Houston Independent School District Superintendent Terry Grier was honored Thursday as a “Champion of Children” during the 16th annual Beat the Odds Awards Luncheon hosted by the Children’s Defense Fund-Texas. Grier was honored Thursday for his outstanding leadership and service to children and families in the community.
The award is the result of a partnership between the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) and AASA, the School Superintendents’ Association. Together, they promote the importance of good health in ensuring that children learn, develop, and succeed in school, and work to enroll families in Medicaid and the the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Research shows that uninsured children perform at lower levels in school than those who have access to health care. In order to reach the thousands of HISD children who are uninsured, the district is part of a national pilot project that has added health insurance questions to registration forms to identify uninsured youngsters; trained school staff on enrollment procedures for Medicaid and CHIP; educated parents through school health fairs and phone call-outs; reached 17,000 uninsured students and their families with information about health coverage in first 10 months; and established critical community partnerships with health centers and agencies. HISD has achieved more than 80 percent of the enrollment goal of 1,250 children designated in the grant that funded the program.
“We would like to thank you for recognizing the strong connection between health care and education – and for being such a strong advocate for connecting kids to coverage,” CDF–Texas Executive Director Patrick Bresette wrote in a letter notifying Grier of the honor earlier this year. “We are so grateful for your leadership and all you have done for Houston children and families and moving education forward.”
Grier was among two Houston residents to receive the designation. The second honoree is Dr. Charles D. Fraser Jr., pediatric surgeon-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital.
“It’s especially meaningful to be honored by this group, which has long been a powerful voice for our nation’s youngsters in helping close gaps in education, health care, and other fundamental needs,” Dr. Grier said. “CDF originated the ‘Leave No Child Behind’ concept in its motto, and that is our daily mission in HISD.”
Other ways HISD supports healthier children include free breakfast, lunch, and dinner (select schools); free summer meals; improved nutrition; vision screenings and eyeglasses; yoga-based wellness programs at 26 schools; anti-bullying programs; and a cybersafety website.
In addition to recognizing Dr. Grier, the organization also awarded Beat the Odds scholarships to Houston-area students who overcame adversity to excel in school. Among the student recipients were Bellaire High School senior Alisa Hamilton and Davis High School senior Nelly Mendoza.