Sofia Alvarez was honored during the 17th annual Character Without Question awards ceremony at the Feb. 24, 2020 Spring Branch ISD board meeting. She was nominated and selected for the award from the Academy of Choice student body for embodying strong character traits such as honesty, kindness, integrity, perseverance, courage, caring, and more.
Each school’s honoree received a framed award, the book “Oh the Places You Will Go,” and congratulations from all SBISD Trustees, to the cheers of family, friends and school leaders gathered in the Northbrook High auditorium.
At the pre-event reception, supported by Wells Fargo and the Spring Branch Education Foundation, the Character Without Question honorees enjoyed refreshments and had photos taken with their families.
The Spring Branch Independent School District has selected the following early dismissal days to be used for professional development or parental involvement. Not all schools may follow this schedule, so please contact your child's school directly if you have any questions.
October 17-18 Elementary Early Dismissal – Parent/Teacher Conference
December 18-20 Secondary Early Dismissal; December 20 Elementary Early Dismissal
February 13-14 Elementary Early Dismissal – Parent/Teacher Conference
May 26-28 Secondary Early Dismissal: May 28 Elementary Early Dismissal
Click here to review the SBISD Academic Calendar for 2019-20.
Crystal Wang wanted to be class president her freshman year at Memorial High School.
With only a self-described “small circle” of friends from Memorial Middle School, she knew she needed to make a splash, so she did what she’s always done in such moments – she wrote a song.
“I performed (the song) in the gym in front of 600 people, who were clapping along,” Wang said. “Now it’s a school meme. People still know the song. It was an iconic moment.”
Wang has always defaulted, so to speak, to music. She started performing when she was 3 – “I love the stage,” she said – and began songwriting at age 7. And what was she expressing through that first song? “I was insulted that my parents made me do my homework,” she said.
She’s classically trained in piano, voice and guitar, and can play the pipa, a traditional Chinese stringed instrument.
She began releasing her music around age 13, working with producers and others in a recording studio.
“(Who I work with) depends on the sound I’m after,” Wang said. “I do some electronic music where I tell a producer what sound I want and he helps put it together.”
She said the recording process takes a long time, between laying down tracks and writing and editing the songs.
She’s also appeared on “Voice of China”, a Chinese reality-TV show similar to “The Voice.”
She was 15 and in Los Angeles and had survived several elimination rounds to become a finalist when, she said, she realized that only one person wins and gets to go back to China (for the show).
Just like she did when running for class president, Wang reached deep and did what she does best.
“I just went for it,” she said. “I played to my strengths and did a Beyonce song I love (Halo) and one of my original songs (She’s a Fool).” She won the U.S. region and participated on the Chinese show.
But while Crystal Wang is quite musically accomplished, she’s also caring and empathetic – and smart enough to do something with it.
When a cousin was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago, Wang wanted to help but didn’t know how. She first retreated to music and wrote a song – “Soar with Me” – about hope and staying strong.
But she wanted to do more. She realized that many cancer patients lack personal interactions outside their treatments. So she started SOAR – Students for Oncological Aid Relief – and started taking donations for CARE packages.
“We were able to put smiles on people’s faces,” she said.
She also organized a fundraising event featuring local performers. Local congressional representatives Al Green and Pete Olsen attended. The event raised more than $9,000 and generated a lot of interest on social media.
Wang started hearing from others and now SOAR is national, with seven chapters in Texas, one in California and one in Massachusetts. In just 2 ½ years SOAR has raised more than $33,000 and impacted some 1,800 families.
Founding and growing a nonprofit also helped Wang discover something about herself.
“(SOAR) has a secondary mission, to inspire students to be that person to make a difference,” she said. “I didn’t know I had that ability until my cousin was diagnosed.”
She and several friends were selected to present at South by Southwest in Austin this past spring where they talked about the experience of being youth entrepreneurs.
They first talked to a group of educators, imploring them to start early and help “unbox” entrepreneurs.
A second and far larger group heard how youth are the leaders of tomorrow, she said, and how business can help young entrepreneurs.
Wang also created a platform called Gen Z Lead and had her audience sign up to be mentors, no matter their field. Hundreds volunteered. “We’re in the process of connecting those mentors (with mentees),” she said.
A Memorial valedictorian, Wang is headed to Harvard in the fall, where she’s entering a dual-degree program in music and entrepreneurship with the Berklee College of Music. She’ll study economics for four years at Harvard then do a year at Berklee for a Master’s.
“I’m solid academically and I’ve taken rigorous classes (at Memorial),” she said. “I like to be intellectually stimulated.”
She also enjoys her position on the MHS Student Council’s executive board, which she says she can use as a platform for her ideas.
For instance, several years ago she started Kindness Week at Memorial, which is now an annual event. And she started Mental Health Awareness Week, to help relieve student stress.
She’s an all-state soprano in Memorial’s choir program and this year gets to plan the choir’s spring pop show – “calling the shots,” as she puts it.
Memorial Principal Lisa Weir says that’s just like Crystal Wang.
“Crystal is no spectator,” Weir said. “She is fully engaged in all that she does and her contributions to the school and the community are significant.”
Wang wouldn’t disagree.
“I’m a perfectionist,” she said. “I like to be in control.”
Mary Reed, a social studies teacher at Memorial High School, was honored recently by the World Affairs Council of Houston as its International Teacher of the Year.
Reed received the award April 17 at the council’s Jesse H. Jones Awards luncheon. The World Affairs Council’s mission is to promote understanding of the greater world we all live in, including its people, politics, economies and cultures.
The Memorial High instructor teaches Pre-Advanced Placement (Pre-AP) and Gifted and Talented World Geography. She was selected for the honor for her extensive involvement with the council, exposing her students to related council programs often.
Through the World Affairs Council, Reed’s students have interviewed heads of state, scholars, journalists and others during Young Leaders Forums. Reed herself has earned educator fellowships for international visits to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Vietnam and Cambodia, among other nations. In all, she has visited and experienced 52 countries at this time.
“I was thrilled to be honored at the 21st annual Jesse H. Jones Award Luncheon as the 2019 International Teacher of the Year by the World Affairs Council of Houston, whose mission is to promote understanding of the world, its people, politics, economies and cultures,” Reed said in a statement after earning her local award.
The Spring Branch ISD Board of Trustees honored her May 20 during its regular monthly meeting with a special recognition presentation, too.
Reed’s students at Memorial High are exposed to council programs three times a month. They interview many global leaders, and return to class and present their findings to other students. Reed’s own travels and new learning results in online lessons plans, and she has shared her findings in other school districts.
In addition to Memorial High’s World Affairs Council of Students, Reed sponsors Model United Nations, and she also coaches the UIL Social Studies and Current Issues and Events team. In March, Reed’s Texas Quizbowl Team finished second at state.
Reed has served for the past decade on the board of directors of the Spring Branch Council for the Social Studies. She also serves on the Memorial High Faculty Council and a district architectural committee that focuses on upcoming bond improvements.
During the summer, she takes students on international trips. “Student travel is critical to learning new perspectives,” Reed also said.
Lindley Amarantos, head girls soccer coach at Memorial High School, was recently honored by national and district officials as best in class as she received a prestigious coaching award.
The National Federation of State High School Associations named Amarantos as recipient of its award for State Coach of the Year for Girls Soccer during a presentation ceremony held April 20 in Austin. In 2018, the Mustangs team won the UIL 6A girls state soccer championship.
Amarantos was praised by the national federation for reflecting excellent coaching abilities on and off the athletic field.
“Your service to the state of Texas has not gone unnoticed, and we are very proud to have positive role models like yourself impacting our student-athletes. Thank you for representing your team, school, community and the University Interscholastic League in a manner that is to be commended and celebrated,” the national federation said in its recent award nomination.
In addition to national recognition, Coach Amarantos was honored by the SBISD Board of Trustees with a special recognition presentation during its May 20 regular monthly meeting.
Memorial High School swimmers are headed to state, but they won’t need lanes or starting blocks.
These swimmers will represent Memorial in water polo, a club sport not sanctioned by the University Scholastic League (UIL). A number of area schools participate in water polo as an off-season conditioning program for swimmers who choose to participate.
“I started the water polo program at Memorial in 2006 in order to help our swim team to have a different experience during the off season,” said Memorial High School swimming coach Jason Mauss. “We play about 40 boy and 40 girl games during our season from late February to early May.”
The MHS boys and girls teams came in second in the District 24 contest, which earned them a trip to the state-level competition May 3-4 in Austin (see results in UPDATE below).
In the District 24 area of Houston, players from Stratford High School men’s team tied for fifth at the regional tournament held in late April. Spring Woods High School also participates in water polo.
Click here to see a photomontage of the MHS teams’ experience at regionals.
Water polo at MHS has over 50 athletes who train after school to improve their agility, teamwork, swimming, and ball-handling skills in a competitive way.
The teams practice in the SBISD Natatorium as well as host many games and tournaments involving more than 60 Houston-area high schools with club water polo teams.
Three sophomores from the MHS teams – Will Robinson, Mason Welch and Tessa Welch – also participate on the USA Olympic Development Team. Miss Welch represented this team in Hungary last summer.
Mauss has taught at MHS for 14 of his 18 years in education. He played club water polo at Texas A&M during college and travels to the Junior Olympics in California each summer.
“This is our 13th season of polo at Memorial and [our] fourth trip to state,” said Mauss.
UPDATE: The MHS boys and girls teams placed fifth overall in the state tournament, the highest finish ever for the MHS Water Polo program. Three of the teams' athletes were named to the All State team: Will Robinson, Tessa Welch and Colin Norton.
Submitted by Rusty Graham (email@example.com) and Becky Wuerth (firstname.lastname@example.org), SBISD Communications.
The survey is expected to take no more than 15 minutes, and can be taken in English, Spanish, Arabic, and five other languages.
If you have children at different schools, we ask that you fill out a survey for each school. If you have multiple children at one school, we ask that you take the survey with your oldest child in mind or take the survey once per child.
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Financial funding and scholarships can be a crucial part of completing college, but the scholarship search can sometimes be overwhelming.
SBISD students and parents now have access to an up-to-date and vetted scholarships through the e-Scholarships: College Guidance Consultants Database
This new scholarship database lists scholarships by deadline. It includes a description, link, and amount for each scholarship. You are also able to search by key words. Obtain your log in information from your high school counselor. Log in here.
The MHS Meistersingers, the varsity mixed choir at Memorial High, competed recently during the Texas Renaissance Festival, beating out 20 other high school choirs in the Large Mixed Choir Division for a first-place trophy.
The group’s win marked the first appearance at the special-event choir festival for the MHS Meistersingers. The Meistersingers competed against high school choirs from Austin, Houston, the San Antonio area and other surrounding school districts.
The Texas Renaissance Festival, which dates back to 1974, is held over nine weekends in October and November. More than a half million festivalgoers regularly visit the site in Grimes County, about 55 miles northwest of Houston.
The medieval festival operates on 50-plus acres. It’s well known for its costumed actors, walking performers, themed weekend celebrations, artisans, shops and music, dancers and special public reenactments ranging from medieval jousts to free-flying bird shows.
The MHS Meistersingers won first place performing on a festival grounds stage during an Early Music Festival for middle and high school groups, held on Nov. 7.
“This was the first time Meistersingers has competed in this competition, and we are so proud to have come out on top, even against several past competition winners,” reports Memorial High Director of Choirs Lawrence Johnson.
Meistersinger is a German term for “master singer,” and the term was used to describe a member of a German guild who performed lyric poems, early music composition and unaccompanied art song during the 14th through 16th centuries.
Memorial High Choir students in recent years have won numerous local, regional and state awards, including prestigious All-State recognitions.
Members of the MHS Meistersingers include: Mina Azad, Eric Bavaro, DeCory Brown, Lydia Bryant, Laura Carrasco, Angela Choi, My-Lien Dang, Rober Diaz, Diona Evers, Laura Fields, Joseph Finck, Max Gao, Mason Guzman, Logan Hallock, Payton Hill, Connie Lee, Connie Lee, Elizabeth Lee and Daniel Lim.
Student members also include Connor Moore, Colin Norton, Taylor O’Hara, Alex Papin, Emily Read, Reagan Sepulveda, Carter Smith, Maisa Syed, James Tesarek, Sophia Trifilio, David Trippon, Crystal Wang, Chandler Weber and Reece Wilkinson.
Visitors to Memorial High School’s Dia de los Muertos celebration on Nov. 2 quickly learned one thing – the Day of the Dead is not Halloween, nor is it observed like Halloween.
Organized by the Spanish III classes of teachers Yoset Altamirano and Rafaela Berrones, Friday’s celebration included altars celebrating the lives of prominent Hispanic figures, a main altar and a mariachi band in the lobby of the MHS auditorium. Colorful “papel picado” – paper cut into intricate and elaborate designs, hung over a mock graveyard.
Spanish III students at MHS study the history and roots of the celebration then bring it to life by learning about an important Hispanic figure and creating an altar.
Spanish Club President Asha Ayyar told those crowded into the lobby that Day of the Dead started with the Aztecs and other pre-Hispanic cultures in Central America. The Aztecs in particular believed that the spirits of the dead return, and Dia de los Muertos is a holiday to honor the spirits of loved ones.
Spanish conquerors didn’t like the tradition of recognizing the dead – for them, death was final and the celebrations scared them. For the Aztecs, though, death was part of the circle of life and even loved ones who had passed from the earth enjoyed the beauty of the decorations and celebrations.
Altars today include photos of the loved ones as well as items that the person enjoyed in life, including food and sweets.
Altamirano said that in Honduras, her home country, the holiday is sort of like Memorial Day here, where families go to cemeteries to clean gravesites of loved ones. It wasn’t until she got to Houston that she learned the Mexican tradition.
Barrones said that she’s from Mexico but really didn’t know the celebration until her college years at Texas Tech, where she was active in the Spanish Club.
“It has nothing to do with Halloween,” said Barrones. “It’s not spooky … kids can learn about their family members.”
Altamirano and Barrones were dressed as La Catrina, a skeletal lady first depicted by Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada and stylized more elegantly by Diego Rivera. Slang for elegant or well-dressed, La Catrina has become the iconic image in the Day of the Dead celebrations.
Many MHS Spanish students wore faces painted as skeletons throughout the day Friday, including freshmen Sarah Davis, Renee Read and Morgan Valdivieso. Durng an interview with MHS broadcast journalists, Read said she got “a lot of weird looks in the hallway” but that the day was fun.
Altamirano said that her classes celebrate Day of the Dead every year, but has the bigger event such as Friday’s every other year.
Day of the Dead is used as a teaching and learning opportunity at various campuses across the district.
Families and mentors are a critical part of helping students make connections between what is learned at school and what they experience outside campus walls. We welcome and encourage parents, families, and mentors to partner with us!
The new Empowered & Equipped! site features resources to support conversations and activities at home, and in the community, with monthly lessons aligned to SBISD instruction. These lessons focus on the critical areas of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)and building awareness of various career pathways as part of the Spring Branch T-2-4 Goal.