Points of Pride

May 2020

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For more than 35 years, the Spring ISD Board of Trustees has upheld a proud tradition of recognizing students and staff for major accomplishments beyond the district with Points of Pride awards. With public award ceremonies currently on hold due to the COVID-19 closures, this special edition Points of Pride newsletter features the board’s most recent award recipients for May 2020.

Roberson Middle School Students Qualify for National SECME Mousetrap Car Competition

Three Roberson Middle School students competed in the regional SECME mousetrap competition in February, taking 1st place and qualifying to go on to the National SECME Competition. The three students, all Roberson seventh-graders, are:

  • Charlize Aventuna
  • Pablo Del Castillo
  • Adam Turcios

“I am very proud of this team,” said Roberson Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher Christine Pharris, who accompanied the group to the regional event, sponsored by SECME and Exxon Mobil. “They had several setbacks at nationals last year and it was a great learning experience for them, especially Pablo. All he could talk about once we returned to school last August was SECME, mousetrap cars, and going to nationals again.”


Although SECME had to cancel its 2020 Summer Institute at Tuscaloosa University in Alabama, Pharris said her students remained dedicated, and were looking forward to continuing to improve on their work. The mousetrap car competition encompasses a range of design and execution factors that add a real-world element for the young engineers who participate. “This competition is a true engineering competition,” Pharris said. “Cars are judged in several categories – technical drawing, performance, technical report, cost, and presentation. The performance is not which car goes farther or faster. It is based on a formula that incorporates mass, length, distance and cost.”


Founded in 1975 as the Southeastern Consortium for Minorities in Engineering, SECME has worked for the past 45 years to eliminate racial and gender disparities in science, engineering and related fields. Through K-12 outreach efforts, local and national competitions and other events, the group seeks to foster a passion for science among young people, especially girls and minorities, and encourage them to pursue college degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Speech and Debate Participants from Spring High School Qualify for Nationals

The district’s Speech and Debate programs have had a busy year, with active programs from across Spring ISD competing in local and regional events starting early in the fall, including qualifying tournament events and in-district meets designed to strengthen students’ skills.

Accumulating points throughout the year as they compete at different events, students can ultimately earn enough points to qualify for state and national competitions. Several students earned spots at state-level competition canceled due to the COVID-19 school closures. However, before all regional and state competitions were put on hold, six Spring High School students were able to qualify for nationals in individual and team events. Those students are:

  • Alyssa Buecheler (Grade 11)
  • Makaila Heath (Grade 12)
  • Toneelea Shaftner (Grade 11)
  • Jada Stewart (Grade 12)
  • Zoë Taylor (Grade 11)
  • Abel Torres (Grade 11)

Although the majority of the national-level speech and debate competitions normally scheduled for the summer months have been canceled, the National Speech and Debate Tournament will be held online this year in June, using a combination of prerecorded student submissions and live online events observed remotely by official judges.

“We’re excited to see the continued growth and strength of Speech and Debate programs in Spring ISD,” said Director of Performing and Visual Arts Dr. Joe Clark, “and it’s been great to witness the success of this year’s participants, despite the challenges they faced. Congratulations to all the state and national qualifiers, and best wishes to the students who will be competing virtually this summer!”

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Speech and Debate National Qualifiers Alyssa Buecheler, counter-clockwise from left, Toneelea Shaftner, Jada Stewart, Makaila Heath, Zoë Taylor and Abel Torres, along with teammates Jordyn Wardsworth and Rebecca Jackson

Spring High School Theater Students Qualify for National Thespian Competition

After competing earlier this school year at the Texas Thespian Festival, several Spring High School theater students received high marks and qualified for the national event this summer. The qualifying students, along with their state placement and competition category, include:

    • Melina Alvarez (Grade 11), 2nd Place State, National Qualifier, Make–up Design, for her design work on the play “Wiley and the Hairy Man”

    • Brionna Gentry (Grade 12), 2nd Place State, National Qualifier, Stage Management, for her prompt book for the play “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940”

    • Makaila Heath (Grade 12), 2nd Place State, National Qualifier, Solo Musical, for the song “I Don’t Need a Roof” from the musical “Big Fish”

    • Zada Morgan (Grade 12), 2nd Place State, National Qualifier, Stage Management, for her prompt book for the play “Once Upon A Wolf”

    • Julian Mannings (Grade 11) and Devin Randle (Grade 10), 2nd Place State, National Qualifier, Duet Acting, for their piece from August Wilson’s “Jitney”

    • Toneelea Shaftner (Grade 11) and Zoë Taylor (Grade 11), 2nd Place State, National Qualifier, Duet Acting, for their piece “Where Was I” from John Cariani’s play “Love/Sick”


“These kids have really outdone themselves,” said Spring High School Director of Theatre Marilyn Ocker, who also coaches the school’s Speech and Debate team. “I’m just real proud of them, especially thinking about how much work they put in for those that competed in both theater and speech and debate.”


Although this year’s International Thespian Festival gathering in Indiana has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival’s organizers will host a virtual event in June allowing students a chance to participate and compete. In addition to the national student competitions, the first-ever virtual International Thespian Festival will include online workshops and master classes, college and scholarship auditions, performances, speakers and Q&A sessions. Notable guest speakers and presenters already lined up for the event include Dolly Parton, Stephen Schwartz, Jerry Mitchell, and Tina Fey, among others.

Spring High School Seniors Awarded 5-Year Naval Preparatory Scholarships

Three Spring High School seniors have each been awarded a 5-Year Naval Preparatory Scholarship to attend Regent University. The students – all of whom are leaders in the school’s Navy JROTC Lion Regiment – include:


  • Nasir Prout, the unit’s Commanding Officer
  • Lilian De Hoyos, Executive Officer and second-in-command
  • Kyle Shea, Battalion Commanding Officer


The five-year awards, valued at approximately $350,000 apiece, include full scholarships covering a year in Regent’s Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) Preparatory Program, followed by ROTC funding for up to four additional years of coursework and related expenses. The program is especially tailored for students with leadership backgrounds looking to enter the military as commissioned officers after graduation.


De Hoyos, Prout and Shea will join three 2019 Spring High School graduates now completing their first year at Regent – Emily Brower, Julia Brower and Solomon Foster-Smith. The three alums also held leadership roles within Spring High School’s Navy JROTC program, and all three were selected to help launch the NROTC Preparatory Program at Regent this past year.


Retired U.S. Navy Capt. James Boyer, who serves as lead instructor of Spring High School’s Navy JROTC program, has been working over the past several years to help develop pipelines to connect talented Spring ISD students with additional educational and career opportunities. He has said previously that he hopes to continue the partnership with Regent University to provide Spring-area students with similar scholarships. “Because we have folks that are there and they’re being successful, now they see it as a possibility,” Boyer said after an informational presentation about college and career opportunities held in the fall.