President's Volunteer Service Awards
The cities of Killeen and Belton and the Killeen Independent School District joined together Monday to honor youth organizations throughout the community and within the schools for volunteering more than 68,000 hours over the past year.
The Killeen Youth Advisory Commission hosted the 17th annual President’s Volunteer Service Awards Ceremony at Roy J. Smith Middle School in Killeen.
Madelynn Spear, the youth commission president and an Early College High School junior, guided much of the event, before she found herself the surprise winner of the biggest award of the night.
After she introduced speakers and student participants and stood alongside Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra and KISD Superintendent John Craft to congratulate the dozens of elementary, middle and high school and adult award recipients, many of the 500 in attendance thought the event was ending.
Next, Levallois Hamilton, city volunteer services coordinator, called the youth commission president to join him at the podium, for what appeared to be a final congratulations on Spear’s final official act as the group president.
Instead, the high school junior was surprised to see the supervisor from her employer, Taco Bell, emerge from behind the cafeteria curtain carrying a large cardboard sign.
To Spear’s obvious surprise and delight, a group of local and corporate Taco Bell representatives presented her with a scholarship check made out for $25,000.
The busy teen leads bimonthly youth commission meetings and works behind the scenes to set up service projects for her peers. She attends the dual credit Early College High School and has worked about a year-and-a-half at Taco Bell logging 21 hours a week.
“It’s amazing,” she said of the surprise scholarship. “Education is something we strive for and this is one of the first scholarships I applied for. It’s the start of my journey.”
Acknowledging that her schedule is busy, she said she enjoys everything she does – work, school and community service. “I love it all,” she said.
Agency award-winners included six Girl Scout troops, the Cultura Filipiniana Arts, Inc., Fort Hood Montague Youth Center, Killeen NAACP Youth, Belton Youth Advisory Commission and Killeen Youth Advisory Commission.
School award-winners included Skipcha, Bellaire, Saegert, Ira Cross and Nolanville elementary schools; Patterson, Smith, Live Oak Ridge and Eastern Hills middle schools; Harker Heights, Shoemaker, Ellison and Early College high schools and Pathways Academic Campus.
Student winners were Azalea Butler of the Killeen NAACP Youth with 1,487 hours, Vanessa Jeurrissen of Eastern Hills Middle School with 312 hours and Marcus Matthew of Killeen NAACP Youth with 678 hours.
Raul Villaronga, mayor of Killeen when the youth commission began locally, said the idea to start the group came from the understanding that youth should participate alongside adults, not merely following from the rear.
The current mayor and school superintendent agreed that one of the strengths of the community is its committed volunteers.
“We live in the greatest nation in the world,” Craft said. “One reason is we have servant leaders who place others above themselves. Thank you for being the trailblazers. You are not only our future, you are our nation’s security.”