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Eighth-grader in top five for child of the year honor

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Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 4:30 am

A Union Grove Middle School eighth-grader is in the top five for Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year.

Isabelle Berry was a leader at her Harker Heights school the first day she stepped on campus as a sixth-grader, said school counselor Tania Ware.

Berry’s nomination and a telephone interview propelled her to the top 20 among Army students and then the top five before the final honoree was named at the organization’s fifth annual award event.

“I really didn’t expect it to go anywhere,” said Isabelle, who spoke with humility about her considerable leadership skills and commitment to service. “I was blown away when I made the top 20.”

The eighth-grader, who has lived in the area two years, is president of the school’s Junior Student 2 Student group, which welcomes new students to the campus. She is also the spirit captain for the cheerleaders.

She speaks with greater passion for her volunteerism, which centers on her devout Christian faith.

Isabelle plays the guitar and cello and is learning other instruments. She helps lead the worship team for the youth group at First Baptist Church in Killeen.

She also takes part in the youth group’s many outreach projects that benefit soldiers, nursing center residents and families in need at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Her life has followed the pattern of many military children. Born in Hawaii, the daughter of 1st Sgt. Drew and Sandy Berry of Harker Heights has lived in Georgia, Germany, Italy and Hawaii, as well as Texas. She acknowledged that leaving friends behind is difficult and her father’s deployments are challenging, but said she values her rich experiences.

“The good thing is you see a lot of culture,” said the upbeat Isabelle. “You learn to communicate and get along with a lot of different people.

“You lose track of friends along the way, but you make so many new friends,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard, but God put me in each place for a reason and I’ve grown a lot from it.”

Ware and Union Grove academic advisor Jennifer Parnell said Isabelle has a positive influence on the campus, always trying to improve the school and to build community.

“She is very genuine and positive,” Ware said. “She goes over and beyond the call of duty.”

Every year San Antonio-based Operation Homefront names a Military Child of the Year to represent each of the five service branches. As a top five recipient among Army nominees, Isabelle received a laptop computer.

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