By Chris McGuinness
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - Camp Fire USA's Tejas Council honored 10 "absolutely incredible" students from Bell and Coryell counties for their positive attitudes and contributions to their schools and communities Thursday.
The students, who included two seniors from the Killeen Independent School District, were invited to a luncheon for the 13th annual Absolutely Incredible Kids Celebration at the Bell County Expo Center.
"We are here to focus on the good things that our youngsters do," said Karen Allen, a coordinator for the council's Absolutely Incredible Kids 2012 campaign. "We hear a lot of negative things about what our young people are involved in (and) this is a chance to show all the great things the youth are doing in our community."
Allen said the council requests incredible kid nominations from school districts each year. Those nominations are carefully reviewed before 10 students are invited to the lunch.
This year, the council honored two Killeen students, both of whom hail from Shoemaker High School.
Brandon Thomas, an 18 year-old Shoemaker senior, was nominated for the award by his former Spanish teacher and current high school counselor, Laura Baker.
"He is involved in so many clubs and activities and is an all-around great kid," said Baker. "He stood out because he always goes above and beyond, and he never takes credit for all the things he does."
Thomas, who participates in several school organizations, including the chess club and the Student 2 Student peer mentoring club, said he was surprised to be nominated.
"I was a little shocked," Thomas said. "It wasn't something I expected, but it was great to hear I was nominated."
Thomas said he is thinking about joining the Air Force after he graduates from Shoemaker.
Kellie Stanley, a 17-year-old senior at Shoemaker, also was nominated but unable to attend the lunch to accept her award.
"Kellie comes from a broken home and she had to grow up and face adult responsibilities before she was ready," wrote Shoemaker teacher Tasha Todd-Sheehan in her letter nominating Kellie. "However, she was very strong and did the best she could in a bad situation.
"I think this contributes to her maturity and poise and the fact that she is a very compassionate caring person that does everything she can to reach out and positively impact others," Todd-Sheehan wrote.
Charles Patterson, a former Killeen school district superintendent and guest speaker at the luncheon, praised Thomas, Stanley and the other nominees, holding them up as proof that a single person can make a difference in the lives of others.
The council also gave awards to adults and organizations who worked with local youth, including a lifetime achievement award to retired Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker.
The awards are part of Campfire USA's annual Absolutely Incredible Kids campaign, which encourages adults to write letters of encouragement and support to children.
Contact Chris McGuinness at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.
'Absolutely incredible' students
Stephen Ash, 18, home-schooled in Killeen
Katie Hudson, 17, Rogers High School
Julia Mueller, 18, Belton High School
Kellie Stanley, 17, Shoemaker High School, Killeen
Abigail Te Poel, 17, home-schooled in Belton
Oscar Romo, 18, Temple High School
Brandon Thomas, 18, Shoemaker High School, Killeen
Ethan Jett Truss, 11, Gatesville Intermediate
Samantha Waggoner, 16, Belton High School
Hadden Whitaker, 9, Tyler Elementary in Belton