BELTON — Four local youth organizations honored a group of “absolutely incredible” students from Central Texas school districts at a luncheon Thursday at the Bell County Expo Center.
The Central Texas Incredible Kids Celebration honored 10 students from the Killeen, Copperas Cove, Temple, Belton, Gatesville and Salado independent school districts. The students chosen each year are nominated by teachers, counselors and other staff from their schools.
“We look for kids who look outside themselves, and are out there serving other people in their community,” said Gayle Ash, a member of the Centex Chargers Homeschool Sports Association.
The association, along with the Boys & Girls Club of Central Texas, the Belton Christian Youth Center and Ralph Wilson Youth Clubs, work cooperatively as the Central Texas Youth Coalition, and are carrying on the Incredible Kids Celebration this year. Previously the event was organized by Camp Fire USA’s Tejas Council.
This year’s celebration marked the 14th year of the ceremony.
Students honored this year included Madu Eneli, an eighth-grade student at Union Grove Middle School in Killeen ISD. Nominated by his fifth-grade teacher, Eneli recently published a book, titled “Am I ready for Middle School?”
“When I first heard that I was picked, I was very excited,” Eneli said. “I was very surprised.”
Eneli’s mother, Aya Eneli, said she was excited, but not surprised that her son had been nominated.
“As his mom, I feel he is a pretty incredible guy,” she said. “He’s a wonderful kid, and we are very happy.”
Zari Chipman, an eighth-grader from Copperas Cove Junior High School in the Cove ISD who participates in a number of community service projects including working as a student-to-student mentor, was nominated by CCJHS social studies teacher Catherine Sharbeno.
“She has demonstrated excellent leadership skills,” Sharbeno said. “She really goes above and beyond to serve her school and her community.”
Annabelle Alyce Barrington, a 12th-grade student at Gatesville High School, also was honored this year. In addition to her work both in and out of school, Barrington was named Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Club of Central Texas.
Before receiving their awards, the students heard a short speech from the event’s guest speaker, Dr. John Boyd III, CEO for McLane Children’s Hospital Scott & White and its clinics.
“Tremendous accomplishments are made up of a lot of small wins, and even some failures, along the way,” Boyd said. “We all need to remember and celebrate those small wins.”
In addition to the 10 students, the coalition also honored Abdul Subhani, Belton ISD Superintendent Susan Kincannon, television station KCEN-TV and Copperas Cove Mayor John Hull at Thursday’s ceremony.