Generous Partner Donates Tablets

Whitis Foundation presents tablets to deserving students
By: Todd Martin
Show up for school every day, follow the rules and do your best work and someone might just deliver a special gift.
Around Killeen ISD schools the past five years, the local Whitis Foundation has given away hundreds of Amazon Fire tablets to elementary and middle school students based on principal and teacher recommendations.
Each school draws up slightly different parameters, but all are looking for hard-working, well-behaved students who overcome challenges without complaint or expectation of award.
Foundation representative Josh Welch, vice president of WB Development is working with KISD Community Relations Director Angenet Wilkerson to distribute tablets to students at 22 schools this month.
The foundation currently donates 50 tablets every semester divided among 16 elementary schools and six middle schools in KISD. This is the sixth year for the giveaways.
Going into the current distribution cycle, the non-profit group has given away more than 500 tablets to students.
Again and again, Welch introduced himself to students in middle school classrooms, congratulated a chosen student and then revealed a boxed tablet, often prompting a surprised, grateful smile.
“The best part for me,” said Nolan Middle School Principal Ashley York, “is getting to see kids’ reactions when they had no idea what was coming. It’s great to get to honor students for something outside of good grades.”
In some cases, honorees included students who make strong grades, but in many cases, it was their effort, often in the midst of personal challenges that set them apart.
“These students are good citizens,” said York. “They are helpers for their peers and for the staff.”
After honoring a sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grader at Nolan, Welch and Wilkerson continued Friday to Palo Alto and Live Oak Ridge middle schools to award students.
At Live Oak Ridge, staff members grabbed pompoms and cheered on the surprised winners.
“We light up when they light up,” York said, explaining that the honors delighted staff members as much as students.
During award ceremonies Thursday at Reeces Creek Elementary School, Welch and Wilkerson presented tablets to fourth-grader Kalani Fenner and fifth-grader Ja’Mon Sanders.
Reeces Creek Principal Sara Watson said the continuing partnership with such a generous community supporter makes a substantial difference in the lives of students as a motivation and an educational tool.
“It’s a privilege to be able to give them access to that kind of technology,” she said. “That is something they can utilize at home.”
York agreed that the tablets served as useful educational tools, pointing out that middle school students would use the devices even more as they enter high school.
The presentations Thursday continued at Manor, Rancier and Eastern Hills middle schools, where three students at each school received a tablet.
“It’s really rewarding for us,” said Welch as he considered his sixth year of visiting schools and surprising students with such a nice gift.
“So many students are doing well in school and overcoming adversity. We enjoy being able to recognize them.”
“What I like about it is that these kids are making right choices with no expectation of getting this kind of award,” said Wilkerson. “It’s not about receiving a reward. I also appreciate the heart of the Whitis Foundation. They care about kids.”
Tablet distributions are planned at numerous elementary schools the next two weeks. Another round of awards is slated later in the spring.