By Todd Martin
Special to the Daily Herald
Welcoming new students is a serious, well-planned activity at Shoemaker High School in Killeen, where 800 newcomers may enter the doors in a given year.
Validating the school's strong Student 2 Student group, two student leaders attended the Military Child Education Coalition national conference in June in Nashville.
Junior Cion Hicks and senior Xavier Duke gave a presentation to 1,300 conference attendees and made friends with peer leaders representing five states.
Shoemaker Dean of Students Audrey Cullars said the invitation and the students' efforts showed the Killeen school is among the best of about 200 schools nationwide that have S2S programs.
About 60 students participated in S2S at Shoemaker last year, but Cullars said she expected the group to expand to more than 100 this year.
The group provides social mixers for new students and provides mentors and tutors, student buddies, opportunities for service projects and goodies such as free tickets to football games. "Food, facts and fun" is the way Hicks described the S2S offerings to new students.
This year, the Shoemaker group may offer an even wider variety of activities.
"The national conference was an experience I will treasure," Duke said. "We met new people and learned ideas we had never thought about."
As for their presentation to 1,300 adults, the pair said they had practiced so much that they walked through the description of the Shoemaker program with ease.
Over the years, Cullars said the MCEC conference included Student 2 Student as a breakout session, but this year conference planners acknowledged its huge popularity by placing it on the main program.
The Shoemaker High School students applied for the conference slot and were picked along with pairs from Washington, Alabama, North Carolina and Colorado.
Their application included a Web page and a memory book documenting last year's activities.
During the conference, the Killeen students said they learned how S2S groups from other states use a pancake breakfast as a new student mixer, as well as a pie-eating contest and designated new student lunch tables.
Cullars said Hicks and Duke are among many students who worked hard last year to welcome new students and that the national invitation was an unexpected gift that motivated them to do even more.
"I do it to help kids," Hicks said of her involvement in Shoemaker S2S. "High school is big and moving around is not comfortable. When new students succeed, our school succeeds. It's a chain reaction when people keep helping each other."
"No one wants to be the oddball," said Duke. "I invite new students to parties with me. It helps them feel like they have been here a long time."