By Todd Martin

    Success is not exclusive to the most academically gifted or those deemed the coolest or most connected, but it does seem to follow those who work hard and persevere through life’s challenges.

    In an effort to reward students who try hard without attracting attention, a Killeen non-profit organization continually provides unexpected awards for unsuspecting and grateful students.

    This week, Josh Welch of the local Whitis Foundation joined Killeen ISD administrators in wrapping up last semester’s awards for hard-working students.

    The so-called “Woo-Hoo Crew” visited 16 schools this week, finishing with six elementary schools Wednesday.

    Two students at each elementary school received Amazon Fire tablets for meeting criteria that each school sets including academic improvement and strong attendance and positive behavior.

    Now in its fourth year giving away devices to students, the Whitis Foundation targets about 22 schools a year and gives away about 100 tablets a year to fourth- through eighth-graders.

    At each school this week, KISD Executive Director for Student Services Joseph Welch joined the crew, encouraging students to keep working hard.

    While some students receive accolades, he said in each classroom that all students should be proud of their hard work for making their schools stronger.

    Pershing Park Elementary School Principal Linda Butler said it makes a positive difference for a local company to notice students doing a good job. At her school, teachers meet together to choose recipients of the award each semester, she said.

    Killeen ISD Director for Community Relations Angenet Wilkerson, leading the “Woo-Hoo Crew,” agreed that strong support makes a huge difference across a large school district.

    “They have such a giving spirit,” Wilkerson said of the foundation tied to WB Development. “This is about a community working together.”

    Pershing Park fifth-grader Desiree VanDorn acknowledged that she works hard in school and follows the rules. She credited her family for providing motivation.

    “I felt happy,” she said of receiving the surprise award. “It’s important to do your best because it affects your future. I want to get into a good college.”

    “I like to work hard in class,” said Sugar Loaf Elementary School fourth-grader Giovanni Jamerson. “I’m trying to upgrade my report card.”

    Willow Springs Elementary School fourth-grader Joi Scott was surprised to receive an award. She said she knows her younger siblings watch her closely and she wants to provide a positive example.

    “I was excited,” said Willow Springs fifth grade recipient Jermaine Davis. “I try to get straight A’s so I can get smarter and do better things when I grow up.”

    January 10, 2018

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