has been at its present home adjacent to Cypress Woods High School since 2006.

“I did a tour and just fell in love,” Browarek said. “I said the first year I feel like I hit the lottery.”