The Houston Independent School District on Wednesday recognized the efforts of thousands of volunteers and honored the top volunteers of the year during the annual Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS) Recognition and Awards Ceremony.
“It’s a privilege for me to honor our volunteers that give so much of themselves to our district,” said HISD School Board Trustee Sergio Lira. “You may never know the profound impact you’ve made on the lives of students in our district.”
The theme of this year’s reception was “Impacting Lives Through Service.”
HISD’s VIPS program was started in 1970 by longtime HISD educator Jean Davis Myers, who passed away in 2015. Myers served as executive director of VIPS for 20 years and under her leadership, the program became an award-winning national model.
Since 1991, the Jean Davis Myers Award for Community Service has been presented annually to an individual or group whose program or volunteer efforts have had a positive impact on student achievement.
“Each one of you has found your own way to make an impact,” said HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan. “Thank you for all that you are doing for our students and for continuing to inspire and encourage them.”
Finalists were nominated for awards in four different categories. The winners are below:
- Kids Hope USA received the Jean Davis Myers Volunteer Service Award (the most prestigious award) for the group’s work at Sutton elementary school. Kids Hope USA builds life-changing relationships through mentorships. Each mentor is matched with a student that has been identified by their teacher as needing some additional supports with academics, communication skills, self-esteem, or social skills. The Kids Hope Mentor commits to spent one hour per week with their mentee for an entire school year.
- Stacie Gaff received the Parent Partner of the Year Award. An active volunteer for 5 years at Poe Elementary, she is the visionary behind the reading/ tutoring/mentoring program at the school. She observed that there were students on the campus that would benefit from additional support with reading. She singlehandedly started the program at Poe, and now works with over 35 volunteers who read with 70 children on a weekly basis.
- Zoe Zhang received the Youth Volunteer of the Year Award. While a student at Bellaire High School, Zoe founded the Lights, Camera, Action project, which promotes arts using music. She has raised over $8,000 through her project. She is a National Honor Society Chairperson, Houston Methodist Teen volunteer, and she is a tutor and teaching assistant on campus.
- Leisa Lovy received the Charles Harding VIPS Senior of the Year. Lovy is a Bellaire High School parent and public-school advocate. She has been a member of the Bellaire PTO for over 12 years. Her selfless commitment to the Bellaire students and faculty have allowed her to make a significant impact at the school, including serving as PTO President, organizing the Fun Run fundraiser, helping with Hurricane Harvey relief, as well as many other events.
In addition to the ceremony, to date, HISD has 39,000 active volunteers districtwide who have dedicated countless hours to schools, programs, and events across Houston.
For more information about VIPS or to volunteer, go to www.houstonisd.org/VIPS.