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State Board of Education Recognizes 2022 Student Heroes

AUSTIN – July 25, 2022 – The State Board of Education (SBOE) is proud to recognize the 15 recipients of the 2022 Student Heroes Award. Honoring Texas public school students who voluntarily perform acts of kindness, this year’s recipients range from third graders to high school seniors. Each have displayed a servants heart and compassion for their peers, classmates, and communities. 

“While these students don’t perform any of these acts for recognition, it is only appropriate that we shed a light on their selflessness and desire to do good in the world,” said SBOE chair, Keven Ellis. “Through their acts of kindness, they are making their schools and communities a better place. On behalf of the entire SBOE, it is my honor to recognize them with this award.” 

The students were presented with a plaque and a medallion during ceremonies at their respective schools. The board approved a resolution in their honor during the general meeting of the SBOE in Austin on June 17, 2022.

Learn more about the 2022 recipients below: 

District 1: Award recipient Ashley Manquero presented by SBOE member Georgina Pérez

Ashley Manquero, a senior at Odessa Career and Technical Early College High School in Ector County ISD, is a hard worker who thinks of others' needs and has the initiative to make things happen. Her accomplishments range from helping the homeless to advocating for women in abusive relationships. During her senior year, she organized a pad drive for low-income and homeless people, collected hygiene packages, participated as an advocate on a leadership council at a crisis center, and visited hospitals as a superhero to brighten children's days. She is determined to continue serving others and be a hero in her community.

District 2: Award recipient Genevieve Vallejo presented by SBOE member Ruben Cortez, Jr.

Genevieve Vallejo, a sophomore at Mercedes High School in Mercedes ISD, has been giving back to her community since she was five years old and continues to advocate for the underserved. She has organized canned food drives, coordinated meal deliveries to the homeless, collected toys for needy children, and assisted the local Lions Club with various initiatives. She established a non-profit with the thought of expanding her vision to eradicate hunger while also continuing to inspire hope.

District 3: Award recipient Michael Valdez presented by SBOE member Marisa Perez-Diaz

Michael Valdez, a senior at Edgewood Fine Arts Academy in Edgewood ISD, is an inspiring student who has dedicated countless hours to the preservation and progress of his hometown, San Antonio. He was a member of the Youth Council for Climate Initiatives and participated in the organization’s Cemetery Stewardship Program where he spent hours volunteering his time toward beautifying and cleaning up local cemeteries. Michael is a true leader and an advocate for his school and community.

District 4: Award recipient Anvi Garyali presented by SBOE member Lawrence Allen, Jr.

Anvi Garyali, a junior in the Math and Science Academy at Dulles High School in Fort Bend ISD, is a youth coalition representative of the Fort Bend Community Prevention Coalition. As an inspiring leader, she helped plan and create resources that spread awareness for substance abuse and mindfulness activities. She is the founder and director of Rhythm of Life, a student-led non-profit organization dedicated to spreading awareness about mental health and methods for mindful ways of coping. She is a Health Ambassador for a Ready Texas (HART) for the Texas Department of Agriculture to promote healthy eating and wellness on school campuses. Anvi delivered a presentation on the importance of substance abuse and misuse prevention at the National Leadership Forum of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America at National Harbor, Maryland. She has partnered with the statewide coalition, “Texans for Safe and Drug Free Youth,” to expand her role in the program by joining Fort Bend County Commissioners Court to address the mental health needs of children and youth in schools through a peer-to-peer network program.

District 5: Award recipient Natalie Veech presented by SBOE member Rebecca Bell-Metereau

Natalie Veech, a junior at San Marcos High School in San Marcos Consolidated ISD, is a passionate, highly intelligent, altruistic person who is motivated to make a difference in her school, where she mentors ninth and tenth grade students. She is actively involved in Pathways organization and was recently nominated as a lead mentor for the program, where she challenges her classmates to do better and to be better by displaying examples of leadership and advocating for change.

District 6: Award recipient Nitya Kodali presented by SBOE member Will Hickman

Nitya Kodali, a junior at Langham Creek High School in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, has been a role model for other students and the community. She founded the non-profit organization, Letters & Love, after realizing there was a need in the community for outreach to healthcare workers. Since launching the organization, her mission has grown globally, reaching more than 2,000 volunteers in more than 40 countries. Her organization has sent more than 50,000 letters of gratitude to healthcare workers, organized countless donation drives, and worked with the community to donate personal protective equipment (PPE). Nitya is also a recipient of the Gold Presidential Volunteer Service Award and Hershey's Heartwarming Action Award. Nitya continues to inspire others by giving back through her service.

District 7: Award recipient Royal Cumby presented by SBOE member Matt Robinson

Royal Cumby, a senior at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe ISD, was diagnosed with childhood-onset fluency disorder at a young age. Because of the speech disorder, Royal had a difficult time expressing his feelings. He had trouble communicating with peers and adults because of his extensive prolongation of sound. Royal attends the Arthur M. Blank Center for Stuttering Education and Research. The experience he has gained from the center has afforded him the opportunity to become an advocate and counselor at Camp Dream. Speak. Live, where he teaches individuals non-verbal ways to communicate and challenges them to look at other forms of communication. His advocacy empowers participants to accept who they are and to leave with strategies that aim to reduce avoidance of their gifts. Royal feels his passion for helping others makes him a better communicator and a better person.

District 8: Award recipient Brady Wilson presented by SBOE member Audrey Young

Brady Wilson, a senior at New Waverly High School in New Waverly ISD, is always willing to help others. He has demonstrated this multiple times in the last four years by collecting supplies for disaster relief in the hard-hit areas of Louisiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. He recently attended the National 4-H Congress and National FFA Convention, where he participated in other national-level service projects and served on multiple committees. He has shown leadership and service to others.

District 9: Award recipient Brandon James presented by SBOE member Keven Ellis

Brandon James, a senior at Ford High School in Quinlan ISD, created the #BeTheSpark campaign with the goal of inclusivity for students with special needs. The impact of his project and his servant’s heart led the football team to follow in his footsteps and brought joy to one of the biggest fans of Quinlan Panther Football. Brandon made a commitment to be this student’s friend for life. Brandon involved the student in all activities, from Go Gold for Childhood Cancer to Going Pink for Breast Cancer awareness, and during National Signing Day when Brandon inked his national letter of intent to play collegiately. Brandon believes his example is an inspiration to many and aims to see more inclusiveness with special needs students.

District 10: Award recipient Karter Linscott presented by SBOE member Tom Maynard

Karter Linscott, a fifth-grade student at Parkside Elementary School in Leander ISD, is a childhood cancer survivor who, together with his family, established the Karter Bradley Foundation to provide cancer patients and their families help and a little comfort while receiving cancer treatment. Karter’s “Kards” allow families at Dell Children’s Blood and Cancer Center to receive a restaurant gift card upon hospital discharge. Karter’s “Karts” provides families with a collapsible wagon that could be used to transport personal items from home to the hospital. Karter’s “Krew” is a group of volunteers that help with cart delivery, events, and gift cards. Karter’s kindness through his foundation allows him to give back and help others going through a similar journey. 

District 11: Award recipient Zane Sheffield presented by SBOE member Pat Hardy

Zane Sheffield, a junior at Birdville High School in Birdville ISD, has had a heart for helping the homeless and unsheltered since he was a small boy. When Zane was in fifth grade, he started a passion project to help people in need and began the Back-the-Homeless project. In middle school, he teamed up with Tarrant to the World, a local non-profit that gave him the opportunity to expand and increase the number of packs given to individuals. Together, they held their first 5k un-run (Slack-a-Thon) to raise funds for the purchase of more packs and to raise awareness. The Slack-a-Thon was held virtually in 2020 during the height of the COVID pandemic. In December 2021, the Slack-a-Thon returned in person and was a big hit, with over 350 bags distributed to the homeless. Zane wants this project to continue and expand to other schools in the Birdville ISD. One of his biggest dreams is to come up with creative solutions that make homelessness go away.

District 12: Award recipient Bryn Taylor presented by SBOE member Pam Little

Bryn Taylor, a third-grade student at Wally Watkins Elementary in Wylie ISD, exemplifies responsibility, grit, humility, servitude, and perseverance. She cares immensely about the overall well-being of others without expecting any recognition in return. Bryn has served as a support system for a peer that has not had an easy year. She has greatly contributed to the overall well-being of her classmate. While Bryn maintains individual accomplishments, she understands the importance of humility, as she constantly encourages others in their work without a condescending approach. She leads by example effortlessly, and others follow her with ease.

District 13: Award recipient Adamari Acosta presented by SBOE member Aicha Davis

Adamari Acosta, a fifth-grade student at Uplift Mighty Primary in Fort Worth Uplift Education Network, has successfully led her school’s Beta Club since being installed as president. Under her leadership, the Beta Club successfully collected and donated over 100 canned food items for the Community Food Bank in Tarrant County. She also led the collection of over 50 pairs of pajamas for the Christ Haven home for children. Adamari is a wonderful scholar with a great attitude and is always looking for opportunities to serve her community.

District 14: Award recipient Kayla Elizabeth McFail presented by SBOE member Sue Melton-Malone

Kayla McFail, a senior at Harmony Science Academy in Carrollton, Texas, is the epitome of a phenomenal leader. She founded the Dictation for Depression Chapter at her school, which offers students impacted by depression a safe space to discuss their experiences. Kayla is the vice president and co-founder of the Help for Humanity Organization which advocates and raises awareness for people of color dealing with exploitation issues. Kayla does grassroots work in organizing a community wellness cabinet where individuals in need can receive free food. She is a Girl Scout and recipient of the organization’s Bronze Award, Silver Torch Award, and Gold Torch Award. She also volunteers at a senior community center. She has performed 800 hours of community service while achieving her AP Capstone Diploma. Kayla’s positive spirit and goal-oriented disposition make her a phenomenal leader in the community.

District 15: Award recipient Skyla Ramsay presented by SBOE member Jay Johnson

Skyla Ramsay, a senior at Canyon High School in Canyon ISD, is a true student hero who has volunteered her time as a Student Crime Stopper Ambassador in the Student Crime Stopper (SCS) organization. The SCS aims to prevent crime from occurring on school campuses, thereby keeping students safe. She participated in conferences where she learned about a distracted driving program and led a successful promotion of the Safe2Save app at Canyon High. In 2021, Skyla was awarded the Crime Stoppers Student Board Member of the Year. This student hero genuinely cares about her peers and wants to continue to bring programs to her school and community.