It was an evening of celebration Thursday as about 250 people attended the Killeen ISD 2013 Distinguished Alumni Awards and Student Scholarship Reception.
The Killeen Independent School District Alumni Association and the KISD Education Foundation hosted the event at Central Texas College’s Anderson Campus Center.
“The foundation handles grants for teachers, training and items needed for the classroom,” said Brandi Cleaver, foundation director.
The group had a record year raising more than $120,000 by campaigning for donations from residents and businesses throughout the community, said John Lohse, foundation president.
“We’ve given out over a million dollars in grants to kids and teachers,” he said.
“It’s a valuable part of KISD, especially with budget cuts, and it helps supplement classroom projects and helps teachers get proper training.”
Six people who graduated from a Killeen ISD high school who made an impact in the community were recognized.
“They get nominated by a colleague or family member, and we review those and once a year we have a class of distinguished alumni,” Cleaver said. “We don’t hear about all the positive things in public schools, but when I asked everyone whose a graduate of public education to stand, we see that great things are happening in Texas.”
Awardees like Jennifer Washington, a 1981 graduate of Ellison High School, was surprised she received the recognition.
“I was absolutely floored,” she said. “KISD has graduated so many distinguished students in general and to be included in a group like that is a humbling honor.”
She is currently the director of student/district/community relations for the school district. She encouraged students in the community to continue to dream big.
Awardee Paula Lohse, dealer principal at Toyota of Killeen, said it was a sweet honor to receive the award. She is a 1971 graduate of Killeen High School.
“A lot of my classmates from my high school days had contacted me about receiving the award,” she said. “I don’t know how they found out, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
She reminded students to remain active and involved in the community.
It’s advice that awardee Julia Anderson, 2001 graduate of Ellison High School, practices.
She is a physician assistant with the Thomas Moore Health Clinic at Fort Hood as well as a volunteer with the Greater Killeen Free Clinic.
“I’m definitely where I expected and wanted to be,” she said.
She said the school district continues to lay the foundation needed to help students become successful in life.
“We are doing something right and all the pressure we are putting on kids for standardized testing is paying off.”
Other awardees recognized for giving back to the community include Robert “Bobby” Hoxworth, a 1982 graduate of Ellison High School who is the president of First National Bank Texas; Karl Ortiz, a 1972 graduate of Killeen High School who is an investigator for the Bell County district attorney; and Stan Schlueter, a 1964 graduate of Killeen High School who served in the state Legislature and currently owns a public advocacy company, The Schlueter Group.
The foundation will award about $25,000 in scholarships this year, Cleaver said. About 200 high school students submitted applications.
During the reception, seven students received part of that scholarship funding to help them finance their way through college.
“It was funny because I was at the gym when I got the call,” said Miandra Morales of Ellison High School. “I was so excited and it was crazy because I didn’t realize this is how it actually happens.”
She said she will attend Texas A&M University in College Station where she will major in kinesiology. “I’ve been in KISD since kindergarten and to be recognized in a good way was great.”
“This was thanks to the upward bound program who helped me take this great opportunity,” said Rafael Medrano Munoz of Killeen High School. He, too, will attend Texas A&M University to study civil engineering.
Ronald Clark of Killeen High School, Rochelle Vazquez of Shoemaker High School, and Brianna Hatfield, Noah Golaboff and Kelsey Wilson of Ellison High School also received scholarships.
The foundation also sold school spirit ribbons during the event to raise more funding to go toward future scholarship awards.