The Central Texas Youth Coalition will honor the 2013 Central Texas Incredible Kids on Thursday at the Bell County Expo Assembly Hall in Belton.

This year's honorees, with excerpts from their nominating letters, are:

Annabelle Barrington, 12th grade, Gatesville High School. She "demonstrates high morale character in all that she does and expects the same from others." Annabelle is the daughter of Jim and Sherry Barrington. She is a member of the high school dance team, 4-H, the Coryell County ambassadors program, Students for Excellence, Keystone Club, Spanish Club and Awanas and spends more than 400 hours a year volunteering.

What makes this child an Incredible Kid? Annabelle is a hard-worker and has many responsibilities at home, including cleaning the dishes, taking out the trash, cleaning the house, helping with the laundry and caring for her younger siblings when her parents are not home. She also helps her extended family by babysitting whenever the opportunity presents itself. She helps her siblings with their homework and tries to be a good role model for her siblings; these are some more ways that Annabelle contributes to her family. As a former band student, Annabelle also helps Tiffany, her younger sister, with learning new music and playing her instrument. Annabelle demonstrates high moral character in all that she does and expects the same from others. She is honest, trustworthy, and respectful to her peers, both in school and at the Boys and Girls Club. She is kind-hearted and cares about the feelings of others, and she is extremely loyal to her friends. By holding her peers to these same expectations, she encourages them to be the best they can be also. Annabelle faithfully participates in all community service projects offered by the Boys and Girls Club, often taking on a leadership role, as well as suggesting ideas for future community service projects. She is definitely a positive role model to the other Club members in this respect. Annabelle has excellent judgment when faced with choosing between right and wrong, even when the right choice is harder or will make her stand out among her peers. She goes to great lengths to uphold these values in her daily life even though it may compromise friendships.  Through her church she has also reached out to the community spiritually by passing out “gospel trax” at the annual 4th of July and Christmas parades. She also reaches out to members of her community through “Baskets for Elders,” something her girls youth group does once a month.  Annabelle was nominated by the Boys & Girls Club of Gatesville as their 2012-2013 Youth of the Year representative. Ms. Barrington competed in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Texas Youth of the Year competition and was selected as the local winner. Lastly, as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Texas' Youth of the Year representative, Ms. Barrington went on to compete in the North Area Council Regional Youth of the Year competition where she was selected as one of two finalists, qualifying her for the Boys & Girls Youth of the Year State competition.

Zari Chipman, eighth grade, Copperas Cove Junior High School. She "has overcome areas such as her brother´s cancer relapsing" and she also "helps care for her younger sister when her mother is busy with her brother." Zari is the daughter of Sherry and Michael Chapman. She is in National Junior Honor Society, choir, plays sports and is a student ambassador.

What makes this child an Incredible Kid? This child has been through a lot this past year and is still working very hard to maintain her school work and sports activities. She will be a People to People Ambassador to Australia during this upcoming summer. She has also been selected to attend the Congressional Youth Leadership Conference in Austin. She has overcome areas such as her brother's cancer relapsing and her mother’s having to travel to Del Rio to care for him. She also helps care for her younger sister when her mother is busy with her brother.

Austin Coullard, 12th grade, Belton High School. He is a "remarkable" young man. "He is involved in and excels in more activities than most students ever attempt." Austin is the son of Ronald and Vicki Martin. He is president of the French Club, a boys captain for Student-to-Student, a lifeguard and swim instructor and a guys-group youth ministry leader at Temple Bible Church.

What makes this child an Incredible Kid? Austin is one of the most remarkable young men I have ever had the opportunity to work with. He is involved in and excels in more activities than most student ever attempt. He was an all-district swimmer in 9th, 10th and 11th grade, has been the team captain for the past 2 years, qualified in regional and state art competitions, and is a member of many student organizations such as; Student to Student, Art and French Clubs, and the National Honor Society. Austin describes himself as determined, caring and inquisitive. He says, “Life is more than getting the highest mark or the fastest time, it’s about advancing human society and strengthening the human spirit. “ He lives this idea through volunteer work and community involvement. He has volunteered at the San Antonio food bank, handed out Valentines at local nursing homes, became a Scott & White junior volunteer, helped refurbish a teen shelter, worked as a Salvation Army bell ringer, is an “Impact” youth leader, donates and helps organize Operation Christmas Child, and participated in a Public Service announcement for bullying. Austin has touched the lives of his family, teachers and coaches along his journey. His mom describes him as independent, determined, and very disciplined. She says he deals with adversity head-on by accepting the situation for what it is, adjusting as needed, and moving forward, past any problems he may encounter. When Austin was in 5th grade, he nominated his favorite teacher for an award at Sam’s Club. She unexpected won the award based on his recommendation letter and a modest amount of cash was donated to the school in her honor. Austin showed immense joy for someone else receiving recognition for their good work. Austin’s teachers describe him as innovative, gentlemanly and creative. With plans to work internationally in architecture he has chosen coursework, including advanced level art and physics classes, throughout high school to support this dream. Austin swims competitively, is a talented artist, volunteers in the community all the while taking advanced level courses and maintaining the number eight position in a class of five hundred ninety-two with a 107.464 GPA. He is a multitalented and awesome young man who will no doubt accomplish anything he sets his mind to

Catalina Cruz, 12th grade, Temple High School. She is a "determined and dedicated young woman that is dealing with Graves disease." Catalina is the daughter of Thomas and Criselda Cruz. She is in the band and wind ensemble and volunteers with the "Just Because" gift drive and the People to People Ambassador group in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

What makes this child an Incredible Kid? Catalina Cruz is a determined and dedicated young woman that is dealing with Graves Eye Disease. I first came to know Catalina as she dealt with Graves disease which is an autoimmune disorder that leads to an over activity of the thyroid gland. Catalina and her parents were concerned that she would miss school due to the illness and treatment she would undergo for the Graves Disease. Even though Catalina took radiation to treat the initial Graves Disease she seldom missed school and always took the initiative with her teachers to make sure she was caught up with needed work in classes. The good news is that through the radiation treatment Catalina’s Graves Disease was cured. However, soon after she developed Grave’s Eye Disease. This causes severe swelling and pain in Catalina’s eyes. There is not really a treatment for this other than eye drops to sooth and help with swelling. This has not been effective for Catalina. So, Catalina started her research and was able to locate a doctor in Michigan that possibly has a surgical procedure that can cure Catalina’s eye disease. Due to the painful eye swelling Catalina can sometimes not attend school due to the discomfort and poor vision. However, she is still on top of her game and gets the needed work completed and back in a timely manner. During the week of February 18th, Catalina did all the planning, travel arrangements and scheduling of appointments to meet with the Michigan doctor that can hopefully help with the eye disease. The trip went incredible well. There is a remedy for Catalina's eye condition! Catalina has signed all the paperwork herself to have her eyes operated on June 10th. She will have to leave the day after graduation and stay in Michigan for a week before she will be ready to fly home. Everyone that Catalina met with was impressed with her determination and even the doctor, who is the best in the field of Thyroid Eye Disease, said she is one brave and tough kid for searching for her cure and then traveling so far to get it. I know that Catalina will do her best to make it till June with the eye irritation that she deals with on a daily basis. The operation is the only thing that will remedy the eye disease. When the doctor asked if Catalina had any photos of herself for him to see before the illness, she pulled out her laptop and showed him a huge file she had made just for him. The doctor just smiled and said, "I can make your eyes look like they did before this illness started, you will never know it happened." Catalina’s mom stated that she just smiled at him and then when she was alone with her mother she said, "Mom I know the doctor said it will seem like it never happened but I will never be the same again, this disease has changed every course in my life but I accept it because it has made me who I am today." Catalina’s strength is amazing. Her parents and Catalina often tell me how appreciative they are of the staffs’ concern and help with academics. Little do they know that each of us are appreciative of the courage that we witness every day in our classrooms and halls as Catalina shows up and completes needed requirements for graduation. She is an amazing young woman with a bright future.

Madu Eneli, seventh grade, Union Grove Middle School in Harker Heights. "Madu has made a commitment to speak to 5,000 youth by the end of 2013 about taking education seriously and committing to choices that will lead to success." Madu is the son of Dr. Ken and Aya Eneli. He participates in JS2S, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, book club and Community Crew in addition to several volunteer activities.

What makes this child an Incredible Kid? I am a fifth grade teacher at Nolanville Elementary School. The first day of the school year 2009-2010 Madu entered my world. At the end of the day I remember saying to myself, "Wow.” Madu was the new kid on the block but by the end of the day his other classmates had welcomed him with open arms. He was energetic, courteous, kind, questioning and definitely a leader. He auditioned for and was granted a position on our in house broadcast system, NESTV. He accepted a position of reading to some of our first grade students. He auditioned and was given a lead role in our fifth grade musical production. Madu became a leader in our classroom. He was nominated by our Computer specialist to attend the Congressional Youth Leadership Conference. He then was invited to attend the Middle School Presidential Conference. The tuition was $3000.00. He decided to write a book. It is called Am I Ready for Middle School. He raised the necessary money and attended the conference. He also witnessed the inauguration of our 44th president. He was invited by MSNBC to participate in the Third Annual Education Nation Summit in New York City. Madu is athletic and is the KISD's 7th grade tennis champion. He also plays football, runs track, and plays basketball. In January 2013, Madu presented a workshop on goal setting for students at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center. Madu and his siblings presented suitcases of children\'s clothing to the village or Opobo, Nigeria. Nigeria is his family's country of origin. Madu has made a commitment to speak to 5000 youth by the end of 2013 about taking education seriously and committing to choices that will lead to success for their future. He says that he has achieved 10% of his goal. Madu has made a difference in my life. What an incredible kid. My future. However he has made a difference in many lives now. What about the future?

Nick Hernandez, eighth grade, Lamar Middle School in Temple. He "demonstrates admirable levels of patience, persistence, fortitude, optimism, a strong work ethic and obvious willpower." Nick is the son of Barbara and Demetrio Hernandez. He participates in ACE, choir and is on the yearbook staff. He´s also an ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in Temple and Killeen.

What makes this child an Incredible Kid? On a daily basis, Nick Hernandez demonstrates admirable levels of patience, persistence, fortitude, optimism, a strong work ethic, and obvious willpower. Nick was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at the age of 3. I first had the pleasure of meeting him as a teacher when we were cautiously anticipating his move from Western Hills Elementary to Lamar Middle School. How would we deal with classes on the 2nd floor? What kind of changes would need to be made to make classrooms wheelchair accessible? At that time, Nick was using his wheelchair only part-time. I will not forget how he smiled and extended his hand to firmly shake mine and announce that he was glad to meet me. I was definitely impressed that an 11-year old could be that confident, sincere, and also cordial, but I soon discovered that Nick is the product of good parenting. Over fifty years old, our hallways are both busy and crowded at Lamar Middle School. Nick navigates his way through the crowds with a strong sense of understanding and acquired patience. He understands that teenagers need to socialize with their friends and they sometimes ignore his attempts to get to his next class. Never raising his voice or forcing his way through, polite beyond measure, he simply waits and smiles. And, speaking of friends, Nick has two powerful friendships that he's grateful for and he doesn't take them for granted. His friend, Izaiah Jones, has been a close friend since the 1st grade. He's seen the changes in Nick as his disease has taken its toll and he accepts Nick for who he still is. Another strong friendship that Nick values is that of Drew Schmidt, a cancer survivor who attends Lamar Middle School. You'll often see Drew pushing Nick down the hallway. It warms my heart. Nick is also an awesome student. Always on the A/B Honor Roll, he also scored well above the Phase I standards on his Spring of 2012 Math, Reading, and Writing STAAR Exams. That was NO small accomplishment! Nick is a little concerned about attending Temple High School next Fall. He's understandably worried about meeting new people that will judge him based upon his appearances in his wheelchair. Though Nick isn't out to change the world, in a quiet and peaceful way, Nick Hernandez IS changing the world. He's making the world a better place to live for all of us, and that makes him undoubtedly one incredible kid!

Taylor Ann Parker, sixth grade, Salado Intermediate School. "She is the big sister to 5-year-old Logan who was born with a rare genetic disease. ... She is his biggest cheerleader." Taylor is the daughter of Ben and Doris Parker. She is in tumbling and cheerleading and volunteers with AMBUCS.

What makes this child an Incredible Kid? Taylor Parker is a truly "incredible kid." She is the big sister to five year old Logan who was born with a rare genetic disease, Pelizaues-Merzbacher Disease (PMD). She is his biggest cheerleader! The family has held two fund raisers for the PMD Foundation and Taylor has had a big hand in each of them. She created her own line of original design jewelry, "Taylor's Cute Creations,” to sell to raise money to donate and raised over $1200 in about 3 months. She continues to take orders for this cause. She also asked for donations only at her 11th birthday party. She was able to send more than $300 to the PMD foundation at that time. She recently came up with a plan for higher education for PMD children. She wants to open a college for them so they can continue their education and be successful in life. Those plans are still a work in progress! She has been her brother’s "buddy" for two seasons of Buddy Basketball at First Baptist Church in Belton.  Taylor has participated in many charitable walks and activities in the area for people with disabilities. She has been featured in local newspaper articles to bring awareness to her efforts for the PMD Foundation and her devotion to her brother. She is very loving towards her brother, they are often seen holding hands as he rolls along in his wheelchair at the store or any activity the family is involved in. Taylor is also a very busy young lady with her school activities and gymnastics. She is hoping to become a cheerleader for Salado Jr. High for next football season. Please consider Taylor for this award because she truly is an "INCREDIBLE KID."

Kobe Sanchez, eighth grade, South Belton Middle School. "He excels in the classroom. ... He is kind to others and encourages that same kindness in his fellow students." Kobe is the son of Eusebio and Christina Sanchez. He participates in baseball, basketball, football, track and weightlifthing.

What makes this child an Incredible Kid? Kobe came to us after Christmas and stood out as an incredible young man from the moment he showed up to enroll. I could tell he was something special. He is one of the most polite young men I have ever encountered in my 20 years at the middle school level. He excels in the classroom, in the school common areas and on the basketball court. He is kind to others and encourages that same kindness in his fellow students. When I told Coach Hagaman that I was going to nominate Kobe, he asked if he could add to the nomination. This is what he said, "When I met Kobe Sanchez it took me 30 seconds to see what he is made of. His work in the classroom, on the basketball court, and in the weight room is unmatched by his peers. No matter what task Kobe is given, he leads by example and integrity. Kobe is a great teammate and is always positively encouraging his peers to push past their self-conceived limitations. I know Kobe will go far in whatever he chooses to pursue because he has a desire to be great and exceed the standard when others are comfortable just meeting it." I myself have seen what he has brought to the team as I have been at all of the home basketball games. Before Kobe came, it looked like five individuals out on the court. He brought the team together and inspired them to be greater than they were. Even when losing a game, he encourages them to keep their heads up and drive to be better. Kobe's positive spirit and leadership has added tremendously to the student body of South Belton Middle School.

Bethany Shafer, fifth grade, Pirtle Elementary School, Belton. She "is a true example of an incredible kid." She "demonstrates a true sensitivity and compassion for those in need." Bethany is the daughter of Capt. Bill and Brenda Shafer. She participates in her church youth ministry, church band and the praise and worship team and volunteers with several organizations.

What makes this child an Incredible Kid? It is indeed my pleasure to nominate Bethany Joy Shafer for this great recognition. When I saw the information; today in the newspaper, I immediately thought of Bethany because she is a true example of an incredible kid. I first met Bethany last June when her parents, Captain Bill & Brenda Shafer, Salvation Army Corps Officers, were assigned to Temple, Texas. From the first time you meet Bethany, you can easily recognize that there is something special about her. When I found out that her middle name was Joy, my thoughts were what an appropriate name as she brings so much joy to others. What is so amazing about Bethany is her love for others and her ability to demonstrate care and concern for them, even though she is only 10 years of age. She definitely is remarkable for her age in that she demonstrates a true sensitivity and compassion for those in need. I have worked with Bethany since she first came to Temple and had observed her during many volunteer activities. She has enthusiastically filled food bags for the homeless, prepared sack lunches for the local feeding programs, participated in the bagging of toys and clothes for the underprivileged children in our community, served meals to homeless at Thanksgiving, made and delivered cards and letters to individuals in nursing homes, and made Valentine cards for veterans at the Veterans Hospital, many of which were her own ideas. All of these activities have occurred during the past 12 months that I have known her. Recently, she signed up for Paws with a Cause in which she will take her dog and visit patients in the Nursing Home to encourage them and bring them cheer. An example of her sensitivity to others is when she recognized that a young girl in her church didn't have many clothes so she went through her closet and gave her some of her clothes in a loving and sharing manner. Now this was Bethany's idea and not her parents. How many kids would even recognize this need? Bethany is very active with her church including praise band, Bible bowl, junior singing company and drama and is on the A/B honor roll at school. She placed first and has received awards and ribbons in photography and choreography for the Reflection Competitions. She also participates at Lisa’s Dance Studio and has participated in youth softball, soccer, gymnastics, and cheerleading. She is also learning to play the piano, coronet, and guitar. Don't you agree that this is amazing for someone her age. Bethany has certainly made a difference in the Central Texas community and I believe that she is a true asset to our community, even though she is very young. I would like to see her recognized as an incredible kid because of her caring and her extraordinary community service. Her efforts have certainly gone above and beyond what is expected of a child. She has demonstrated care and concern for the less fortunate and has brought joy to the homeless and those in need. I believe that Bethany is an incredible kid and I would love to see her recognized for her efforts. She definitely believes in setting goals which I feel confident that she will reach. Her goal of becoming a lawyer so that she can help those in need in her community speaks of her compassionate and caring.

Evan Smith, 12th grade, Belton High School. By befriending a young boy with autism, "Evan has touched the life of not only Logan, but of all those who witnessed (his) acts of kindness." Evan is the son of Amy and Raymond Smith. He participates in FFA and Young Life, plays drums in a youth worship band and works with special needs teens.

What makes this child an Incredible Kid? “I saw one of the most remarkable things while judging Tuesday.  It was the first class of the day and a boy walked into the class a bit late.  He got five steps into the ring, stopped, then turned around and walked towards the entrance gate leaving his pig in the middle of the ring.  I thought it was a little weird so I turned around and evaluated the class then all of a sudden the whole crowd started clapping.  I turned back around to see if the boy had come back and he had—holding the hand of an autistic boy.  After watching these two boys work together and finding out he had bought, fed, walked, washed, and prepared this pig for the autistic boy, emotions got the best of me and I couldn’t help but to let a few tears fall.  When the class finished, hundreds of people were on their feet and several cameras flashed as I shook this boy’s hand in the middle of the ring and he said, Thank you so much, sir.  You’ve made my senior year.”  I don’t talk to God as regularly as I should but I prayed for the boys that night, a boy with a big heart, a supporting county, and agriculture allowed these two to become the best of friends.  The most impacting experience I’ve ever had.  Goes to show there are some good people in this world and we should never take advantage of life.”

Local adults and organizations who have made a significant difference in the lives of youth also will be recognized. Receiving the "Outstanding Achievement for Youth" award will be John Hull, mayor of Copperas Cove, Susan Kincannon, superintendent of Belton Independent School District, Abdul Subhani, designer of programs that assist youth to learn Internet safety and technology and active youth volunteer in Central Texas, and KCEN-TV, which has initiated and supported programs for youth and families in Central Texas.

Contact M. Clare Haefner at or (254) 501-7551.

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