Katy, TX Blog (June 5, 2017) – Seven Lakes High School graduate Caitlin Ricketts is now traveling the world modeling for top name brands
Written by Debbie McDaniel
As a young girl growing up in Katy, Texas, Caitlin Ricketts only dreamed of the life she’s now living as a model for the Wilhelmina Agency in New York City. “I love being from Katy and I’m so happy I have all of my family still in Katy to come home to,” she says. She grew up in Katy ISD, attending Roosevelt Alexander Elementary School, Beckendorff Junior High School, and Seven Lakes High School. “I have lived in New York City for years now, but Katy will always be my home and a place to bring me back to reality.”
A Big Break
Ricketts was introduced to modeling at a young age. “I started modeling when I was a baby for brands like Foley’s and Palais Royal and stopped when I was about 5 years old. It wasn’t until I was 14 when my older sister Chelsea convinced me to try it out again and go to an open call for Abercrombie.” Ricketts shares how she ended up booking the job, and saw that she loved it. “I realized then how much fun and exciting it was!” The Abercrombie job jump-started her career. “It just took off after that,” she adds. Ricketts went on to sign with the New York agency Wilhelmina Models when she was 16. She moved to NYC and has been there five years now, modeling full time. “Since then, I’ve worked for brands like CoverGirl, which was one of my big dreams, Maybelline, and Garnier, and have had the opportunity to live in so many amazing countries such as South Korea, London, Japan, and Australia,” she says.
Traveling, People, & Projects
She shares that while traveling is one of the most exciting parts of her job, it can also be one of the most challenging. “I’m thankful for the chance to travel the world, and even though it can be hard to be gone for months at a time, I wouldn’t change a thing about it,” says Ricketts, who has been to 26 countries in the last few years. “My next stop is Iceland and I can’t wait.” Another fun part of her career are the people and projects. “I have had the chance to work with so many talented people like Bruce Weber and Bobbi Brown. I also had the pleasure of being a part of so many fun ads for brands such as LeSportsac and Kendra Scott, and magazines like Glamour and Shape.”
A career in modeling may seem glamorous, but Ricketts still embraces the Texas girl she truly is. “I love Tex-Mex, burgers and fries, and of course, some good ole’ Texas barbeque,” she laughs. “I grew up going to the rodeo every year and spent Friday nights dancing with my high school drill team during football season. I still cheer on the Texans from NYC and am a big fan of JJ Watt.”
Ricketts says she treasures her family, and also loves a glass of red wine and an episode of Game of Thrones. A great sense of humor is vital in her life and industry, and she recalls one of her most embarrassing moments. “I embarrass myself daily, but one memory that sticks out the most is when I dropped a shampoo bottle in a store and it busted open. I then ended up slipping in the mess and falling on my face right in front of the checkout line.”
Being looked to as a fashion icon isn’t always easy, but she describes her style as a mix of being very feminine and girly one day, to being very tomboy and gothic the next. “My style is ever-changing,” she adds. Ricketts encourages other young women to embrace their dreams and go after them no matter how big or small they might seem. She says her favorite quote has always been, “Here’s to strong women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.” KM
- Glamour Magazine
- Seventeen Magazine
- Shape Magazine
- Kendra Scott
- Marie Claire Magazine
Katy, TX (June 1, 2017) Katy ISD recognized 88 high school seniors who were chosen by their campus administration for their dedication, perseverance and achievement during the 2016-2017 school year. Alongside each one of them, an outstanding teacher, who was selected by the student, was also acknowledged for having a profound impact in that student’s life.
These students are the finest example of the character and commitment of the Katy ISD community. Their passion for excelling embodies the Katy ISD mission and vision to prepare and inspire each student to live an honorable, fulfilling life….to create the future.
“The accomplishments of this senior class are outstanding,” said Superintendent Lance Hindt during the ceremony. “It is gratifying to know that Katy ISD will be well represented in colleges, universities, the military and the work force throughout our nation.”
Congratulations to the Class of 2017 Awards of Excellence winners!
Katy, TX Blog (May 30, 2017) – The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and ends November 30. During these months, Texas is more susceptible to powerful and destructive tropical storms and hurricanes. The City of Katy encourages everyone to assemble a disaster supply kit of emergency supplies including:
- First-aid kit
- NOAA Weather Radio or battery-operated radio
- necessary medications
- non-perishable food items
- bottled water
- Follow the City of Katy Office of Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook for local updates.
- Keep an eye out for storm-related hashtags on Twitter and Facebook to stay up-to-speed on storms as they progress.
- Review your area’s hurricane evacuation map every year and watch for traffic updates to make the best decisions if an evacuation is needed.
- Remember the evacuation assistance hotline, 2-1-1.
- Always obey evacuation orders without hesitation, secure your home before leaving, and take pets with you.
- Hurricane Preparedness
National Hurricane Center
- Supply Kits
- Evacuation Routes
- Local News and Information
City of Katy Office of Emergency Management
Katy, TX Blog (May 23, 2017) – From dining and dancing to shopping and painting, here are some of our favorite places to connect, unwind, or kick up your heels in Katy.
DINNER & DRINKS
LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch
23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd.
281-395-5533 | lacenterra.com
You can’t go wrong having dinner at local favorites like Dish Society or Las Alamedas. Take in social hour at Perry’s Steakhouse Monday through Friday from 4 to 9 p.m., or relax on the patio at World of Beer.
Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar
23139 Grand Circle Blvd.
832-430-2253 | whiskeycakekaty.com
Sorry boys, Wednesdays are all about the ladies. They have half off all wine bottles and glasses and other food and drink specials during their social hours on weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and 9 to 11 p.m.
Agave Rio Restaurant & Patio Oasis
1138 FM 1463
281-665-3337 | agaverio.com
This tropical patio oasis has an adults-only patio section with live music on weekends. Catch up over wine and yummy appetizers, and make sure to try their Agave Mule signature cocktail. You’ll feel like you’re at a resort!
The Cellar Door
829 S. Mason Rd.
281-599-3303 | cellardoorkaty.com
Jazz it up with a live performance by trumpeter Preston Smith every Sunday night at 6 p.m. They have incredible wine selections and a delectable menu.
Dekker’s Mesquite Grill
8506 Syms St., Fulshear
281-533-0909 | dekkersmesquitegrill.net
Dekker’s has a super spacious outdoor deck that’s perfect for a girls’ gatherings, great food, and happy hour Monday through Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m.
MidPoint Bar & Eatery
20920 Katy Fwy.
281-829-3749 | midpointbar.com
Fancy a milkshake? This local favorite features “adult” milkshakes in flavors like pineapple upside down, chocolate stout, and salted caramel in addition to an extensive wine and food menu.
Cinemark 19 and XD
1030 West Grand Pkwy. N.
281-371-6008 | cinemark.com
With their new plush comfy recliners, huge screens, and reserved seating options, Cinemark has it all…including cocktails!
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
531 S. Mason Rd.
281-492-6900 | drafthouse.com
Alamo has all of those classic “slumber party” movies like Clueless, Mean Girls, and Pretty in Pink, plus chairside service and a great menu make for an unforgettable evening.
A Painting Fiesta
6734 Westheimer Lakes N. Dr.
832-437-4359 | apaintingfiesta.com
Throw on a smock and enjoy one of their many fun, step-bystep painting classes. You can also decorate your very own wine glass with friends, so BYOB.
Arthur Murray Dance Studio
3750 S. Mason Rd.
832-916-5500 | dancelessonshouston.com
Schedule a girlfriends’ group class and have a great time learning salsa, line dancing, and more.
No Label Brewing Co.
5351 1st St. 281-693-7545 | nolabelbrew.com
Schedule a tour of the brewery to find out how craft beers are made or participate in one of their Paint on Tap events.
5614 2nd St.
281-391-2299 | ktantiques.net
Venture to historic Katy and check out the vintage treasures at KT Antiques. Fun collectibles, jewelry, decor, dishware, vintage signage, and much more.
TEA & TREATS
Leafology Tea Lounge
9006 S. Fry Rd. | 832-913-8707 27131
Cinco Ranch Blvd. | 832-913-6030
Leafology has elegaant padded booth seating, free wifi, and too many delicious specialty teas, smoothies, and slushies to list. They also have affordable food. A dozen of their famous potstickers costs only $3.59! Hang out as long as you like.
3522 S. Mason Rd.
281-392-2203 | proudpie.com
For girls with a sweet tooth, Proud Pie serves delicious, amazing pies in flavors like bananas foster, snickerdoodle, state fair caramel apple, and bourbon pecan, to name a few. They sometimes offer Pie Bingo so call ahead!
1645 Winding Hollow Dr.
832-321-5849 | cocohodo.us
Cocohodo is known for their Korean walnut-shaped pastries, but they also serve specialty crepes and liquid nitrogen ice cream for every palate. KM
Katy, TX Blog (May 8, 2017) – After weighing two pounds at birth and suffering multiple organ failures, Logan Buelna proves that life is worth fighting for
Written by Meagan Clanahan | Select photography by Candace Cook
For Dr. Molly Obergfell and Dr. David Buelna, the early stages of their first pregnancy with their son Logan was picture perfect by all medical standards. After meeting at Kingsland Animal Hospital where they were both employed as veterinarians and subsequently marrying in 2013, they were overjoyed to be expecting their first son. They never expected the twists and turns that would come when he burst onto the scene in the early hours of June 18, 2015.
It was early June when Molly started to feel like something wasn’t right. One Saturday she landed in the hospital, but was sent home being told she had Braxton Hicks contractions. The next week she noticed that she felt extremely sluggish, but chalked it up to working long hours and not knowing what to expect during a first pregnancy. Little did she know that she would find herself in the emergency room fully dilated at just 25 weeks pregnant. Her doctors at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital did everything they could to slow down delivery including doses of magnesium and steroids, but it was too late. Logan David Buelna made his appearance weighing in at a tiny 2 lbs., 2 oz. and 13 inches long. Molly tearfully recalls those first moments. “They took him immediately to intubate him and get him stabilized,” she remembers. “There was plastic stuff all around him and I could barely see him.” Because the NICU at the local hospital could not accommodate a micro preemie, plans were immediately made to chopper him to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Medical Center. “I was still recovering, so I had to stay behind while David made the trip with Logan,” she says. “I had one chance to see him and he grabbed my finger before they left. Not being with my baby was the longest night of my life.”
Seven long days passed before they were even able to hold their precious son using skin-to-skin, a.k.a kangaroo care. A few weeks into their NICU journey, he went into congestive heart failure because his PDA (patent ductus arteriosus) never fully closed, thus leading to multiple organ shut down, including his liver and kidneys. The Buelnas made the difficult decision to transfer Logan to Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) for heart surgery on his PDA. Once at TCH, doctors were able to stabilize him, repair his heart, and get the rest of his organs functioning again. From there, it became a feeding and growing game, as well as also working on his ability to breathe without the use of the CPAP and oxygen.
The Will to Fight
While both David and Molly spent every weekend at the hospital with Logan, Molly was the primary caregiver for Logan during his NICU stay while David held down the work front. She spent weeks pumping precious breast milk for Logan, setting her alarm every three hours for a session, day and night. With the exception of a few frightening nights, the Buelnas made a deal that she needed to come home every night, but she was right back crib side every morning for rounds to catch up on the latest news. “Just seeing our baby down there, it broke my heart to leave him every day,” she recalls. “He was fighting so hard, you could see it. He wanted to be with us. I was his advocate, I had to be there. His will to live was my will to fight.”
As his official due date drew nearer, Molly and David began to breathe sighs of relief. After passing his mandatory carseat test with flying colors and receiving good news on his retinal optic tests, it was finally time to go home, three and a half months after their journey began. After stocking their freezer with over 400 bags of breast milk from Molly, the family was finally released from TCH with their tiny fighter weighing almost five pounds more than he did at birth.
One would never guess today that Logan had such a tumultuous start. While still on the smaller side of the charts, he is a rambunctious, happy, and healthy 19-month-old who is the resident comedian of the household and a daddy’s boy through and through. He has surpassed all medical expectations and was released from all outside therapies including occupational and physical. The future is bright for this little warrior and he’s especially enamored with his new little brother, Eli, whom his parents welcomed full term in November 2016. KM
Katy, TX (May 5, 2017) – Polling locations for the City of Katy mayoral and city council election.
Saturday, May 6, 2017 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Katy City Hall
901 Ave. c
Katy Municipal Courthouse
5432 Franz Rd.
Click here to see the most current City of Katy Ward map.
Katy, TX (April 26, 2017) – Katy ISD namesake and career educator, Catherine Bethke, continues to fuel a love for reading and passion for learning in students.
Written by Lacey Kupfer Wulf | Select photography by Anetrius Wallace
Catherine “Gigi” Bethke has devoted her life to young children, literacy, and reading. She developed reading intervention programs and a literacy library to help all students feel the same love of reading she has, allowing her to reach students beyond her kindergarten class. Carrie Lowery, principal of Catherine Bethke Elementary (CBE), adds, “When students are comfortable with literacy skills, their world is opened up for learning geared toward their passions.” It is little wonder why Bethke was chosen as the namesake for Katy ISD Elementary 39, which opened in August 2016.
As the sixth of 12 children, Bethke had plenty of practice teaching – helping her younger siblings with homework, and reading aloud with them. That love of teaching never faded. She says, “Even now at Bethke Elementary, my enthusiasm for teaching is renewed when I look into the beautiful faces of the children, hear their sweet voices, and feel their arms around my waist.”
A Special Gift
Bethke’s reading programs included more than just reading books, “We read daily affirmations, recited jivy jingles to help them with word attack skills, and sang songs to help them with comprehension in addition to standard reading practice.” These other activities not only helped students improve their reading skills, but also built students’ confidence in their ability to learn. “She has a gift for making everyone feel special,” adds Lowery. As Bethke’s former student and special education resource and in-class support teacher at Bethke Elementary, Christin Puyol adds, “When you go through your teaching certification courses, they often ask you to picture your favorite teacher and think about what you liked most about that class. I always pictured Mrs. Bethke’s class because I felt so welcome.
Through the reading intervention program REACH (Reaching Empowers All Children), which she created and coined, Bethke has learned how to help those students in first through fifth-grade who have negative feelings about reading and learning in general. She says, “An educator needs to take the time to build a trusting relationship with kids so they will be willing to put forth their best efforts.” She also believes that preventing these negative feelings from developing in the first place is the best course of action. “In the beginning it is necessary for the teacher to accept and celebrate small successes because they lead to reading gains.” Bethke’s example and experiences show that this teaching philosophy works.
“When I was told that a school would be named in my honor, I felt blessed, humbled, and amazed,” Bethke says. “I feel a huge responsibility to help CBE become another successful Katy ISD campus.” She is already impressed by the strong leadership, dedicated teachers, and parental involvement. “I am very proud of this beautiful school and I am delighted to have a permanent link to Katy ISD.” Even the kids have had to adjust to the new school name and mascot. Bethke says, “It is not unusual to see and hear some of the sweet kindergarten or first-grade students eagerly waving and smiling at me as they call out, ‘Hi, Mrs. Bison!’ or ‘Hi, Bethke Bison!’”
Even after retiring in 2012, Bethke continues to volunteer at Alexander Elementary, where her two granddaughters attend school, and Bethke Elementary three times a week tutoring, reading to classes, and teaching junior achievement. “Every time I hear her read a book to students, it reminds me of the excited feelings I had in kindergarten during story time,” Puyol adds. Bethke also works as a substitute GT proctor for Katy ISD. “I still want to be involved in a school setting as long as I feel I can contribute effectively,” she says. For Bethke, teaching has many rewards. “When struggling readers beam with pride because they can read a word today that they didn’t know yesterday, or when they leave the classroom hugging a book they can read, it is extremely gratifying,” she says. “I think my favorite is just four simple words: I love you, teacher.” KM
Katy, TX News (April 19, 2017) – The dates for early voting and election day for the 2017 Katy ISD Board election have been announced. The Board is comprised of seven members who are elected at-large to fill available positions. In accordance with the provisions of the Texas Education Code, a person may not be elected as a trustee of Katy ISD unless the person is a qualified voter.
An individual seeking election as a member of the Board of Trustees must have been a resident of the state for 12 months and a resident of the District six months prior to the last date on which the candidate could file to be listed on the ballot. The following persons have filed as candidates for the upcoming election.
Dates, candidate information, polling information, and more below.
EARLY VOTING DATES & LOCATIONS
Monday, April 24, 2017 – Tuesday, May 2, 2017 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Cinco Ranch High School
23440 Cinco Ranch Blvd.
- Morton Ranch High School
21000 Franz Rd.
- Seven Lakes High School
9251 S. Fry Rd.
- Taylor High School
20700 Kingsland Blvd.
- Leonard Merrell Center
Rooms 143 – 144
6301 S. Stadium Ln.
ELECTION DAY POLLING LOCATIONS
Election Day is Saturday, May 6, 2017 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Precinct 1 – Seven Lakes High School
9251 S. Fry Rd.
- Precinct 2 – Cinco Ranch High School
23440 Cinco Ranch Blvd.
- Precinct 3 – Katy City Hall
901 Avenue C.
- Precinct 4 – Katy Municipal Court Building
5432 Franz Rd.
- Precinct 5 – Hayes Elementary
21203 Park Timbers Ln.
- Precinct 6 – Taylor High School
20700 Kingsland Blvd.
- Precinct 7 – Maurice Wolfe Elementary
- Precinct 8 – Morton Ranch High School
21000 Franz Rd.
- Precinct 9 – Mayde Creek Junior High
2700 Greenhouse Rd.
- Precinct 10 – Bear Creek Elementary
4815 Hickory Downs
- Precinct 11 – Pattison Elementary
19910 Stonelodge Dr.
- Precinct 12 – Shafer Elementary
5150 Ranch Point Dr.
- Precinct 13 – Beck Junior High
5200 S. Fry Rd.
Click here to locate your precinct based on county boundaries.
CANDIDATES & POSITIONS
Position 3 Candidates
- Candice Perkins
- Ashley Diehl Vann
- Dr. David Velasquez
Position 4 Candidates
- Courtney Doyle
- Carlos Young
Position 5 Candidates
- Henry Dibrell
- William E. “Bill” Lacy
Courtesy of Katy ISD. Visit katyisd.org for more information .
Katy, TX News (April 19, 2017) – 2017 Prom Dates for Katy Area High Schools
- April 22
– St. John XXII College Preparatory at Dukessa
- April 28
– Strake Jesuit College Preparatory at Lakeside Country Club
- April 29
– Morton Ranch High School at Hilton Houston Post Oak
– Tompkins High School at the Westin Galleria
- May 12
– Houston Christian High School
- May 13
– Faith West High School at the Clubhouse at Firethorne
– Katy High School at Four Seasons Hotel Houston
- May 20
– Cinco Ranch High School at The Westin Galleria
– Mayde Creek High School at Hilton Houston Post Oak
– Seven Lakes High School at The Citadel
– Taylor High School at The Corinthian
Katy, TX (March 29, 2017) – Katy Magazine gives a shout-out to all the good news happening in our community.
Compiled by Katy Magazine’s Editors
Katy ISD’s Lunch Angel
An anonymous donor contributed $650 to pay off negative balances for free and reduced lunch students at Mayde Creek Junior High, Cardiff Junior High, Mayde Creek Elementary, and Mayde Creek High School.
Katy Million Meal Pack-A-Thon
Host churches Redeemer Community Church, The Fellowship, and Westland Baptist Church held an event where 626,000 Feed the Hunger meal packages were packed by 2,500 Katy area volunteers.
Katy High School Faculty
Faculty and staff raised $4,450 to donate to The Ballard House.
Katy ISD’s Santa Cops program helped 674 children and more than 330 families by providing toys and clothing.
The chicken finger restaurant sold white plush puppies to patrons. The sales of the puppies went to help the animals at Special Pals Shelter.
Fort Bend Rancher’s Ball
The ball raised almost $290,000 through the hard work and dedication of Katy residents as well as Commissioner Andy Meyers. The money has been donated to Katy Christian Ministries, Simonton Christian Academy, and Katy Contemporary Arts Museum.
Watercrest at Katy
Residents of Watercrest at Katy raised $1,746 to donate to Katy Christian Ministries.
During an evening charity event, the upscale clothing boutique donated 20% of its sales to Clothed by Faith.
Cinco Ranch Giving Circle
The members, made up of Katy area residents, collected $1,521 to donate to Child Advocates of Fort Bend.
Employees brought clothing items to their company party and donated everything to Hope Impacts.
The company collected teddy bears to donate to the Joe Joe Bear Foundation.
Fulshear Police Department
For every Red, White, & Rescue calendar sold, the police department donated funds to Special Pals Shelter.
Camp Bow Wow
Katy Employees and patrons dropped off pet food, toys, and other needed items for animals in foster care.
Monty Ballard YMCA at Cinco Ranch
The health and fitness club partnered with Cigna to offer free health screenings to help people find out their four health numbers: blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and BMI.
BH Hair Studio
The salon gave away free makeovers to five lucky patrons.
Girl Scout Troop 129068
Scouts prepared pancakes, bacon, and eggs for dinner, then served them to residents at The Ballard House.
Katy Triathlon at Firethorne
The event raised more money than expected and is increasing scholarships from $1,500 to $2,000.
Houston Methodist West Hospital
Volunteers from the hospital visited families delivering teddy bears donated by Beckendorff Junior High, tigers from Katy Junior High, and blankets donated by National Charity League Katy Chapter.
Have something GOOD to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katy, Texas (March 22, 2017) – Officer Luis Santiago with the Katy ISD Police Department delivered 20 “Teddy Cop” Bears to some of our students today! Their goal is to give every PPCD, ECAP, YCAP, Lifeskills & TIP child in our school district a Police Officer Teddy Bear … specialized with a uniform and Katy ISD Police Officer badge!
In the first 5 months since the program was started, they raised over $11,000 to purchase 497 bears for students at 23 KISD elementary schools. They still need to purchase about 600 more bears for 14 more of the KISD elementary schools.
We are asking for your help to PAY IT FORWARD! Please consider making a donation for this wonderful program! You may send donations to the NCE front office. We will accept cash or checks (payable to Katy ISD), or you may purchase a gift card from the Build-a-Bear Workshop at Katy Mills Mall where the bears are made.
Here are a few pictures from this morning! More pictures can be seen by visiting the Nottingham Country Elementary School Official Facebook page.
Thank you in advance for your help, and thank you Katy ISD Police Department for the bears!!
Courtesy of Katy ISD
Katy, TX (March 9, 2017) – Everybody loves a freebie now and then. We’ve tracked down all the places in Katy to get a free product, service, or meal. Take a look!
Applebee’s – Get one free birthday entree.
Arby’s – Diners get a free small shake with any purchase on their birthday.
Auntie Anne’s – One free birthday pretzel.
A&W Restaurants – Get a free root bear float on your big day.
Baskin Robbins – Get one 2.5 oz ice cream scoop on the house for your birthday.
BJ’s Restaurants – Birthday boys and girls get a free pizookie dessert.
Buffalo Wild Wings – Free snack-size wings.
Camp Bow Wow Katy – All birthday dogs will get a free bath, a “Happy Birthday” bandanna, and a photo on their Facebook page. No credits – baths must be given on your dog’s birthday. (Dogs must pass all camp requirements.) Visit campbowwow.com.
Chuck E. Cheese – Birthdays get 100 free tickets.
CiCi’s Pizza – One free buffet with the purchase of an adult buffet and a regular drink.
Corner Bakery – A free cookie or bakery sweet.
Denny’s – Their Grand Slam Breakfast is free on your birthday.
Fuddrucker’s – $5 off your check, and kids receive free burgers on their birthday.
Great American Cookies – Get a slice of cookie cake at no charge with the purchase of a regular drink.
Grimaldi’s – Get a large, one-topping pizza for free on your birthday.
IHOP – Birthday diners get a free stack of Rooty Tooty Fresh N Fruity pancakes.
James Coney Island – Enjoy a cheese coney on the house on your birthday.
Jason’s Deli – Receive a $5 discount on your check.
La Madeleine – Get a free pastry on your special day.
Landry’s Seafood House – Choose from a complimentary appetizer or dessert with the purchase of an entree.
Marble Slab Creamery – Receive a free small cup or cone.
Marco’s Pizza – Anyone celebrating a birthday can get a free medium, one-topping pizza.
Nothing Bundt Cakes – Free Bundtlet cake on your birthday.
Olive Garden – Get a free app or dessert with the purchase of two adult entrees.
Panera Bread – Get any bakery item at no charge on your birthday.
Rainforest Cafe – Birthdays get a free appetizer with purchase of an entree.
RedBox Movie Rental – Complimentary Blu-Ray or DVD rental.
Red Lobster – Go in on your birthday and receive $5 your check with the purchase of two entrees.
Rita’s Italian Ice – Get a free regular Italian ice on your big day.
Schlotzky’s – Redeem one free sandwich on your birthday.
Smashburger – Enjoy a hand-spun shake on the house with the purchase of an entree.
Smoothie King – Birthdays can purchase a 20 oz. smoothie for only $2.99.
Starbucks – Free hot or cold drink, bottled beverage, or food item on your birthday.
Taco Cabana – Birthdays get a free flauta plate that includes three chicken flautas, rice, beans, pico de gallo, sour crea,guacamole, and two tortillas.
Texas Roadhouse – Chow down on a free appetizer or sidekick of ribs with the purchase of an entree on your birthday.
Which Wich – Redeem a free small sandwich on your birthday.
Wing Stop – Enjoy a free order of large fries on the house.
Zaxby’s – Birthdays will receive a free Nibbler sandwich.
Zoe’s Kitchen – Enjoy a free entree on your special day.
NOTE: Please visit individual websites for more details – as most offers are valid only through e-mail subscriptions or app downloads.
Barnes & Noble – Teachers get a 20% discount on qualifying purchases when they are a part of the B&N Educator Program.
Leafology Tea Lounge Katy – Katy ISD teachers and faculty will receive 25% off a menu item when they present a valid ID. Visit leafologytealounge.com.
McDonald’s – Katy ISD teachers and faculty will receive a free small McCafe coffee when they present their school ID during the 2016-2017 school year. (Participating locations – see our blogs page for details.)
Katy Budget Books – Teachers will receive 20% off in-store pick-up or school delivery when they order new books for their classrooms. They also have a Used Book Credit Account that has been donated to public school teachers for the purchase of used books for the classroom. Visit katybooks.com.
Michael’s – Teachers can get 15% their entire in-store purchase.
Peter Chang Restaurant – Katy ISD teachers and faculty can receive 10-50% off in January and August. Visit peterchangtx.com.
Texas Roadhouse – Teachers can get 10% off their meal every Tuesday with a valid school ID.
Verum Vi CrossFit Katy – Full-time teachers and students receive 10% off of their membership.
24 Hour Fitness – Active, reserve, and retired military and dependents receive 10% off their membership, and free workouts on Memorial Day weekend.
A&W – Active military can present valid military ID for a special discount at their Katy store. Details vary by location.
Aeropostale – Active, retired, and reserve military and their dependents get 20% off their purchase at any store nationwide.
Anne Taylor Loft – The Katy Mills Mall location offers 15% off full-priced items for active, reserved, and retired military and their dependents.
AT&T – Active, reserve, and retired military as well as veterans will receive a 15% government discount with a valid military or VA ID. Veterans must show a copy of your DD214 at all Katy locations.
AutoZone – Offers free shipping for online orders for any FPO or APO address for active, retired, and reserve military. Check with individual Katy stores for additional military discount programs.
Banana Republic – Their Katy Mills location offers 10% off in-store purchases on the first Monday of every month for active, retiree, reserved, veterans, and dependents.
Bass Pro Shop – From the 15th to the 22nd of every month, active, retired, reserve, veterans, and dependents can receive a store-specific discount when they present active military ID or DD214. Discount does not include reels, electronics, firearms, ammunition and reloading equipment, scopes, bows, arrows, taxidermy, gift cards, Tracker boats, Mercury motors, or ATV’s.
Camp Bow Wow – All military personnel receive 10% off all boarding and day camps, and 5% off of retail services. Just show proof of employment for the discount to be applied. (Dogs must pass all camp requirements.) Visit campbowwow.com.
Country Park Portraits– Active military personnel can receive a complimentary portrait session and 8 x 10 photo when they present a military ID.
Eddie Bauer – Active, retired, and reserve military and their families can receive 10 – 15% off in-store purchases. Must ask about veteran discounts at your location.
El Pollo Loco – Military service members receive 15% off of their order.
Goodwill – Offers 30% discounts to first-responders and their families every Friday.
Lowe’s Home Improvement – They offer a 10% military discount to active military, retired veterans, and immediate family. Must present a valid DD214 or other proof of service. Personal purchases only.
Michael’s – Military and immediate family can receive 15% off their entire in-store purchase when they present a valid military ID.
Peter Chang Restaurant – Police officers can get discounts in April and October, family members of military in the month of May, and firefighters (regular, volunteer, and family) in the month of September. Discounts range from 10 – 50 percent and valid occupation ID is required. Visit peterchangtx.com.
Texas Roadhouse – Military members get 30% off their meal every day.
Verum Vi CrossFit Katy – Police, firefighters, EMT, and active military receive 15% off of their membership. Veterans receive 10% off of their membership.
WellPet Center Veterinary Hospital – Pets of active or veteran military and public service members get 15% off of their service.
SENIOR CITIZEN DISCOUNTS
Applebee’s – Diners aged 60 and up can get 10 to 15% off their meal at certain locations.
Burger King – Ages 60+ receive 10% off their order plus additional discounts on coffee and soft drinks.
Carrabba’s Italian Grill – AARP members get 15% off their entire meal.
Denny’s – Most locations offer 15% AARP members who are 55 and older.
Dunkin’ Donuts – AARP members get a free donut with the purchase of a large or extra large coffee.
El Pollo Loco – Seniors 60 and over receive 10% off their order.
Fuddrucker’s – Get 10% any senior platter if you are over 55 years old.
IHOP – They offer special pricing on breakfast items for diners over 55.
Office Depot/Office Max – AMAC members get 10% off office products.
Stein Mart – Shoppers over the age of 55 get 20% every Monday.
Please call to verify these deals and offers, as some vary by location or require an app download or coupon to redeem.
Katy, TX News (March 8, 2017) – Teachers can get their coffee fix every Monday during the school year at one of these McDonald’s locations.
7104 S. Fry Rd.
Cross Creek Ranch
6748 FM 1463, Fulshear
27140 Cinco Ranch Blvd.
Stop by and present a school ID for a free small McCafe coffee.
Katy, TX News (March 2, 2017) – When it comes to working toward a successful business, Sam Zavary says the key is planning, planning, planning.
That was the message of the Exclusive Furniture CEO’s presentation Thursday night at the University of Houston-Victoria Katy Campus. Zavary shared his knowledge with UHV students, alumni, faculty and staff, and community members as part of the UHV School of Business Administration Distinguished Speaker Series.
“The Distinguished Speaker Series gives UHV students access to some of the wisdom and personal experiences of leaders in the business world,” said Farhang Niroomand, dean of the UHV School of Business Administration. “Sam Zavary’s presentation was full of insight and advice that reinforces many of the concepts taught in our classrooms. We are grateful for his participation in the series.”
Zavary began selling furniture 18 years ago in a 2,000-square-foot store. Now, the company has access to 250,000 square feet of space, including warehousing and seven Exclusive Furniture locations throughout Houston.
The CEO took a more interactive approach to his presentation than many previous speakers. Instead of a long lecture, he opened with a 10-minute presentation, then took questions from the large audience.
“This was a great opportunity for our students to have personal interaction with someone who was just like them 18 years ago,” said Jifu Wang, associate dean of the UHV School of Business Administration. “Students can learn the theory of how to be successful in the classroom and even get some experience through simulations, but it’s important for them to see these high-caliber, successful stories in person.”
In addition to planning, Zavary emphasized the importance of communication and training. Poor communication can lead to all kinds of problems for businesses, he said. And because the market constantly is changing, it is vital that employees go through training that reflects those changes.
“My employees undergo training every day,” he said. “It is what makes us different from our competitors.”
At the end of the discussion, Zavary referred to the changing attitude many people have toward shopping and making major purchases. Today, more and more customers are interested in buying everything from clothes to furniture online instead of going to a store. If retail businesses want to remain successful, they must find a way to integrate those changes into their business models, he said.
“The point about the importance of integrating online sales and social media is an important one for today’s students,” Wang said. “At its core, business is about getting results, and we train our students to create solutions to the changes in customers’ preferences and shifts in the business environment.”
In addition to Zavary’s presentation, the winners of the December 2016 undergraduate and graduate Case Conferences were recognized during the event. The first-, second- and third-place teams and honorable mentions were given plaques and honored for their achievement.
Since 2011, the UHV School of Business Administration Distinguished Speaker Series has brought in area executives to discuss contemporary business issues. Past speakers have included Mike Rydin, Heavy Construction System Specialist CEO; Helen Sharkey, a former consultant with Dynegy; Ben Keating, president and owner of Keating Auto Group and Viper Exchange Racing; and Roger Dartt, DeLorean Motor Co. president.
Katy, TX (February 20, 2017) – Childhood cancer survivor and Seven Lakes High School graduate, Samantha Loos-Polk, goes back to where it all began.
Written by Anna-Catherine Rose | Select Photography by John Glaser
The afternoon Samantha Loos-Polk was training at the gym was like any other. In preparation for an upcoming Taekwondo tournament, the then 13-year-old freshman at Seven Lakes High School and second-degree black belt was performing strength and conditioning training. But when she swung a dumbbell as part of a squat exercise, she immediately felt pain in her back and knew something wasn’t right. The events that followed, and the diagnosis that awaited her, would change the course of her life forever.
More Than a Routine Injury
Aside from sore muscles following her injury, Samantha was also unusually fatigued. Accustomed to a rigorous schedule with her studies, choir, and martial arts, she suddenly wasn’t able to keep up. “I was exhausted all the time, and it was difficult to walk from class to class,” she remembers. She also began to develop bruises on her legs, along with tiny red spots on her wrists and eventually throughout her body.
Concerned and on a mission for answers, she and her parents, Margaret Loos-Polk and James Polk, visited a battery of doctors, and she eventually underwent blood tests. Around 4 a.m. the morning after her tests, Margaret received a call instructing them to take Samantha to a hospital immediately. Her platelets were extremely low, so much so she could have bled to death.
Samantha was eventually taken to Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH). It was here, in room one on the ninth floor of the West Tower, her symptoms were given an official name: acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She soon underwent 10 days of intensive chemotherapy. And while the treatment effectively fought the cancer, it wreaked havoc on her immune system.
When Samantha was eventually released, she was very weak and in constant pain. A few days after being home, she developed a fever and was rushed back to the hospital. After a series of tests, doctors determined she had acquired a rare type of fungal infection called Fusarium. It was prevalent in her blood, in and around her lungs, kidneys, left eye, and skin. From here, Samantha endured eight eye and four nose surgeries over the course of a nine-month stay at TCH. To date, she is the longest-known survivor of this type of infection.
Samantha’s journey nurtured a passion within her to help others with similar obstacles. So inspired by the level of care she received from the nurses at TCH, she set her mind on achieving a nursing degree, with a specialty in pediatric oncology, from University of St. Thomas. She reflects, “I knew I wanted to pursue a career that made a difference in people’s lives prior to my diagnosis, but I didn’t know what exactly that would look like until I survived cancer and the fungal infection. From that point on, I knew the superhero I wanted to be was a nurse.”
And now, from the very place she was diagnosed and treated, the ninth floor of the West Tower of TCH, she cares for and comforts young patients facing cancer. “I know I can help others in their battle because of my personal understanding of what they’re going through. My unique perspective enables me to treat patients holistically and ensure their families are provided much needed support,” she says.
When asked about her greatest source of encouragement during her toughest times, she credits her parents, who were by her side every minute of every day. She is also grateful for several organizations that ministered to both her and her family, including Harley’s Helpers Angel Ministry, Snowdrop Foundation, and B.I.G. Love Cancer Care. These groups supplied parking tokens, gas and gift cards, groceries, laundry baskets, blankets, and regular visits. In fact, Samantha was awarded three scholarships from two of these organizations.
The Path Ahead
Samantha is now a five-year cancer survivor. She undergoes yearly checkups at TCH, along with regular assessments by her ophthalmologist. During her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and boyfriend, Ryleigh; snuggling with her cat, Binx; reading; and watching movies. She also serves as co-secretary of St. Thomas’ Sigma Theta Tau International nursing honor society.
Her story is one of struggle, determination, perseverance, and triumph. It’s also a poignant reminder that adversity, when met with hope and a fighting spirit, can be an unexpected but most impactful teacher. KM
ANNA-CATHERINE ROSE lives in Katy and is a firm believer that struggle is what connects us and is always accompanied by a purpose.
Katy, TX (February 6, 2017) – With a brand new music video, “The Real Me,” out and an EP on the horizon, this Seven Lakes High School senior is headed for stardom.
Written by Ashley Lancaster
Ever since attending her first concert with her father, Greg Conklin, at the age of 4, Taylor Thi has been consumed with a passion for performing and songwriting. “We saw James [Vernon] Taylor, and I was so amazed by all the cheering that I turned to my dad and asked him why everyone was making noise. He said, ‘See that man up there? They’re clapping for him.’ Ever since then I’ve wanted to be a singer.”
Although she began formally training at the age of 15, she considers her sixth-grade performance her official debut. “I performed ‘Material Girl’ by Madonna at the Beckendorff Junior High pop concert,” she says. And she has been strategically placing herself in local gigs in order to build a following ever since.
“The rush of adrenaline is unexplainable; you can walk on stage and be whoever you want to be. You can be confident, a completely different person and just let loose,” she adds. “You forget everything and just feel free in that moment.” Thi spends hours at a time writing notes and lyrics. “Every song I write has a special meaning to me because I never want to write about something I don’t mean or feel.”
The young songwriter finds strength to pursue her dreams close to home. “My family has always been my biggest supporters no matter what. I’m extremely family-oriented and they are the ones I show all my music to first. Everything I do, they see or get to hear before I announce or release anything,” she says.
Thi comes from a family not afraid to pursue their wildest dreams, and credits her father for giving her the courage to try. “He was from a small town, lived on a farm, and grew up being told by everyone he knew that he would never achieve his dream of being a pilot. He has now been a pilot for 41 years. Every time someone tries to tear me down, I think about my dad, and I know I’ll prove them wrong.”
Thi recently directed her own music video for her original song, “The Real Me,” which received over 20,000 views on YouTube. “It was such an amazing experience,” she says.
Armed with a notebook full of material, Thi plans to continue working on singles and eventually produce her first EP. But her future plans also include receiving an education. “I would love to go to college for audio engineering or songwriting,” she adds. “I’m still deciding, but I’m positive I’ll be around music no matter what.” KM
Katy, TX (January 23, 2017) – Two teachers at British International School in Katy, Texas did exceptionally well at the Houston Marathon earlier this month. Mr. Tim Barnett (primary, year six) placed second in his age category and third place overall with a race time of 39:20 and Mr. Ben Brown (primary, year one) placed second in his category at the Choco Loco 10K.
Katy, TX January 17, 2017
Models don’t just live in Milan, Paris, or New York. There are stunning and talented models who were raised or live right here in Katy.
Written by Lacey Kupfer Wulf
Modeling is not an easy profession. It comes with harsh criticism, working long hours in uncomfortable clothing or weather, and demanding bosses. These five beautiful girls and women share how to look past the hard stuff and revel in the spotlight of being a top model.
Tatiana LaBello, formerly Tatiana Anderson, is a model with ambition. By age 9, she had over 150 trophies in modeling, beauty pageants, dance, pep squad, cheerleading, and baton twirling. She even taught aerobics classes in Katy at age 14. After graduating from Katy High School, LaBello became a professional cheerleader for three major sports teams: the NFL Denver Broncos, the NBA Houston Rockets, and the USFL Houston Gamblers; wrote a fitness book, and received many fitness pageant titles.
Her greatest claim to fame, however, is being the host of ESPN’s top-rated fitness show Kiana’s Flex Appeal. She also hosted a lifestyle show with Robin Leach on CBS and was interviewed on extra, Inside Edition, and appeared in episodes of Friends, Baywatch, and She Spies. Now, as a healthy lifestyle coach and owner of LaBello Lifestyle, she has relocated to Houston to be closer to family. She says, “True beauty comes from the inside. We need to work equally on the inside, mentally and spiritually, as much as the outside.”
On a Whim
When Amy Gonzales heard about a casting call for a local Houston magazine, JMG Magazine, she decided to try out. She says, “I was so nervous when I walked in and saw so many tall, beautiful girls who knew exactly what they were doing.” Despite her lack of modeling experience, she was chosen and was shooting outdoors in 100-degree weather two weeks later. “It was quite the warm welcome to the industry!” she says.
Since that first experience, she has modeled for JCPenney, Paul Mitchell, Mary Kay, and local designers in Houston and Dallas. Gonzales says, “Every job is different which is so fun for me! It doesn’t feel like work when you’re having fun doing it.”
Like many little girls, Brianna Key grew up with a dream to participate in pageants and be in magazines. Although she did some modeling as a child, her career really started at age 12 after appearing in ads for Wimpy’s Hamburgers in downtown Houston, and participating in music video pilots for the Disney Channel. She is a former Texans Cheerleader and has won Miss USA titles like Miss Texas Continental and has modeled for Sierra Pacific Bridal and Cane Island.
In her work, Key has been told that she is too short or not good enough to be a model. “Once I step outside that room, I have to realize who I am and be proud of who I am. I can’t control what I look like, but I’ve come pretty far. I have defied standards,” she says. “I’m good enough for myself, and that’s what matters.” At age 25, she now owns her own business, Key Designs, and takes modeling opportunities as they arise.
Born with a Talent
At 9 months old, Kyrie McAlpin danced on top of the table when her great-grandmother played music and acted out songs she listened to. She says, “I was born with that natural talent. I love modeling, acting, and dancing.” After attending Drama Kids Camp and taking acting and modeling classes with the Neal Hamil agency, Kyrie’s career has taken off. Her credentials include Academy Sports and Outdoors weekly ads, a Nationwide Insurance commercial, and a Macy’s showcase.
Five-year-old Kyrie’s mom, Kadene says, “Be yourself and get as much training as possible. You can never have enough.” Although Kyrie occasionally travels for gigs, including to California to play a young Mary in a Mary J. Blige music video, she and her family live in Katy for the amazing schools.
A Young Pro
Unlike most toddlers, who often fight standing still for pictures, 3-year-old Cami Valverde loves having her picture taken. Her mother Patty says, “She sees a camera, and she starts posing, and she loves to look at the pictures to see how they came out after we are done.” Cami started modeling clothes and headbands for small clothing shops at just 9 months old.
Her pictures have been printed in magazines like Semana News, Magnificent Magazine, Big City Kids, and Stylish Milk Magazine. She is also on Instagram for brands like Cherokee, Munchkin, and Igloo Coolers. Patty says, “She is so free-spirited, so I think her poses are always fun and different with a little bit of sass.” KM
LACEY KUPFER WULF is a wife, mother of twin toddler boys, and a freelance writer.
Katy, TX (January 10, 2017) A Katy ISD student’s dream of sending something into outer space has become an “out-of-this-world” reality when her artwork is selected by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to become a part of a space calendar.
Katy Junior High sixth-grader, Sylvie Mei Lim, competed against submissions from across the world. Yet her artistic masterpiece ended up winning the first spot in the Children’s Artwork Calendar for the month of January 2017. Drawings from Spain, Romania, India, Portugal, London and now even Katy, TX, will be beamed into orbit for astronauts to enjoy during their stay in the International Space Station (ISS).
Katy Junior High sixth-grader, Drew Alvarez, was also selected for an Honorable Mention. The odds of two Katy ISD students being recognized and being the only two from Texas, is kind of “extra-terrestrial”. Congratulations!
Click here to see Lim’s drawing and full calendar.
Courtesy of Katy ISD
Katy, TX – December 16, 2016 From Jeff Stocks, Principal of Taylor High School:
The publishers of Katy Magazine honored 10 extraordinary citizens at the Katy Area Economic Development Council’s general assembly meeting
Katy, TX December 13, 2016—Today, Katy Magazine officially announced their People of the Year award winners at the Katy Area Economic Development Council General Assembly meeting held at the Education Support Complex. Ten outstanding Katy area residents were presented with awards in front of a large audience of business and community leaders at the Katy Area Economic Development Council’s monthly assembly meeting. The 10 honorees are also featured in the Dec/Jan issue of Katy Magazine and will be showcased in their upcoming Katy Business Magazine launching in early 2017.
This list of honorees includes Katy area residents from all walks of life– extraordinary educators, volunteers, heroes, and community leaders across Katy. The oldest honoree is 93-year-old Avadele Short, an active volunteer who’s logged more than 10,000 hours serving at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital. The youngest honoree is Nolan Stilwell, age 27, a beloved Katy entrepreneur who thrives despite having Down syndrome. One honoree, Stan Stanley, was named posthumously, for his dedicated service and humanitarianism in Katy.
The 2016 Katy People of the Year Honorees are as follows:
- Andy Kahan, a dedicated crime victims’ rights advocate
- Avadele Short, a 93-year-old avid hospital volunteer
- Bob Bryant, Katy ISD’s former director of Fine Arts and new school namesake
- David Morrison, a community superhero who volunteers as HolyBatman to brighten the lives of children
- Karen Sparks, Katy ISD Restorative Practices Coordinator who has inspired hundreds of students
- Kay Callender, founder of Keep Katy Beautiful whose projects have won many awards
- Nolan Stilwell, creator of Sweet Heat Jam Co. and who also has Down syndrome
- Peter McElwain, Katy ISD’s leading planner and architect who is retiring after 18 years
- Stan Stanley, founder of the Katy Area EDC, school namesake, and community leader (Posthumous honoree who passed away March 29, 2016)
- Tina Hatcher, founder of Hope Impacts, an organization that helps transform the lives of Katy’s homeless
“We couldn’t be more honored to celebrate these extraordinary citizens who are definitely making Katy a better place for all of us,” says Publisher Katrina Katsarelis. “Each honoree exemplifies the loving, caring spirt of Katy, Texas.”
Last year’s 2015 Katy People of the Year recipients included: Da’dra Greathouse, singer, songwriter, musician, and speaker; Rebekah Gregory, Boston Marathon bombing survivor; Andy Dalton, NFL quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals; Christina Dismuke, 2016 TASA Region IV Elementary Teacher of the Year; Alton Frailey, former Superintendent of Katy ISD; Coach Gary Joseph, head coach for the Katy Tigers; Shari Nightingale, founder of Lindsay’s Light; Mayor Fabol Hughes, elected mayor in 2013 and reelected in 2015.
CONTACT: Katrina Katsarelis, Editor-in-Chief & Publisher Katy Magazine 281.579.9840 email@example.com
Katy, TX – December 8, 2016
Michael Guevara, Co-Founder and Co-Owner of The Conservatory of Music at Cinco Ranch and North Katy, has recently been named as one of America’s PremierExperts® in recognition of his knowledge and passion in music.
Michael Guevara has recently been acknowledged by America’s PremierExperts® as one of the leading experts in his field. America’s PremiereExperts® recognizes leading experts, across a wide array of industries, who are willing to provide information and education to consumers as a public service.
Michael is a composer, musician, speaker and business mentor. He is a founding member of the Katy Jazz Association and member of the Katy Jazz Festival Committee. In 1986 he received his Bachelors of Business Administration in Finance, and he moved to Houston to begin his career in insurance. Throughout the years he taught children to play the piano when his scheduled allowed. In 2006 Michael and his wife, Berta, opened their first school of music, The Conservatory of Music at Cinco Ranch, which is inclusive of being the only founding school of Carnegie Hall Royal Conservatory Achievement Program in the greater Houston area. The Conservatory of Music currently teaches more than 25,000 lessons a year and was recently named as “The Best Music Studio / Lessons in Katy for 2016.”
Courtesy of Dicks and Nanton Branding Agency
Katy, TX – December 7, 2016
Patients at Memorial Hermann Cancer Center-Texas Medical Center now have access to hands-on music therapy thanks to a multiple guitar donation from Joan Holst and Michael Fuller, of Fuller’s Guitar, a guitar store located in Houston’s Greater Heights. Fuller and Holst were inspired to make the donation by their friend, Paul Jardell, who is currently undergoing cancer treatment at the Center. The guitars will be available as a musical diversion for patients to play while they receive treatment. They will also be used by the Center’s music therapy support group.
“It’s important to me that the patients are engaged in the music, not just by listening, but by participating,” said Maegan Morrow, music therapist with TIRR Memorial Hermann, who also dedicates some of her time to Memorial Hermann Cancer Center-TMC. “By picking up a guitar during long treatments, it can be a distraction that puts the brain in a more positive state. Some patients might already know how to play guitar, but now we have the resources if someone wants to learn as well. We are so grateful to Fuller’s Guitar for their generous gift.”
Courtesy of Memorial Hermann Hospital
Katy, TX – December 7, 2016 A recent survey found that Americans plan to spend more than half of their total holiday budget on non-gift items like holiday decor, entertaining and gifts for themselves. While incorporating these expenses into your holiday spending plan is smart, it’s easy to overspend in these areas and break your budget while wrapping up the rest of your gift list.
Fine-tune your holiday spending by avoiding these common gotchas and start the new year without a massive credit card bill.
1. Self gifting.
According to the National Retail Foundation, nearly six in 10 Americans plan to buy gifts for themselves, spending around $140, up 4% from last year and marking the second-highest level of personal spending in the survey’s 13-year history. If you get in the habit of buying a gift for yourself every time you pick one up for a loved one, you’re going to find yourself over budget and in debt. When you find yourself reaching for an impulse self gift, give yourself 24 hours to consider the purchase. Chances are the urge to buy that unnecessary present will pass and you’ll save yourself big bucks. Alternatively, you can add the item to your wish list and help a loved one with their holiday shopping!
2. Indulging in decor.
Many consumers get swept up in the holiday spirit and indulge in new decor to deck their halls. If you already have bins full of lights, ornaments, garland and other holiday tchotchkes, don’t buy more before Christmas. Wait until Dec. 25 passes to pick up a few new decor pieces for next year when you can expect to save over 70% in most cases.
3. Missing out on savings.
The holiday season is filled with promotions of all kinds and if you don’t know where to find the best deals, you could miss out on major savings. Sign up for retailer newsletters to get coupons and learn about upcoming sales events. Create a new email so you don’t get bombarded with such offers though! Use money-saving apps like Coupon Sherpa to get coupons right to your phone or check their online database for offers from popular retailers such as 20% off with a JCPenney coupon. Lastly, it’s important to track price drops with MyAlerts.com so you know when to request a price adjustment on any gifts that you buy that go on sale shortly afterwards.
4. Spending more to save more.
A popular promotion offered during the holidays, the “buy more, save more” deal often compels shoppers into spending more money than they planned. Such tiered offers as $25 off $75 or $50 off $150 are designed to make you think you’re getting a better value when you spend more, but you actually save the same percentage in most cases. Instead, spend what you planned and enjoy whatever savings you receive as a result. And whenever you see that slogan, remind yourself that when you buy more, you spend more!
5. Opening a new store card.
An additional 10 to 20% off your purchase tempts many shoppers into opening a new store card, especially during the holiday season. However, this savings strategy is anything but smart; store cards carry low credit limits and high interest rates which can prove dangerous to your credit score if not carefully managed. Plus, you’re likely to buy more during that transaction to benefit from the limited deal. Unless you shop with the store frequently and can commit to paying off balances in full each month, it’s best to avoid these cards. While paying with cash is the best strategy to stay on budget, sticking to one credit card that provides cash back or miles and earn rewards faster is another good option.
6. Overstocking stockings.
Most shoppers don’t budget for stocking stuffers as they do regular presents that go under the tree, yet these small gifts can put a dent into your spending. Make a plan of how much money you will spend per stocking for your family members and don’t waste your money buying junk just to fill it! To keep your budget in check, consider making little gifts to fill out stockings. You can make a small ornament with a favorite picture or bake a few small treats to supplement the gifts you purchase.
7. Picking up extra gifts at checkout.
Checkout aisles are stocked with all sorts of impulse buys because retailers know shoppers can’t resist festive fuzzy socks, coffee mugs and scented candles. While they’re cheap, these small purchases of $1 here and $5 there can add up quickly and eat into your budget. Distract yourself when checking out at any store by reviewing your haul for unnecessary impulse buys, updating your gift list or checking in with your shopping budget to ensure you’re still on track.
8. Buying more to get free shipping.
While free shipping is a popular promotion, more online retailers are requiring minimum order thresholds of $50, $75 or even over $100 before free delivery kicks in. Spending more to qualify for free shipping means it’s not free. Look for free site-to-store pick-up options or sign up for a free 30-day trial at ShopRunner for free, two-day shipping from hundreds of popular stores like Eddie Bauer, Express and Lord and Taylor. Otherwise, wait for Free Shipping Day on December 16 when hundreds of retailers waive minimum order requirements, offer extra discounts and guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.
9. Racking up debt to pay for gifts.
A new survey conducted by MagnifyMoney found that more than one in four Americans plan to rack up holiday debt and many of those shoppers expect they will take three months or more to pay it off. Accepting that you’ll go into the debt for the holidays is a dangerous kind of complacence and something that shouldn’t be taken so lightly! Instead, determine what you can afford and boost your budget by shopping the sales, using coupons, stocking up on discount gift cards, re-gifting gently-used products or even selling items for extra cash.
Source: Andrea Woroch is a money-saving expert who transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers by sharing smart spending tips and personal finance advice.
Katy, TX – November 22, 2016 Special Pals is taking pre-orders for their 2017 Red White & Rescue Calendar, a project helping to fundraise for the shelter.
The Red White & Rescue Calendar is a collaboration between first responders and Special Pals. The calendar features first responders from the Katy, West Houston, Richmond, Rosenberg, and Fulshear areas along with their own adopted dogs, or adoptable dogs from Special Pals.
“Our goal for this calendar is to help raise funds and awareness for the shelter,” said Melissa Houser, President of Special Pals. “We also want to recognize local first responders who protect our communities every day. They work hard to save human lives while we work hard to save animal lives.”
Eight local agencies are represented in the 2017 Red White & Rescue Calendar: Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, Katy ISD Police Department, Fort Bend EMS, Katy Fire Department, Richmond Police Department, Fulshear Police Department, Harris Country Sheriff’s Office, and Fulshear/Simonton Fire Department. Photography was arranged and provided free of charge by Sandy Flint of Flint Photography.
Among the first responders and animals featured are Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy E. Nehls and his dog Archer. Nehls gained international acclaim after he—along with volunteers and KPRC television reporter Phil Archer—rescued a dog tied to a porch from rising flood waters in Fort Bend County. The rescue was caught on video and viewed millions of times all over the world. A few weeks after the rescue, Archer (named after Phil Acher) was adopted by Nehls and his family.
All funds generated from calendar sales will support operations at Special Pals and provide care for the animals currently living at the shelter. “After daily care, medical care, and ‘room and board’ it costs nearly $10 per day to provide care for an adoptable animal at the shelter,” says Elizabeth Trick, Executive Director of Special Pals. “Purchasing this calendar will help us continue to care for the dogs and cats waiting to be adopted, and ensure we can continue to save more animals in 2017.”
The Red White & Rescue Calendar is currently in production and will begin shipping during the week of Thanksgiving. Calendars may be purchased online for $24.99 including tax and shipping, or in person at Special Pals for $20.00 including tax.
To pre-order a copy of the 2017 Red White & Rescue Calendar, and for profiles of the first responders featured in the calendar, visit www.redwhiteandrescue.com.
Special Pals website: http://www.specialpalsshelter.org/
Special Pals Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SpecialPalsShelter
Red White & Rescue Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RedWhiteRescue/
About Special Pals: Special Pals is Houston’s longest running no-kill animal shelter. As a non-profit 501(c)3 organization our mission is to make the world a better place for healthy cats and dogs by providing temporary shelter and health care, an alternative to euthanasia, adoptive homes and education to the community about the responsibilities of pet ownership and the importance of spaying and neutering. We offer adoption services, boarding, low-cost wellness clinics and low-cost spaying and neutering.
Courtesy of Special Pals
Katy, TX – November 22, 2016 Over the past few weeks, Katy ISD hosted dedication ceremonies for two of their newest schools, MayDell Jenks Elementary and Catherine Bethke Elementary. The Katy community, Board of Trustees, Fort Bend County officials, and the namesakes themselves, MayDell Krivacka Jenks, and Catherine Gigi Bethke, were all in attendance.
These new schools were designed and built as a result of the district’s $748 million bond referendum approved by voters in November of 2014. VLK Architects was hired by Katy ISD to work in collaboration with the district and the community to create a new two-story elementary school prototype with Bethke and Jenks as the first schools to open. The hope with these new schools is to inspire students and engage different learning styles through the availability of collaborative and flexible spaces. In addition, these new facilities were constructed to address and accommodate Katy ISD’s increasing student population.
“I could not be more proud to have this opportunity to open a new state-of-the-art facility,” said Katy ISD Superintendent, Dr. Lance Hindt. “I am in awe to see the student adaptability and creativity as they develop individual modes of learning and collaboration through the use of flexible spaces.”
At the Jenks Elementary School Dedication Ceremony, Principal Troy Kemp spoke about how humbling it is to be a part of and represent Jenks in his role as principal. “This week the ‘Book of Awesome’ showed up in my mailbox,” said Kemp. “It is a book filled with pages of the little things in life that can turn an ordinary day into something very special. While opening a new school is by no means a little thing, I have to say it is awesome! It’s awesome in the traditional sense that it is something to be enjoyed, revered, and respected. It is also awesome because of the children and the families that I have gotten to know by being a part of this school.”
Mike Schofield, Texas House of Representatives, District 132 attended the Bethke Dedication Ceremony and spoke about how valuable it is to attend a new school and have the opportunity to pass wisdom down to descendants. “Fifty years from now, when some of the students who attend Bethke Elementary are retiring and happen to be driving by with their grandchildren, they will tell them ‘this is where I went to school. This is where I learned the lessons that I passed on to your parents, and they passed on to you,” said Schofield. “I can’t think of a higher calling or a better use for a piece of land than to be the place where that happens.”
Katy ISD’s Board of Trustees President, Rebecca Fox spoke at both dedication ceremonies and mentioned how much she enjoys seeing new campuses open within her own community. “There are no words that explain what a privilege and honor it is to represent you on Katy ISD’s School Board,” said Fox. “We are just so grateful that we get to be a part of a community that values education. You all have been supportive of us as we continue to grow and make more opportunities for our students to learn.”
These projects have been a two-year journey to completion which was a success that greatly benefited from the cooperation of the district, bringing these campuses to life.
“I just want to say thank you to the Katy ISD community for the opportunity to design learning spaces that will be used by your next generation of learners,” said Todd Lien, VLK Principal. “It was truly a collaborative effort and we could not be more grateful.”
Courtesy of VLK Architects
Katy, TX – November 21, 2016 Chick-fil-A®, Inc. has selected Katy resident Avery Fontenot as a recipient of the chain’s $1,000 Leadership Scholarship, making her the 100th nominee of Chick-fil-A Operator, Rusty Wylie, to receive the award.
Wylie commented, “Avery is a fantastic young leader. She exemplifies everything we love to see in young people—a servant’s heart, work ethic, and great attitude. I am so proud of Avery. She’s worked extremely hard since she started, and this scholarship is only the beginning of great things in her future.” Currently an assistant manager at Chick-fil-A Mason Road, Fontenot graduated from Taylor High School and is now a freshman at Lone Star College in Houston. She plans to transfer to University of Houston in the fall to study Hotel and Restaurant management. She has been actively involved in Best Buddies, Future Farmers of America (FFA), youth group, and worked as an Athletic Trainer. Avery said, “I love the energetic atmosphere at Chick-fil-A, the friends I have made, and the opportunities for growth. I want to be an entrepreneur someday and maybe even a Chick-fil-A franchisee. This is a great place to start!”
As Wylie stood with scholarship recipients Luis Gomez, Avery Fontenot, and Stefany Gonzalez he said, “We have been blessed since 1995 to be located here in Katy where there is a real sense of community, family, and a great school district. As for the 100 scholarship recipients, those 100 represent the very best of our team members…those hard working kids who grew up with us and are now teachers, nurses, engineers, pastors, and business owners.”
Chick-fil-A, Inc. began awarding scholarships to Team Members in 1973 based on founder S. Truett Cathy’s desire to incentivize Team Members to further their education. Since then, nearly 36,000 Team Members have received scholarships, bringing the total amount to nearly $36 million applied at more than 3,000 schools nationwide. In addition to the $1,000 scholarships available, the enhanced educational assistance initiative, called Remarkable Futures, increases the amount of scholarships awarded. in 2017, 1,850 students will have an opportunity to receive a $2,500 scholarship, with the ability to re-apply for up to four years – for a potential total of up to $10,000 for college while serving as Chick-fil-A team member. Plus, a new opportunity will exist for 12 students to receive an individual, one-time award of up to $25,000.
Courtesy of Chick-fil-A
Katy, TX – November 17, 2016
Taylor FFA started the Ag Olympics for all the Katy ISD high school FFA students back in 2010 when they had just a handful of students participate. This year the event has grown to 355 FFA students from all 7 Katy high schools competing against each other in fun Ag related games, hence calling Ag Olympics. The teams are made up of students from each school and compete for points at each of the 10 different games.
The games range from Greasy Pumpkin Relay and Ice-Bucket Musical Chairs to Balloon Stomp and Tire Flipping Relay! And the Grand-finally is boys and girls from each school competing in the Tug-O-War into the mud! Cinco Ranch got 1st place betting 2nd place Taylor by only 1/2 a point and Seven Lakes won 3rd place. This is a great event for all of the Katy FFA Students to get to know each other and have a friendly completion with lots of laughing and getting dirty!
Katy, TX – November 14, 2016
Written by Tassie Hewitt | Select photography by Anetrius Wallace and NBC Studios
Inspiring athlete and amputee, Artis Thompson III, is a winning example of dedication on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior
Artis Thompson III, whose goal is to be the next American Ninja Warrior, stretched his physical and mental strength to the limit and inspired amputees and others all over the world. He competed on the NBC reality TV show and says he will be going back for more. This powerful Katyite demonstrated that no obstacle is too great.
Thompson, who is also a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in Katy, accepts no excuses from his clients, or himself. He boxes and plays semi -professional football with the Fort Bend Storm. Like many athletes, he spends hours in training, sprinting, doing calisthenics, and working on his upper body strength, all with a prosthetic leg.
A Devastating Loss
He lost the lower part of his le leg in a motorcycle accident in 2012, just three years after his brother died in a motorcycle accident. “I lost my leg, but I didn’t lose my life,” says Thompson, who refuses to allow his physical challenge to slow him down. “You have to keep on going, push through, and live life.”
Determined to Succeed
Thompson said his biggest challenge was not losing his leg, but blocking out negativity from others. He was motivated by his aunt and some of his clients to audition for the show. “When I first started, there were a lot of people who said I couldn’t do it or that I shouldn’t do it. But it’s all about me, how committed I am, and how hard I want to work,” says Thompson.
American Ninja Warrior is a sports entertainment competition that challenges contestants with grueling obstacle courses designed to test their strength, balance, and endurance. Contenders compete in log runs, wall climbs, and spider crawls. They leap from platform to platform, swing from great heights, and propel their bodies over barricades. In the history of the show only a few have successfully completed the course.
One in a Million
Participants are required to submit a video displaying their athletic ability and desire to win. “Having one leg is a great story, but I had to show them in my audition tape that I could still climb the treacherous Warped Wall. I had to demonstrate that I’m able to do everything in the show,” says Thompson. In season seven, Thompson succeeded in making it to the third obstacle. One year later, in season eight, he made it as far as the fourth obstacle when he fell into the water during a log run. “They were amazed and said no other amputee who’s gone on the show has been a true athlete. I was the first amputee they really thought had a chance to win.”
Playing to Win
Thompson’s goal was to make it to the finals, and despite his motivating achievement, he is disappointed in his performance. “I went on the show to win. Anything short of this success in my eyes is a failure,” says Thompson. “My plans for the future are to keep training, go back into it stronger, and never give up until I complete it.” In the eyes of his fans, however; he is nothing less than a winner. “People from all over the world have reached out to me to say they’re inspired by what I’ve done,” says Thompson. “I’ve had amputees tell me they’re motivated to start working out. They’re motivated to do something with their lives.” In the spirit of a true warrior, Thompson plans to keep hurdling over every obstacle that comes his way. “You never know what’s going to happen next, so make the most of every day. My advice to others is to live life for yourself, reach forward to your goals, and never give up.” KM
Katy, TX – November 2, 2016
Teenage Katyite turned Hollywood actor shares about her Katy roots and life on the silver screen
Written by Kennan Buckner|Photography courtesy of JPI Studios and Marlow Photography
A typical day for recent high school graduate Paige Searcy includes getting her hair and makeup done, running lines with her co-stars, and taping scenes for Days of Our Lives. Searcy was born in Katy and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. “I attended Franz Elementary School which is right down the street from my old Katy home,” she says. “Two of my favorite Katy memories are my sixth birthday party at our community pool on Lavenderwood Drive, and sitting in the passenger seat of my dad’s Golbow’s Garage tow truck chasing down cars that needed a tow.”
Last year, Searcy landed her role as Jade Michaels, the love interest of Joey Johnson played by James Lastovic, on Days of Our Lives. “I like to say that my life has been a series of very fortunate events, each event leading to an even greater opportunity. When I first moved to L.A., my intentions were not to start acting,” Searcy says. “I missed my hometown of Katy and wanted to move back as soon as possible, but fate had a separate plan for me and led me to the amazing path I’m on right now.” Searcy’s passion for being on stage began when she joined the musical theatre program at Millikan Middle School. “Actors like Juliette Lewis, John Travolta, and Natalie Portman have definitely influenced me to become an actor,” she says. “They star in some of my favorite flicks including The Professional, Urban Cowboy, and Black Swan.
Landing the Role
Searcy says the audition process started out a little shaky. She was supposed to receive an expedited passport so she could travel to Canada for a role in a lm, but due to computer difficulties, it didn’t arrive on time. Discouraged, Searcy never would have guessed the closed door would quickly lead to the role of a lifetime. “The same day I went home disappointed, I came across another opportunity that absolutely paid off,” she says. That’s how she landed the role on Days.
Auditions can be nerve-racking, but Searcy learned to face her fears. “I was so hard on myself to get all of my lines right that I forgot the intentions of the scenes I was doing and that resulted in some, what I’d like to call, ‘interesting’ failed auditions,” she shares. “I remember the day I got the audition for the role of Jade on Days of Our Lives; I was expected to learn my lines the night before and meet the amazing casting director Marnie Saitta the next morning.” The two immediately hit it ff. “She saw something in me that she was proud to present to producers who loved my audition, call back, and chemistry read with James Lastovic.”
Working with her movie star crush has been a dream. “James Lastovic has been a pleasure to work with. He is my absolute favorite on the show,” says Searcy. Lastovic even attended her real-life high school graduation. “We’ve come a long way since we first started working on the show together.”
“Some say they hate watching themselves act on TV, but honestly, I think it’s pretty cool. I can see what choices I made that I like and don’t like and learn from them,” Searcy says. “My family and friends think it’s incredible and fascinating. Who would’ve thought the shy, little Paige from the suburbs of Katy, Texas would make it to Hollywood to become a television star?” A few of her hometown supporters in Katy consist of her father Dylan, sister Brianna, grandmother Norma, grandfather David, and her mother’s friend Inga who watches Days religiously.
Searcy is excited about her role in an upcoming independent film, calling it her favorite so far. She will play Charlie, “a young prostitute trying to find herself in the cold, hard world working the streets of the Bronx in New York, while Wednesday, Keke Palmer, her female pimp, encourages her to leave the life of prostitution.” The movie is anticipated to release next year.
Searcy encourages others who aspire to acting, or any career to, “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t, because you can do anything you set your heart and mind to. Never give up.”
Katy, TX – October 26, 2016 The Cinco Ranch High School FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition Team 624 (CRyptonite) recently collaborated with the Houston chapter of Sewa International to organize a science event at the Katy ISD Robert Shaw STEAM Center (RSC) to foster interest in science and technology among children. The event was devoted to youth involved in ASPIRE – a Sewa program that provides education and mentoring services after school for young refugees and immigrants.
Over 30 children arrived at the RSC to engage in numerous hands-on activities set up by CRyptonite students, ranging from robot demos and lab tours to mini-experiments that explored topics such as air pressure, force, and elasticity. The trip also included a presentation on robot design and testing to introduce the basic principles of robotics.
After the success of this event and a previous partnership involving robot demos in an underserved neighborhood, CRyptonite and Sewa International look forward to future collaborations to help provide fun science-based activities for ASPIRE children and share the FIRST robotics mission to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders.
“We hopefully plan on doing this for many more years to come,” CRyptonite Team President Alyssa Wu said. “It was amazing to see these kids all hyped over our science activities and it’s really heartwarming to see our effect on their lives. I hope they continue to be this happy when working with science.”
Katy, TX (October 25, 2016) Centerra Ranch Montessori School in Katy invited local law enforcement officers to their facility to show their appreciation and respect. Officers visited with students, let them sit in their vehicles, and explained the various technology they used. Students had a great time meeting officers and learning more about what they do. Owner Angeline Labbè-Auzenne adds, “We wanted our children to tour their police cars in hope of dismissing any anxiety our young children may have recently developed.”
In addition to their tours and high fives, the officers were also served a fajita lunch complete with cupcakes and caramel apples. They were also presented with a pledge from the staff and students at Centerra Ranch Montessori School which read, “Today we pledge to remind the few if ill of you they speak, that you are all that stands between the monsters and the weak.”
To show their avid appreciation, students presented the officers with “thank you” cards and messages.
Katy, TX (October 24, 2016)
Cinco Ranch graduate, Brianna Garcia, shares her dream and journey to cheer for the big leagues.
Written by Debbie McDaniel | Select photography courtesy of See What Develops
As a child, Brianna grew up watching the Texans play football and remembers the anticipation of going to the stadium with her dad every season. Brianna was starstruck by the cheerleaders and couldn’t wait to be one of them. “Ever since I was little, I would tell him, ‘I can’t wait to try out for the Houston Texans Cheerleaders as soon as I turn 18!’” Her dad, Joey Yadi Garcia, has been a season ticket holder since day one, when the team first took the field as the Houston Texans. When Brianna heard her name called as one of the Texans Cheerleaders, she felt a rush of adrenaline like she had never felt before.
Dancing Through Life
Texans Cheerleader started dancing when she was just 3 years old. Becky’s Academy of Dance became her dance home, up until high school when she danced her way to the Cougar Stars dance team at Cinco Ranch High School, and served as social officer and spirit coordinator. Brianna says she couldn’t have done it without her family, “My parents, family, and friends have all been such amazing supporters.”
Getting ready to try out for the Houston Texans Cheerleaders requires great commitment and hard work. “I started preparing months before tryouts by changing my diet and working out.” Brianna trained under the guidance of personal trainer Alexis and worked out almost every day. In addition to these workouts, she took weekly dance classes designed specically for pro sports. “Because I was so passionate, it really helped me enjoy each step of the process, even though it was challenging.”
That Magic Moment
Brianna shares that when the names were called, she felt a rush of adrenaline and huge relief. “It was a feeling I can’t explain. It is denitely a moment I will never forget.” Brianna’s devotion and desire to reach for her dreams is an inspiring reminder – hard work and determination really do pay off. “Trying out for the team is a huge commitment and just like anything else, you have to be willing to put in all of your eort to see the results you aspire to achieve.”
Representing the Texans
One thing she enjoys most about being a Texans Cheerleader is the ability to support the community and represent the Texans team. “Coming out to the events that the Houston Texans sponsor has been such an amazing experience, I love interacting with the community and fans!” The cheerleaders are often each other’s biggest fans, “We are all very supportive of each other.” One of the biggest challenges for Brianna is staying in good physical condition. “Staying away from sweets and cutting back on going out to eat is a struggle,” she laughs. She admits that she loves sweet treats like cheesecake, ice cream, and crepes, and loves to try different foods from new restaurants.
Follow Your Passion
Brianna says she is blessed to have attended such great Katy ISD schools and have the relationships she has built in the Katy area. “Growing up in Katy has been such a joy! Katy reminds me of one giant family. Everyone is so friendly to those around them; supporting each other throughout the community in both difficult and happy times.” Her advice to Katy ISD cheerleaders and aspiring dancers is simple. “Always do what you love and are passionate about. Having passion in what you do in life will always show and get you further than you ever thought possible. Do what you love with condence and spirit.” KM
DEBBIE MCDANIEL is a cheer mom to 9-year-old Gracie, who loves to jump, dance, and practice stunts on the furniture.
Katy, TX – October 24, 2016
“Outbacker of the Month” is Odessa Kilpatrick Elementary ‘s most prestigious award. Kilpatrick Outbackers exhibit “Koalaty” character: they always lend a helping hand, have a smile on their face, serve as role models, and go above and beyond to make OKE an exemplary school. Each month, one student from each grade level, a staff member, and a volunteer are selected “Outbacker of the Month.” Our September Outbackers are teacher Rhonda Miller, students Edward Barbee, Grayson Sanchez, Declan Hoeferlin, Racheet Bedi, Caroline MacLellan , Tyler Cline and volunteer Felicia Schubert.
DEFINITION OF JOY: (NOUN) A SETTLED STATE OF CONTENTENTMENT, CONFIDENCE, AND HOPE
Your kids are arguing, the house is a mess, and you have to get everyone fed and make sure homework is finished before heading to evening extracurricular activities. Oh, and don’t forget to get that laundry out of the dryer before it wrinkles. If you’re like most Katy families, life can get so busy, it’s sometimes a struggle to and joy in everyday things. Here are 25 ways to practice seeking joy in every little moment and become a happier and healthier you.
1. Practice Daily Gratitude
From your first thought in the morning to your last one in the evening, always look for things you’re grateful for.
2. Redirect Your thoughts
Our moods go where our thoughts lead so each time your mind starts heading in a negative direction, practice redirecting it to something positive.
3. Spend Time Outdoors
Studies show that being in nature revives us and positively aspects our minds. Plus, it gives us a healthy dose of oxygen and vitamin D.
4. Crank up the Music
Listening to your favorite music lifts your mood and relieves stress because it releases serotonin (one of the hormones that contribute to happiness).
5. Accept Yourself
There will always be someone smarter, richer, more attractive, or with more accomplished children than yours. Make a decision to stop comparing and just accept and love yourself.
6. Choose a Good Attitude
If you’re in a bad mood, it’s most likely because you are dwelling on something that upset or hurt you. Refocus on something else and let it go.
7. Be Tolerant of Others
Whether it’s the purple-haired check-out clerk, a street person, or your bragging neighbor, understand that every person is on their own life journey which is always different from yours.
8. Get Inspired
Read books or go to seminars on something that really interests you. Whether you want to be a better parent, learn a new skill, or grow spiritually, there are a lot of ways to self-improve.
9. Come from Love
In all difficult interactions you have with your spouse, children, their teachers, or even a fast food worker, make sure you are coming from a place of love in the way that you treat them.
10. Help Someone
Getting out of your own head and helping someone else is a great mood booster. Bring soup to your sick neighbor, give a blanket to a homeless person, or just visit a friend who is hurting.
11. Let Go of Grudges
If you are hurt, let the person know in a calm way so they have an opportunity to apologize or gain an understanding. Then let it go. Grudges and unwillingness to forgive are always barriers to joy.
12. Energy Creates Energy
Do some kind of physical activity for 20 to 30 minutes a day. Not only does exercise create those happy endorphins, it can really boost your confidence.
13. Have Quiet Time
If you can take even 10 to 15 minutes to meditate, pray, or even just sit quietly, studies show this helps you be more at peace and lowers stress. Even if you have to go in the bathroom or closet, do it.
14. Stay in Peace
Instead of screaming at the driver who cut you off, just take a deep breath and say nothing. In all stressful circumstances, you can choose to remain calm.
15. Live in the Moment
Put down the technology or remote and savor the moment. Enjoy your child’s laughter, listen fully to your spouse, or stop to stare at a beautiful sunset.
16. Let Go of Toxic People
Love those bitter or angry family members from a distance or they could infect you with negativity and hate.
17. Be a Visionary
Write down or create a poster with everything you wish to accomplish in life and look at it daily or weekly. Dream big and put down that beautiful house, car, and vacation. You have to see it to achieve it!
18. Simplify Your Home
Clutter adds stress to your life and costs you more time searching for items. If you haven’t used something in a year, it’s time to give it away.
19. Have Me Time
Find time to be alone. Solitude actually energizes your soul and helps you be a better parent and spouse.
20. Use Encouraging Words
Words are powerful and can be used to help or harm someone. Are you speaking words of love to your family and friends or causing pain and worry? Don’t say anything out loud that you don’t want to come true.
21. Stop Worrying
Most strife is brought on by worry and fear. Quit freting and obsessing about all those little things you have absolutely no control over and just enjoy today.
22. Give Three Compliments
When was the last time you told your child’s teacher what a great job she is doing? Never be too busy to let people know how awesome they are.
23. Put Things in Perspective When something disappointing happens, don’t overreact. So what if your son got a B on his science project – at least he’s not in the hospital.
24. Keep Growing
You are never too old to try a new hobby, learn a new technology, or admit you’ve made a mistake and self-correct.
25. Reach out for Help
When you feel down, see a counselor or talk to a pastor or loved one. Whether it’s your marriage, parenting struggles, an addiction, or depression, there is never shame in getting help. KM
From ballet to Zumba, Katyites dance for fun and better health
Written by Elizabeth Padgett | Photography by Reinaldo Medina
Getting fit doesn’t have to include weights and typical workout routines. Many Katyites have found the path to better health and fitness with the rhythms of music, whether they are two-stepping to country songs, gliding within the romance of a ballroom, or having a Zumba dance party. If upbeat, fast-paced dancing isn’t your style, perhaps the graceful movements of ballet will suit your tastes better. Not to be overlooked, the stretching and toning of muscles during this form of exercise will increase flexibility, ultimately leaving you with an improved shape.
Call It Classic Ballet
“Ballet is the foundation of dance, and it’s where we get our terminology. Most other types of dance require you to know basic ballet steps to execute the style correctly,” says Kathleen Connolly of Connolly Dance Arts. As a dance form, it has been practiced since the 15th century. While it may be intimidating, Connolly says that her adult classes cater to all skill levels. “Beginners, intermediate, and advanced adults are invited to take classes. Each week we review the basics, as harder movements are built upon them.” A big reason dance-based fitness is successful for those who struggle with regular exercise stems from the enjoyment they experience. Connolly shares, “I have personally felt a greater sense of body awareness. I am healthier and happier when I am able to take or teach a class.” Ballet and dance have helped her maintain her overall health.
Get Fit With Zumba
Kenyatta Kelly knew she needed to make a drastic change in her life when she was diagnosed with preeclampsia. Already overweight before her pregnancy, the added body fat and increased levels of blood pressure resulted in a miscarriage of her baby, Jessica, at only six months along. Shortly thereafter, Kelly was placed on medications to control her high blood pressure and depression. In order to get off the daily medications, she was informed by her doctor that she needed to exercise and monitor her diet. After becoming a licensed Zumba fitness instructor, Kelly went from 210 lbs. down to 155 lbs., and was successfully able to stop taking all medications. Now, she has made it her goal to help others change their lives by showing them exercise can be fun. “Zumba is the ultimate dance party that burns up to 1,000 calories per class. It’s truly disguised as a workout,”says Kelly. One of the major benefits of Zumba is that it encompasses both cardio and toning, so in one session you’ll receive a balanced workout. While dancing away to the signature Latin rhythmic music, you’ll be strengthening your body and raising your energy levels at the same time. At her studio Kenyatta & Co., Kelly says, “All of our Zumba fitness formats are for everyone. No matter your level or age, you will be victorious.” Zumba itself was created by Alberto “Beto” Perez in the 1990s. The choreography developed by the Colombian-born dancer incorporates elements of hip-hop, samba, merengue, mambo, and salsa.
Developed by Elizabeth Malvasia, the PB-FIT system is a unique form of exercise that utilizes glamorous ballroom movements with strength training, muscle development, and body lengthening. The method is taught at Planet Ballroom Katy. You will be burning calories away, and Malvasia says you’ll feel fabulous while doing it. “Looking, feeling, and being in great shape is a job requirement for me. But after trying so many different things, there was nothing that offered the results that dancing gave me,” says Malvasia. Malvasia is most inspired by teaching at Planet Ballroom Katy when she sees the impact it makes on her students. She shares, “Husbands and wives find romance they thought was gone forever. Moms find the spark and passion they felt in their pre-mommyhood life and become superstars. People who were insecure about themselves or their bodies step into the limelight and realize they are perfect.” While classic ballroom is performed with a partner, Planet Ballroom Katy’s classes allow anyone to join, with or without one. Many different types are offered in order to best suit each student’s need, including ballroom, Latin, and swing dance; competitive dance sport; social and hobby dancing; as well as getting couples ready for their big day with wedding dances. Regardless of what form of exercise you choose, what is important is that you find enjoyment in the activity. Malvasia shares, “When a person is dancing, every muscle in their body is working, their heart rate is increased, and they are developing finite skills of coordination and thought process. But they are having such a great time, they don’t realize it. They just know that they want to keep dancing.” KM
ELIZABETH PADGETT is a professional writer and dance hobbyist that enjoys hip-hop and street dance.
After losing her son in a tragic car crash in 2006, Katy mom Carol Levin is on a mission to end drunk driving
Written by Gail G. Collins | Select photography by Sara Isola
“It’s as bad as you think it is,” Carol Levin says, describing the loss of her son to a drunk driver. “He was an amazing person, and we’ll live his life in the best way we can. We need that.” It’s why Levin got involved with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Todd Levin was 28 years old and was planning on proposing to his girlfriend Ralynn Healey soon. The couple was returning from a sports activity and dinner out. Todd never drove under the influence, and Healey was training for the Olympics as a figure skater and didn’t drink at all. On September 25, 2006 at 10 p.m., a drunk driver shot through a red light going 85 mph in a 35 mph zone. The impact was severe. Suffering two skull fractures and a crushed chest, Todd was killed instantly. Healey died on the way to Ben Taub Hospital. The driver was nearly twice the legal limit and didn’t stop to render aid. “It was a horrific accident, and he didn’t even know he’d killed two people,” Levin says, still in disbelief. After five years in prison, the man shows no remorse. Advised by MADD, Levin undertakes a regular letter-writing campaign, asking authorities to deny his parole. She has been successful twice.
“It was a horrific accident, and he didn’t even know he’d killed two people,” Levin says, still in disbelief. After five years in prison, the man shows no remorse. Advised by MADD, Levin undertakes a regular letter-writing campaign, asking authorities to deny his parole. She has been successful twice.
Finding Hope and Advocacy
The Levin family has lived in Katy for 25 years. Todd graduated from Katy High School with honors, and nearly every teacher attended his funeral almost 10 years ago. Since then, Levin has devoted a major portion of her life to helping others in the same circumstances.
Initially, those who have tragically lost a loved one may be so shocked they don’t remember their own names. “Sometimes, you just hold and love them,” she says. “We’re all in the same family – the worst kind – and it helps to have been there, too.” According to Levin, the pain never goes away. It merely becomes a dull ache. Fortunately, therapy can help those who suffer such loss to cope with their pain. Victims find support through MADD advocates and activities.
Drunk Driving Fatalities
MADD Southeast Texas Affiliate executive director John McNamee says, “MADD supports drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge, serving one person every 10 minutes through local MADD victim advocates and at 1-877-MADD-HELP.”
Unfortunately, the state and local community is known by a surprising statistic. “Texas, and specifically Harris County, leads the nation in drunk driving fatalities,” says McNamee. “In 2014 MADD Southeast Texas, which includes the Katy area, served over 2,800 victims of drunk driving.”
The organization also reaches teens to help prevent underage drinking. One program advises how to start a conversation with youngsters and continue it through their young adult years. National Teen Influencer allows teens to share their commitment to not drink while underage. MADD is involved politically, too. They cite increased law enforcement and bill HB 2246, creating anti-ignition legislation, requiring a convicted drunk driver to blow soberly into a device in order to start their car.
Sharing Their Stories
Levin works on this bill’s behalf and sits on a monthly victim impact panel, whose venue shifts around the city. The panel consists of victims who tell their stories, a police officer, and those formerly convicted. Drunk drivers run the gamut in ages. Levin brings photographs to help them think seriously about their decisions. To the older drivers, she says, “I impress on them that they’re role models, and if they’re drinking and driving, their kids will be, too.”
Kathy Barzilla, another Fort Bend advocate, sits on the panel and acts as an advisory board member. In 1993 while she was on her way to work, when a car traveling 80 mph broadsided her. “If it hadn’t been for Life Flight, I wouldn’t be here to tell my story,” she says. “I’m grateful for each new day.”
With her pelvis fractured in six places, Barzilla had to learn how to walk again. Like Levin, she admits that her life changed forever on the day of the accident. Barzilla was told she could never bear children as a result of the accident. She never met the drunk driver who hit her, but Barzilla says she has learned to forgive the driver and in return has been able to let go of the bitterness and anger.
“Death and injuries are 100% preventable. Just plan ahead,” Barzilla says. The only night each year most people actively plan to avoid drunk driving is New Year’s Eve, but any time any day, it should be a reality. The women advise others to always have a plan and a number they can call for help.
Every year the group participates in Walk Like MADD, an initiative that gives victims a chance to raise money and awareness while honoring their loved ones. “It takes years to fight your way back,” says Levin, and MADD helps people do just that. KM
GAIL G. COLLINS writes internationally for magazines and has two books on expatriate life that create a charity revenue stream.
Editor’s Note: We would like to thank the members of MADD Southeast Texas Affiliate for taking a stand and making a difference in the Katy community. Visit madd.org.
On May 6th, in Addison, TX at the Texas Elks State Association (TESA) State Convention, Tammy Iund was crowned 2015-16 State Sweetheart. Tammy, along with all of the Elks lodges in the Gulf Coast District, raised more money for the Texas Elks Camp than any other district in the state! How much more? Over $40,000 more with a total of more than $119,000!!!! Second place was awarded to the North Central District who raised $78,000 and third place went to Pan —- with $75,000 raised.
Tammy and the Elks Gulf Coast District broke several records this year: The Most Money Raised by a District, The Most Money Raised per Capita ($61.00) and The Most Money Raised by a Lodge ($35,500)!!! As a result of everyone’s hard work, more children with special needs will have the opportunity to attend a week at camp at no cost to their family. For more information on the Texas Elks Camp please go to http://www.texaselkscamp.org.
The new Katy Elks Lodge Sweetheart, Ann Powell, is off to a good start in her fund raising efforts for the 2015-16 year. Already scheduled are the ever popular Lip Sync Show on September 12th and the 2nd Annual Sweetheart Dinner and Auction on February 6th. Performances for the Lip Sync show are already in the planning stage and the Auction is taking shape with Sponsor commitments from Cane Island, Vantage Trailers, Hair and There Mobile Hair Salon and Polaris West. Ann’s intention for this year is to surpass the impressive records set in the 2014-15 year. In order to do that, she will need your support. How can you help? By attending the Sweetheart functions, helping us spread the word about the Sweetheart projects, and making monetary donations. If you are interested in a corporate sponsorship, please contact Debbie Tharp at 832-622-4638. We would love to see our local Sweetheart advance to District and then State; sending more campers than ever to camp! Since the inception of the Sweetheart program twenty-five years ago, 9 State Sweethearts have been from Katy!
Congratulations to Tammy Iund, 2015-16 TESA State Sweetheart and Good Luck to the current Katy Elk’s Lodge Sweetheart, Ann Powell! Lives are changing because of your efforts!
Katy’s centenarian Redell Patterson Scott shares personal experiences from the past century
Written by Holly Leger
Any resident who has lived in Katy for the past decade has seen the city grow and change dramatically. But that’s nothing compared to the changes that Redell Patterson Scott has seen. The 105-year-old woman moved to Katy in 1919 and has resided here ever since.
Horse and Buggy Days
Scott recalls riding a horse and buggy around the streets of Katy as a young girl. She remembers Katy as a town that was much smaller back then, and the roads were very different from the freeways of today. “It wasn’t like this,” she says, pointing to the paved streets. “It was muddy.”
The only child of Lee Brandy Burg and Estella Sullivan, Scott was raised on a farm. The family grew vegetables and peanuts. While Scott can remember rationing food and gasoline during the Great Depression, she does remember the family’s farming business kept them afloat. “It was pretty good for us,” Scott says.
Katy Family Homestead
Scott married her first husband, Henry Patterson, who worked for the M-K-T Railroad when she was just 16 years old. Together, they had nine children, though two died as infants. After her first husband passed away, she later married Tillman Scott, after the two met at a church event. They raised their combined families together and were married just shy of 50 years.
Of Scott’s seven children, four are still living. Henry Patterson Jr. is the oldest sibling at age 87. He lives in Katy and served in World War II. Leonard “L.C.” Patterson lives in Houston and is a veteran of the Korean War. Kathryn Hearn lives in California; and Nadine Johnson, the baby of the family at 70 years old, is now retired and living with her mother at the original homestead that Scott built with her first husband in 1936.
For over 50 years, Scott worked as a housekeeper in Katy in order to help provide for her children. In spite of their large family, Johnson says her parents never accepted any welfare assistance and that her mother was determined to give her children the best. “She was always focused on all of her children receiving adequate education,” Johnson recalls. “She worked very hard to see that that was accomplished.”
Scott even played a key role in integrating schools in the community. Johnson remembers her mother fighting for her and her siblings to continue their secondary education in Katy, rather than being bussed to Cypress Fairbanks, as was custom then for African American residents in Katy. “My mother, along with a group of parents, met with the [school] officials,” Johnson says. “They finally were able to attend the schools here in Katy.”
Faith is also very important to Scott. She has been a member at Antioch Baptist Church in Katy for most of her life and was an active participant on numerous church boards in the past, including serving as the choir’s president for 20 years, not resigning until her 80s. “I loved working in the church,” Scott says.
Her active faith has left an impression on many, including her son, Leonard Patterson. “The main thing she instilled in us was living in Christ Jesus,” he shares. “She said to get myself right with God. I was raised up in the church, and that’s the way I am today.”
Legacy of Love
Not only does the centenarian have grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She even has great-great-great-grandchildren. But for Scott, having a big family simply means having more opportunities to love. It’s a legacy she hopes to leave behind one day. Her advice to the next generation is to do the right thing and to never forget to love others. “I loved my children,” Scott says. “I’m sure they all know I love them by the way I treat them and what I do for them. Love each other.” KM
HOLLY LEGER is a writer who enjoys every opportunity to experience the past through the eyes of her elders.
The fabulous fun guide for moms, wives, and ladies all over Katy.
Written by Ashley Lancaster
Every now and then, it’s good to get out and enjoy some fun times with your best girlfriends. Whether you’re discussing a new book, taking part in some retail therapy, or dining at a trendy restaurant, here’s a list of delightful ways to relax, recharge, and reconnect in Katy.
LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch
23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd.
Enjoy lunch on the patio at D’Amico’s Italian Restaurant or dinner at Perry’s Steakhouse and grab a sweet treat at Rocket Fizz or the Sweet Boutique before you leave.
2910 Commercial Center Blvd., #102
Bring your friends and your favorite bottle of wine for some painting. They offer weekday classes and rooms for private parties.
Schakolad Chocolate Factory
2020 S. Fry Rd.
Schedule a chocolate-making class and learn the art of crafting delicious treats.
7301 Grand Pkwy.santikos.com
Work on your strike at the bowling lanes and try some delicious gelato before a show. Get treated like a star with in-theater dining – they bring your gourmet meal directly to you.
1752 FM 1489, Brookshire
Just a short drive from Katy, the gift shop, gardens, and award-winning café are the perfect spot to have lunch with the girls.
1230 Mason Rd., #200
Mix and match your favorite toppings from over 50 fresh ingredients to create a delicious, guilt-free salad or wrap.
1648 S. Mason Rd.
2717 Commerical Center Blvd., #150D
Shop with the girls at this unique boutique that carries specialty gifts and collectibles with popular brands like Pandora, Vera Bradley, and more.
Mary Jo Peckham Park
5597 Gardenia Ln.
Bring a few healthy snacks and challenge friends and family to a game of mini golf.
Villagio Town Center
22764 Westheimer Pkwy.
Stop for a treat at Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt or spice up your girl’s night with upbeat Latin and Salsa music and international cuisine at Babaloo International Café on Latin Fridays.
Planet Ballroom Katy
1315 Grand Pkwy., #104
Master a fun new skill by learning the tango, waltz, cha cha, Salsa, jive, swing, country, and more. You don’t have to have a designated partner to take a class.
Tiger-Rock Martial Arts of Katy
625A S. Mason Rd.
Groups of ve to 10 can sign up for a self-defense course that builds confidence as you learn how to be prepared for any situation. Schedule a weekend class or ask them to come to you! Call for availability.
The Cellar Door
829 S. Mason Rd.
Have a friendly gathering with your closest friends and sip a glass of wine in an intimate, relaxed setting.
They have an extensive menu with everything from sweet whites to port style varieties and daily wine tastings until 6 p.m.
531 S. Mason Rd.
Have a fun, silly girls night and check out an entertainment event like the totally ‘80s, ultimate ‘90s or Pitch Perfect sing-along night, big screen classics night with films like My Fair Lady and Gone with the Wind, and quote-along nights to your favorite comedies like Anchorman and Wayne’s World.
Katy Budget Books
2450 Fry Rd.
Avid readers can join one of the many book clubs available like Mystery Matters or I’ll Take Romance and spend one hour a week discussing details of their favorite genres.
Historic Katy Fun
Don’t forget these Old Katy faves!
1306 Avenue A
Attend ladies night out on the second Wednesday of every month. There will be a fun craft and free adult refreshments.
5614 2nd St.
Originally Katy’s oldest supermarket and located in the heart of historic downtown Katy, this antique and collectibles shop is perfect for an outing with the girls. Check out their annual spring ladies’ night out on May 7 or the Katy market days on the third Saturday of every month.
Katy Contemporary Arts Museum
805 Avenue B
With art classes and a beautiful gallery of unique pieces, this is the perfect place to find inspiration. Admission is free.
Junk Street Market
5625 2nd St.
Gather inspiration for your own DIY project, get a quote on having old furniture revitalized, or just go ahead and purchase one of the gorgeously renovated pieces available in the store.
The Cottage Door
1001 Avenue B
Need to find the perfect gift? Visit this cozy little shop nestled in lush greenery in historic Katy and choose a gift from a wide selection of brands like Camille Beckman, Michel Designs, Poo Pouri, Naked Bee, and more.
This is only a sampling of fun places to go for a girls’ night out in Katy. For more activities, restaurants, and shops, visit KatyMagazine.com
Two years ago, a terrorist’s bomb at the Boston Marathon blew Rebekah Gregory’s life apart. Now, the local mom is using the tragedy to inspire others and live a life without limits.
Written by Susanna Donald | Select photography courtesy of Rebekah Gregory
When the first bomb exploded at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, Rebekah Gregory and her 5-year-old son, Noah, were just three feet away. They were waiting to see her boyfriend’s mom cross the finish line, and Noah was bored. “It was so crowded, and I wanted to keep him right by me,” she recalls. “I told him to sit on my feet and pretend he was a scientist looking at rocks in the pavement.”
That decision saved Noah’s life. Moments later, Gregory’s legs shielded her son from the brunt of a massive explosion that killed three, injured more than 260 others, and filled the nation with an all-too-familiar fear.
The blast hoisted Gregory into the air. When she landed, she looked down and thought her legs were completely gone. “All I was thinking was, ‘Where’s Noah?’” she says. “My eardrums were blown, but somehow I could hear Noah screaming ‘Mommy! Mommy!’ somewhere behind me.”
When she reached for him, she saw bones jutting out through a gaping wound in her hand. Chaos and trauma was surrounded by fragments of bone and bomb. “I prayed, ‘Lord, if this is my time, take me, but let me know Noah is okay.’” When someone brought Noah to her side, she believed it was a sign that it was her time to go.
The Battle Begins
Doctors placed Gregory in a medically-induced coma for a week. “The first person I saw when I woke up was my mom,” she remembers. “I wrote a note because I couldn’t talk with the tube in my throat. I wrote, ‘God isn’t finished with me yet.’” Both of Gregory’s legs were injured, along with her hand, and the left leg was all but destroyed. The bomb obliterated muscle, nerves, and half of her fibula. Noah suffered a deep cut on his right leg, shrapnel in the back of his head, and some internal bleeding. He was out of the hospital in five days, while Gregory’s battle was just beginning.
Losing a Leg
After 39 days in Boston, Gregory moved to Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital where Dr. William McGarvey took over the monumental task of helping her keep her leg. “We discussed amputation at the beginning, but Rebekah was initially committed to trying to preserve the limb,” says Dr. McGarvey, who performed seven of the 17 surgeries Gregory had on her left leg. But her continued pain and disability became very burdensome. “My leg is not my life,” says Gregory. “I said that from the beginning. After the 17th surgery, I realized how silly it was to be holding onto something that was only holding me back from getting on with my life.” Her pain was constant and excruciating, despite multiple daily doses of pain medication, and she was mostly confined to a wheelchair. More surgeries loomed on the horizon, but none promised that she would be free from pain or that she would walk again.
The Goodbye Party
In November, Gregory went to see Dr. McGarvey for a routine follow-up. She told him matter-of-factly, “I’m ready for my amputation.” The surgery was scheduled for November 10. With her trademark optimism, Gregory threw a goodbye party for her leg, treating it to one last pedicure. “It was a celebration,” she says. “And I was so relieved when I woke up from the surgery. I thought I would be scared, but it really was like the biggest weight was lifted off of me. My life wasn’t in limbo anymore.”
On December 31, Gregory took her first steps on her new prosthesis, which she affectionately named “Felicia.” Noah, who was initially hesitant about the amputation, now says it’s cool because he has a “robot mom.” Gregory’s amputation is considered “fresh,” meaning that the residual limb hasn’t hardened enough for rigorous pressure from the prosthesis. Blisters form. The limb swells, then shrinks, then swells again. There are major setbacks. But Gregory survived the largest domestic terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, and she isn’t stopping now. She began training to run the 2015 Boston Marathon the week before her amputation. According to Gregory, running the marathon is more than a goal – it’s a promise. She trains five days a week, in addition to her rehabilitation work at TIRR Memorial Hermann. Two weeks after getting her prosthesis, Gregory began jogging – an incredible achievement. “I push myself,” she says. “Waiting is hard. I was in limbo for so long, and now that I can move, I don’t want to stop.”
In between rehabilitation, training, and being a full-time mom, Gregory also travels around the world sharing her inspiring story. “I realized after the bombing that I had been given a platform,” she says. “I don’t want to waste it. I want to do my own small part in changing the world for the better. I feel like this is my purpose.”
Life Without Limits
For Gregory, life without her leg isn’t defined by her limitations. “My bucket list? It’s unlimited,” she laughs. “I want to run the marathon of course. But I want to travel, to climb mountains, to do anything and everything I can, and not take a moment for granted.” And she doesn’t. She smiles as she talks about walking around the mall for the first time, or going up the stairs in her house. “I didn’t want to get blown up, but now I get to hug my son a little tighter, and love my family a little more, and really value every minute.” KM
SUSANNA DONALD is a freelance writer who lives in Fulshear with her husband and two sons.
A handful of dedicated Katy High School students eagerly await the rush of teachers and staff to come. The time is 10:15 AM. With tables decorated, and salad, desserts and 30 pizza boxes set out, KHS Student Council is ready to host their second annual Teacher Luncheon.
The previous year, a simple pizza lunch was served solely to teachers and hailed as the first time the entirety of the teachers had been fed students.
This year they upped the ante. Teachers, office staff, paraprofessionals, custodians, nurses, cafeteria workers, KHS parent volunteers and other faculty were invited to attend the “Teacher Luncheon”. Every staff member here has a hand in the students’ education and deserve to be honored.
Starting in January, the preparation began as KHS Student Council Members Kat Rogers, Kaitlin Miller, Olivia Williams, Marie Ann Barron, and Piper Harris ventured to local businesses in request of donations. Most impressive was the collective 75 pizzas donated by Pizza Shoppe, Cici’s, and Pizza Inn.
KHS Student Council’s exponential growth and success since its meagre state three years previous has been through a multitude of projects around Katy High School and the Katy Community. Eager to continue its vision and tradition, Katy students look forward to partnering with even more local businesses and projects to keep Katy beautiful.
Class of 2015
KHS Student Council Vice President
Nikki Wood– University of Montevallo in Alabama and will play Division II lacrosse on a scholarship.
Samantha Farrell– University of Montevallo in Alabama and will play Division II lacrosse on a scholarship.
Marisa Braden– University of Texas, Club lacrosse
Tobi Dipelou– University of Oklahoma, Club lacrosse
Their program continues to grow and has a number of former players playing college lacrosse. Currently their program has three former players playing lacrosse at the college level. They also have a number of girls who have continued to play at the club level at their college.
Courtney Brown– Liberty University, Division I, 2013 class
Katy Brown– Concordia University, Division III, 2013 class
Lacey Bowersox– Southwestern University, Division II, 2014 class
Bethany Moore – Texas Tech University, Club lacrosse, 2014 class
Mallory Claypool – University of Texas, Club lacrosse, 2014 class
Courtesy of: Katy Cavaliers Boys & Girls Lacrosse Club 23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd., Suite H-120, Box 278, Katy, Texas 77494. www.katycavalierlacrosse.org
I married a beautiful lady here in Katy, last December. She encouraged me to write poetry, after my brain surgery a year ago, to keep my mind (what’s left of it) sharp. So I began to try & then began to post what I wrote on my Facebook page.
I call them T.P.O.T.D, which stands for “The Poem Of The Day” in abbreviation. I refer to my postings as “Fruit from the Poet’s Tree” and today’s plucking was inspired by how much I’ve come to love Katy. I was born in Austin & still maintain a house there. I tell Roxanna (my sweet, amazing bride) that it’s now our vacation home, since we are in Katy the vast majority of our time.
I’ll always love Austin too, but never wrote a poem about it. That brings me to why I am writing “a letter to the editor”. Below is my T.P.O.T.D. I hope this doesn’t waste your time. I appreciate your efforts to publish a fine magazine, which I always enjoy reading.
Katy Was a Rail-Road Town
Back when folks were
“West-ward HOO & Bound!”
looking for a future & a
brand new town to found.
And I certainly should mention:
’twas the Missouri Kansas Texas extension,
called then by the old brand of
“Union Pacific – Southern Branch”
It went passing along & thru quite a few
farms to market &/or ranch,
soon, that name got grounded
& dropped out of contention,
in favor of a line that became simply known
as the M.K.T. Folks in Texas just liked the way
that “M.K.T.” sounded.
Yes, most of them would agree.
As the Metro-plex of Houston grew
& Katy, Texas was still brand new,
just how fast Katy would grow?
But it sure would not be slow.
As the railroad started laying tracks back in 1895,
The town that James Oliver Thomas was busy
laying out, began to come alive!
Giving it the name of Katy,
He knew that it would thrive,
long before that first M.K.T. railroad train
was scheduled to arrive.
Expecting vast prosperity, folks began to come.
either by the new locomotives,
or in wagon-trains came some.
The original depot station
still stands & holds the memory
of the founders, then filled with elation,
That made Katy come to be.
So, if in the vicinity,
stop in so you can see
the beauty long ago
brought here by the M.K.T.
Yours Truly, George Knaak
Growing up in Katy was one of the best things my parents could have done for me. I was raised a Winborn Eagle, A Katy Tiger, and a member of girl scouts, KYF, and more. Although I didn’t get to fulfill my dream of being a Katy Tiger, I was still able to appreciate everything Katy had to offer. However, besides a great education and amazing town experiences from little league games to the Katy Rice Harvest Festival, my most favorite treasures are my friends.
Diane Winborn Eagles to Texas A&M Aggies
(Left to Right: Ashley McElmurry ’15, Brecklyn Gordon ’15, and Stephanie Ellis ’15)
At the age of four years old, my parents enrolled me in Williamsburg Country Day School and it was there that I met some of my best friends. Soon after, I began my six years at Diane Winborn Elementary, and met some of the best friends that I still have today.
Growing up in Katy made it easy to grow with these friends. We all did girl scouts and attended local town events. We joined the community and participated in almost everything together, even leaving home. Fast forward through high school, and we have arrived at June 2011. We all graduated from High School and were ready to leave Katy. Most of us went to the same place, the place I have called home for the past four years.
One by one, we all traveled to College Station. Some of us went straight to Texas A&M and some of us enrolled at Blinn in hopes to one day be an Aggie. With all these people here, the transition was supposed to be easy. However, I found myself missing home. I started going home a lot, and taking advantage of all of my childhood experiences. I went and rode the rides at the Rice Harvest Festival, sat at Starbucks in La Centerra, and walked around Katy Mills Mall as if I was 13 again. Although this was fun and all, I knew I had to let go, and fully immerse myself in this Aggie town. Lucky for me, I still had a few of my best friends left with me to make these past couple of years easier.
As my roommate and hometown best friend was receiving her ring the other day, it dawned on me that I had to do something I have never done before. I needed to stop and appreciate everything my hometown has done for me. It brought me friends for life and as we all realize that we are permanently connected through the Aggie Network, we acknowledge the fact that we are connected from our hometown roots as well.
Now as a senior in college, I can say that it is time to come home. When I graduated high school I thought I was ready to leave my little home called Katy, Texas. Now, as a more wise soon to be college graduate I can say that I finally appreciate home. So from Katy to College Station, and back home again I go.
By Ashley McElmurry
Katyites Steven and Stephanie Poss’ premature son Beckham faces a life-threatening “medical mystery” and survives
Written by Stephanie Poss | Select photography by Kristen Richards
It’s been said, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” The greatest news in the world was that our family of three would be growing to a family of four. Beckham Neil Poss was due to arrive in mid-October 2013. As any expecting parents, my husband Steven and I could not be happier. We immediately started preparing his room and our daughter for the change of not being an only child anymore. During pregnancy, I threw up so much I ended up on complete bed rest. I went into preterm labor in early August, and we began shots to help build his lungs and trying to stop the labor.
On August 24 Beckham arrived, weighing just over five pounds. Beckham was quickly rushed to the NICU. When a child is born, you want to hold and cuddle them, but a NICU mom can’t. Each day he improved. As parents, we lived for the few times we got to hold Beckham. We struggled to not feel helpless. One month after being born, he was released to go home. He was strong enough, or so we thought.
The Longest Days
I have never felt more ill-prepared than when I took Beckham home for the first time. Something in my heart kept telling me he was not ready, but I tried to silence that voice because the doctors believed he was. On October 1, 2013, I woke up excited to celebrate my birthday and found out it would be the toughest day of my life.
I was holding Beckham as he was sleeping and noticed a strange violent movement. It was like nothing I had seen before. I called the doctor’s office, trying not to sound crazy. As I was on the phone, Beckham went into a seizure again and stopped breathing. The nurse dispatched 911 to my house and walked me through how to help him. All I could do was try to follow her directions and pray God would take over. After many tests at Texas Children’s West Campus, it was decided Beckham needed more intense treatment at Texas Children’s in the Medical Center in the Level II NICU. My husband and I had no answers.
The doctors did not know what was wrong. All we were told is he was a “medical mystery.” I have always been a Christ follower, but I never knew what it meant to truly trust the Lord with my whole heart until He was truly the only thing keeping my son alive. There in the NICU, we begged God to save him. In the depths of our despair, we clung to the miracles that began to unfold. A sorority sister I had not seen in close to 10 years showed up and had a blanket made for Beckham that was blessed at a church. This became the one thing that never left his side. This same friend was able to help get us into the Ronald McDonald House so we could stay close by.
As the days in the hospital turned into months, we saw an outpouring of support. Taylor High School students had a fundraising week. They had meals, made shirts, had dodgeball tournaments – you name it, they did it for us. They raised over $8,000 to help us with our bills. Taylor and our church, Parkway Fellowship, set up a meal calendar providing dinners from October through January. The Houston Aces soccer team dedicated their preseason to Beckham. The Joe Joe Bear Foundation brought Beckham and Brooklyn gifts. Musician Justin Michael Bell did a benefit show. Friends and family cleaned our home.
Waiting for Answers
My sister-in-law had a great idea to set up a Facebook page so we could update it, and then all of our friends and family could see what was going on without us having to talk about the details repeatedly. She also set up a medical fundraising page and gifts started to pour in for our little warrior. As bills were mounting, and all of our resources were depleting, my husband and I prayed about what to do next. We still were no closer to any answers.
The best minds in medicine could not figure him out. All we had been given was a medical label of “failure to thrive” – a label the doctors gave him, but we would not allow them to speak in Beckham’s room. Yet my husband and I both felt a peace that can only come from our heavenly Father. We were reassured Beckham was going to live. In November, Beckham was released to come home with a feeding tube and a home health nurse. The thought of having medical staff in my home was horrible, but I tried to remember that it would be better than not having him home. The next day we met Tara, Beckham’s home health nurse, one of the angels who touched our lives.
Tara was a member of the family from the first moment we met her. She taught my daughter how to turn the feeding tube on and off and how to use the stethoscope. Beckham was on specialized formula because he could not digest. Once we were out of the hospital, our insurance denied this. Our formula bills were almost as much as our mortgage. We were struggling. Steven and I began to sell items, give private coaching lessons, anything we could do. In December, Beckham got the flu and was hospitalized again. The staff at the Texas Children’s West Campus became friends. We got to come home and then he was sick again and was hospitalized until two days before Christmas.
Friends and Miracles
As parents, you worry not only about the health of your children, but also their happiness. With all funds depleted and no end in sight, we were burdened with not making our mortgage and celebrating Christmas. Again, God reminded us to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10). The next day Brian Bruenke, one of our pastors told me they felt led to pay our mortgage. Our spirits were renewed. God was keeping us going. A group of friends from Taylor High School brought gifts for my children.
I had to quit my position as a teacher at Taylor High School. In an amazing turn of events, Dagley Insurance and Marcus Henneke offered me a position which allowed me to work from the hospital. With Beckham still needing home health, we wanted to get back to normal. Katie Collins, a previous student of mine, just happened to be working at my daughter’s day care at the time. She became Beckham’s nannie so I could work full-time. We were told Beckham would have to be on a feeding tube for at least a year.
If he was ever strong enough to be off it he would need a massive amount of therapy. By April, only six months after being on the feeding tube, Beckham began to have oral feedings. A few months later he was tube free. Today, weighing 23 hard-earned pounds, Beckham is completely caught up to his peers! A true miracle. KM
Editor’s Note : Katy Magazine would like to thank the Poss family for sharing their amazing story of hope and faith with the community.
Katy couples whose love has withstood decades share how living happily ever after is not a fairy tale, but a choice of commitment
Written by Tassie Hewitt | Select photography by Juliana Evans
Demanding jobs, health issues, and money worries might mean the honeymoon is over for some couples, but these Katy husbands and wives have found the secret to wedded bliss. They agree that while falling in love is easy, staying in love requires commitment and hard work. It was 1941 when Boyd and Emily Baker met at a Christmas party in Flint, Michigan. “I was asked to sing ‘White Christmas,’” says Boyd, who was 15 at the time.
“About the middle of the song, I looked down and there was a pretty young lady in a blue flowered dress. It was love at first sight.” Emily, age 13 at the time, grew up as the oldest of 17 children in her family. The couple courted for seven years, during which time Boyd went away to college and was drafted into the Navy. “Every time I returned, she was there,” says Boyd, who grew up during the Great Depression. “I never had anyone as faithful in my life. I was lucky.” The couple, now married 66 years, started out living in a 500-square-foot trailer at a time when $13 bought a week’s worth of groceries.
Boyd, pastor emeritus at Grace Fellowship United Methodist Church, believes couples today need an “attitude of gratitude” and mutual trust to keep their marriages strong. He recently authored a book titled, A Pocket Full of Prayers. “I think they start out getting too much,” says Boyd. “In Katy, we’re economically in good condition. I don’t think people appreciate what comes too easy.” Five children, nine grandchildren, and two great grandchildren later, Boyd says even at ages 88 and 86, he and his wife still enjoy being together. “I see her asleep, and I thank God,” says Boyd. “I have a heartfelt feeling of love today and in a different way than before. I think God had his hand in all of this.”
To Love and to Cherish
“Putting one another first before anyone or anything has been the success of our marriage,” says Dusti Luna, a kindergarten teacher at Morton Ranch Elementary who has been married to her husband, Pete, who works for the Department of Public Safety, for 20 years. “We do sweet little gestures to keep the romance alive.” “I know it sounds crazy, but I saw her in class and I just knew she was the one,” says Pete, who met Dusti in college. “It was just something in my heart.” Three years later he snuck into her apartment while she was in the bathroom, placed a ring on her dresser, and hid in her closet.
When she found the ring, he jumped out of the closet, got down on one knee, and popped the question. “He’s my rock,” says Dusti, who didn’t know anyone when she first moved to Katy. “The minute I met him he started protecting me. He took care of me then, and he still does.” Dusti says good communication and respect for each other are the keys to a successful marriage. The Lunas learned when they were newly married and facing the challenge of having opposite work schedules that it is important for couples to have quality time to share conversation and focus on each other. “We would make date nights, and his mom would watch the kids,” she says.
“There are a lot of people who stay married for comfort, but we truly want to be together. We want to travel; we love to go dancing.” The Lunas have two children who attend Katy High School – Austin, 18, and Cheyenne, 15. “We’re constantly teaching our son to treat his girlfriend with respect, and we’re modeling for our daughter how she should be shown respect,” says Dusti.
In Sickness and in Health
For some couples, it is the challenges that make their marriage stronger. When Nancy and Steve McMillan met at work over 35 years ago, they never dreamed the obstacles they would face as a married couple. “It’s one of those things where you just know,” says Steve about when the pair met. “I came around the corner, and she was about 15 feet away. All the air went out of me. I never really believed in that before, but it sure happened to me.” “He asked me out to lunch, and the rest is history,” says Nancy, a secretary in the communications department at Katy ISD.
“He still takes my breath away.” Steve, who works for a wireless network company, is a two-time cancer survivor who battled leukemia in 1995 and colon cancer in 2008. Through the tough times, the couple relied on their faith, family, and friends to keep tman, and he’s very faithful,” says Nancy who believes the secret to a good marriage is putting God first. “That makes me want to be faithful.” Part of what keeps the couple strong is their desire to have fun together, even long after the children, Sarah, 28, and Stephen, 31, have grown. They make it a point to have dinner with each other every night. They stay connected with phone calls during the day.
“The secret to a good marriage is wanting it to succeed and not throwing it away when it gets hard,” says Nancy. “We were really challenged, and it brought us so much closer. It made our marriage stronger.” Steve’s advice to young married couples is to be committed to common goals and to remember what they loved about each other at the beginning of their relationship. “It’s a growing thing,” says Steve. “Nobody gets where we are the first five, 10, or 15 years.”
For Richer or for Poorer
Some couples not only grow old together, they grow up together. “It was love at first sight,” says Ross Ramos, when he and Margie met at a café in the summer of 1969. The teenage sweethearts dated a short time before Ross, then 17, proposed. “I was baby-sitting,” says Margie, who was only 16 at the time. “He came to see me and said we were going to get married.” Soon after, the couple moved to Houston to start new jobs. “I remember packing our few belongings into a Ford Mustang. Our first challenge was working toward paying our rent and bills and having money,” says Margie who is now vice president of real estate loan Nancy hem strong.
“Steve is a fighter. He’s a strong, godly man, and he’s very faithful,” says Nancy who believes the secret to a good marriage is putting God first. “That makes me want to be faithful.” Part of what keeps the couple strong is their desire to have fun together, even long after the children, Sarah,28, and Stephen, 31, have grown. They make it a point to have dinner with each other every night. They stay connected with phone calls during the day. “The secret to a good marriage is wanting it to succeed and not throwing it away when it gets hard,” says Nancy. “We were really challenged, and it brought us so much closer. It made our marriage stronger.”
Steve’s advice to young married couples is to be committed to common goals and to remember what they loved about each other at the beginning of their relationship. “It’s a growing thing,” says Steve. “Nobody gets where we are the first five, 10, or 15 years.” For Richer or for Poorer Some couples not only grow old together, they grow up together. “It was love at first sight,” says Ross Ramos, when he and Margie met at a café in the summer of 1969. The teenage sweethearts dated a short time before Ross, then 17, proposed. “I was baby-sitting,” says Margie, who was only 16 at the time. “He came to see me and said we were going to get married.”
Soon after, the couple moved to Houston to start new jobs. “I remember packing our few belongings into a Ford Mustang. Our first challenge was working toward paying our rent and bills and having money,” says Margie who is now vice president of real estate loan operations at Wallis State Bank. “We started out with nothing.” The Ramos’, who have three daughters, all graduates from Katy High School, Laura, 44, Tammy, 40, and Melissa, 32, just celebrated their 45th anniversary and owe the success of their marriage to hard work, patience, and good communication. “We’re so much alike,” says Margie. “My husband is a very hard worker and so am I. We’re both from the same background and come from the country. Everything we have today is because of both of us working.”
When they are not working, the couple enjoys spending time at their horse ranch and traveling. Yearly weeklong cruises and vacations at resorts keep them connected. Even though it has been decades since they said “I do,” the couple looks forward to retiring together and moving into the country. Margie says, “We both feel young at heart.” Though life can challenge any marriage, the decades these couples have spent together made them grow closer instead of apart. They respect, protect, and love each other. They never give up. KM
TASSIE HEWITT is a freelance writer who believes in true love, and is inspired by her parents who are still on their honeymoon 52 years later.
Katy artist Kathleen Wedemeyer makes it her business to turn other people’s trash into treasure and inspires with her messages of hope and faith
Written by Tassie Hewitt | Select Photography by Country Park Portraits
What started as a hobby 25 years ago for crafty Katy resident, Kathleen Wedemeyer, turned into her livelihood and passion, as demand for her handmade antique vintage creations took her artwork out of local craft shows and into homes across the country. She dutifully named her brand, Hope and Glory.
Hope and Glory
The artist, who makes an art out of turning junk into gems, admits to being creative from a young age. “I remember going through trash cans at the house and wondering what I could make out of stuff,” she says. She once sold Christmas ornaments made out of dried okra to supplement her family income. “I can almost pick up a stick off the ground and make something out of it.”
Wedemeyer, who has a background in commercial art, scavenges thrift stores for old silver and jewelry for use in her work. The frugal artist, who professes to being cheap at heart, transforms antique ceiling tile and discarded bead board into the collection of crosses, architectural angels, collages, and frames, for which she is so well known.
“I love metal,” she says. Wedemeyer studied welding so she could expand the scope of her work. “I love rusty metal that tells a story because it’s been through the process of time.
Where the Heart Is
Katy became home to Wedemeyer after her business grew and her old neighborhood’s deed restrictions stifled her creativity. She needed space to spread out and allow storage for her growing collection of materials. “I bought a big trailer full of ceiling tin one time, and I was thinking, ‘How am I going to get that home?’” she says. “So then, I just bought the trailer, too.”
The artist, whose one-acre backyard in Old Katy is home to chickens and dogs, vintage bikes, and a ’70s travel trailer, grew up in southeast Houston, but does not regret her move to Katy 15 years ago. “Old Katy still feels like a small town,” she says. “I love this house. It has character.”
Wedemeyer’s 2,000 square-foot workshop, located behind her historic home, is crammed with bits and scraps and pieces of her finds. The workshop was built by her architect husband, Ron. It’s where she spends at least three days a week creating the artwork she hopes will inspire purchasers. It is also where her husband taught her to use power tools, a skill that launched her business in a whole new direction.
Wedemeyer finds inspiration for her work everywhere. “There are times I will hear a message at church and thatwill become a banner one of my angels is holding,” she says. “There are dark things in life, and people need hope.”
In 2011, the owners of Creative Co-OP discovered Wedemeyer’s artwork and asked permission to reproduce some of her more popular pieces. As a result, Hope and Glory licensed creations can be found in stores throughout the country, as well as online. “I even have little crosses at Buc-ee’s, now,” Wedemeyer laughs. “It was a nice opportunity to take some things off my plate so I could go on to create new things.” Despite her accomplishments, Wedemeyer says it is important not to judge success in purely economic terms. “There have been many shows I went to and didn’t make a penny, and yet I met a new best friend,” she says. Her artwork is more about the message than the money. “I love the power of words to inspire people. I hope to glorify God in what I do. He is the master artist, and we’re all His masterpieces.”
When she is not creating or selling her artwork, Wedemeyer finds time to share her enthusiasm for art with the community. She teaches Power Tools 101 in her workshop where she empowers women with the courage and skills to master the sander, drill press, and nail gun. She hosts art workshops and retreats and belongs to the Rowdy Art Sisters art club where members meet to trade techniques and stir up each other’s creativity. She has a passion for mentoring other artistic women. Above all, Wedemeyer cherishes the oneof-a-kind in art and in life and has the ability to find beauty in anything. “I think every person you meet has a treasure inside,” she says. “I love mining for treasure.” KM
TASSIE HEWITT is a freelance writer who believes in angels and the power of words.
Katy, TX News (January 29, 2015) – The City of Katy has selected Blackboard Connect™, a leading mass notification platform, to facilitate important communication and emergency preparedness. The first community-wide test call will be held on Thursday, January 29, 2015. A test call to business will launch at 2 pm and the test call to residents will launch at 6:30 pm.
The City of Katy implemented Blackboard Connect so that officials can stay connected to residents and efficiently provide them with direction in the event of severe weather warning, planned and unplanned all-hazard events or community events as well. Using Blackboard Connect, officials can record and send an unlimited number of personalized voice messages to home phones, businesses, local agencies and mobile phones in just minutes. The service also sends email, text messages (SMS) to mobile phones and posts on Facebook, RSS feeds and Twitter channels. Messages can also be sent to TTY/TDD devices for people who are hearing impaired.
“Keeping our community safe and informed is our top priority, which is why we need to be able to communicate with residents quickly in an urgent situation,” said Maria Galvez, City of Katy’s Emergency Management Coordinator. “Katy•Connect, powered by Blackboard Connect enables us to communicate efficiently with residents in just a matter of minutes, helping save valuable time, use resources efficiently and protect our community.”
City officials can target each message to an unlimited number of groups. Authorized users can also use the system’s geo-mapping and group subscription features to contact residents based on specific geographical locations and interests, helping ensure recipients receive relevant, targeted information.
“With Katy•Connect – powered by Blackboard, we know our residents are receiving the information that matters most to them, whether it’s an urgent situation or routine community update,” said Mrs. Galvez. “I strongly encourage residents to register their contact information and update their message preferences into the system’s secure database so they are prepared to receive important notifications.”
Publicly available primary residential and business phones in the City of Katy will automatically be included in the system. However, to ensure the City has the most up-to-date contact information, including cell phone numbers and email addresses, residents should visit the City of Katy website at www.cityofkaty.com and click on the link that says “SIGN UP NOW – SERVICES BY BLACKBOARD CONNECT” in the KatyConnect portal and provide their complete contact information. Users should also manage their message preferences by indicating their preferred mode of contact, language and message topics. You may also opt-in to receive information directly from the PARKS & RECREATION portal as well as PUBLIC WORKS. Those without Internet access are encouraged to call 281-574-8638 to provide their current information. Residents with call blocking services should add that phone number to their approved number list to ensure they receive important notifications from the city. All opted-in SMS messages will be sent from a 23177 or 63079 number.
“Targeted communication is the best way to keep residents safe and allows them to receive the information that matters most to them,” said Ed Miller, president of Blackboard’s administrative platform group. “With Blackboard Connect, administrators can ensure the right messages get to the right people.”
For more information about Blackboard Connect, please visit http://www.blackboard.com/connect.
Tommie Cross-Holmes, a Mayde Creek graduate, is accomplishing his dream of modeling in New York City
Written by Cherri Northcutt | Photography courtesy of Tommie Cross-Holmes
Growing up as a student at Mayde Creek Elementary, Tommie Cross-Holmes never imagined that he would one day live in New York and have a successful modeling career. “As a kid, I was always playing outside with friends,” Tommie remembers. “My mom even got walkie-talkies so she could let me know when to come in for dinner. The only problem was, I had to stay within range,” he says.
“Tommie loved to read and play football,” his mother, Denita Holmes shares. In fact, his love of sports led him to Katy Youth Football where he met some of his lifelong friends. His dad played golf, so Tommie started playing in seventh grade. Tommie adds, “I also played football and ran track through junior high and high school.”
Dreams of Broadway
At Mayde Creek High School, Tommie was also active in choir. “He performed in Kantori and Encore choirs, and played the Beast in Beauty and the Beast his senior year,” Denita says. An active, good-natured young man, Tommie had dreams of playing for the NFL and singing on Broadway.
After graduating from Mayde Creek in 2009, Tommie was accepted into the musical theatre program at Sam Houston State University. While there, he also found time to play intramural football, basketball, soccer, and kickball. He was on the rugby team for the university as well as a camp counselor for incoming freshmen in his sophomore and junior years at college. “I like to meet people and be active,” Tommie says.
Getting the Callback
For years, Tommie’s mother and several of his friends encouraged him to give modeling a try. “I said, ‘That’s not for me,’” Tommie recalls. “Finally in 2010, I decided to give it a shot.”
Page Parkes in Houston was the second agency Tommie went for a meeting. “The only pictures we had were my senior photos from high school,” Tommie admits. After meeting with Parkes, the agency signed him that day. “They set me up with my first test shoot,” Tommie remembers. “I felt like a superstar in my own way.”
“We were drawn to Tommie’s sweet nature, cool look, and we loved the hair,” says Erik Bechtol, agency director at Page Parkes. “He’s always happy and has a love of the business that makes people want to be around him.”
At an agency review, Tommie showed off his modeling and acting talents for other agencies and clients. “I was so nervous,” he recalls. “At home later I was freaking out that I wouldn’t get a callback.” He did not need to worry. The next day Tommie learned that he had callbacks for eight modeling opportunities and 10 callbacks for acting. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy,” Tommie says. He began modeling under the name Tommie Cross.
The Move to NYC
In August 2011, Tommie went to New York to test the waters. In his first few days, he went to casting calls and met potential clients. He then booked his first campaign for Off Broadway Shoes. A few days later he booked a TJ Maxx advertisement. Jobs with Seventeen Magazine and GQ quickly followed. “I thought that if it was going to keep going like that, I’d better find a place to live,” Tommie says.
Three weeks into his trip, Tommie found an apartment, and he’s been in New York ever since. Tommie’s “trial run” has turned into a permanent move.
Last February, Tommie met his goal of getting work with a national modeling agency when he signed with Wilhelmina Models in New York and Los Angeles. His proudest moment as a model so far was a recent commercial for Sony. “I did a Sony campaign with video game characters of me that played on the billboard in Times Square,” he says. “That was a great moment.”
Calling Katy Home
Tommie enjoys occasional visits with his family and to his hometown. “New York is just go-go-go, 24-7,” Tommie shares. “I love coming home to Katy to just chill and relax.” In Katy, he still loves playing football with old friends and watching his little brother Samuel grow up. Samuel is now a freshman at Mayde Creek High School. “I like to go back to Mayde Creek and talk to Coach Carter,” Tommie says. “I miss driving instead of always taking a subway everywhere.” Tommie also enjoys reconnecting with his childhood friends in Katy. “I’m still the same person. I don’t let success go to my head.”
Remember Your Roots
Tommie believes in setting goals. In the future he says, “I want to get the acting side of things going. In three years I want to shoot a TV pilot and in five years I want to be on my first feature film.” This January, he will be in Los Angeles working with Wilhelmina, LA. Tommie believes that the attitude you display determines how successful you will be
in the industry.
“Modeling isn’t for everyone,” Tommie admits. “You have to get used to rejection.” Even so, he encourages people to stay positive. “Don’t be scared; get out of your comfort zone. Get out there and try.” He encourages others to not be afraid, and to remember their roots. “No matter how successful you get, don’t forget who you are, where you came from, and the people who were with you when times were hard.” KM
CHERRI NORTHCUTT has lived in Katy with her husband and two daughters for over 14 years.
An inside look at Katy ISD’s dedicated board of trustees
Written by Shetye Cypher | Photography courtesy of Katy ISD
As one of the fastest growing communities in the nation, Katy ISD is the perfect combination of long-standing tradition and a cutting edge approach to learning. Through collaboration, commitment, and a desire for greatness, the Katy ISD board of trustees is always striving to provide the best educational experience possible for Katy students.
Bryan Michalsky, President
- Is the CFO of Cotton Holdings, Inc.
- Has lived in Katy for six years
- Was a Bearkat cheerleader for Sam Houston State University
- Was elected to the board in May 2012
Both lifelong educators, Bryan Michalsky’s parents instilled the importance of a good education early on, which he feels
had a huge impact. “I love children, which to me is the first prerequisite to serve on the board,” he says. He also truly believes that the board has made strides in engaging the community over the past two years since he has served.
In addition to his passion for education, his professional experience provides him with the knowledge to make sound financial decisions. He loves that Katy ISD provides its students many opportunities to learn and succeed. “From athletics, to fine arts, to FFA, Katy ISD does a remarkable job of educating the whole student and preparing them for a fulfilling life,” says Michalsky.
Henry Dibrell, Vice President
- Plays the drums and was in a band that traveled around the U.S.
- Is a licensed minister
- Is a flag football coach at CrossPoint Community Church
- Was elected to the board in May 2011
Henry Dibrell refers to the involvement of parents and community volunteers as the “secret sauce” behind Katy ISD’s success. “We have an opportunity in Katy to change the face of education for all young people,” he says. “Katy is a great community. We have a bright future. As we continue to grow, we must work together to ensure that greatness continues and is passed down to the next generation.”
Dibrell decided to run for the board out of a passion for seeing young people achieve. He believes the board’s mission is to make sure every child in the community has access to unparalleled learning experiences. “Education is the great equalizer in our society. In this great nation, if you have a good education and work hard you can achieve great things. The key to the preservation of our liberties is an educated populous,” he says.
Rebecca Fox, Secretary
- Has served in PTA’s, the VIPS executive board, and the Katy Council of PTA executive board
- Has lived in six countries
- Works as a motivational speaker
No matter the strengths, challenges, or interests of students, having talented educators ready to teach and inspire is what Rebecca Fox loves about Katy ISD. “I love children of all ages and watching them learn new things. Giving them opportunities that meet their individual strengths makes me excited,” she says.
Fox could not be more proud of the amazing programs that Katy ISD offers students, from fine arts to special needs. “I have attended countless graduations and shaken thousands of hands, and I still get misty-eyed every time I hear the music as they walk the stage and throw their caps into the air. It’s my favorite time of year. I am so proud of them, and happy that they are prepared for the future.”
Charles Griffin, Treasurer
- Retired from the U.S. Air Force
- Coached by Gary Joseph at Katy High School
- Third-generation Katy grad
- Elected to the board in May 2012
In Charles Griffin’s travels around the world, he has seen the value of a great education. Having lived almost his entire life in Katy, he wants to help restore the trust of the community in the district. “I grew up in Katy and moved back here so my children could have the same great experiences. I wanted to give something back to the district having received so much myself,” he says.
Griffin believes that being a leader includes being honest, loyal, steadfast, and of sound character. He feels the current board’s vision statement works well. “It was put together by this community and covers all the important needs of our students, community, and the district,” he says.
Courtney Doyle, Sergeant-at-Arms
- Mother of six children
- Active in PTA and as a community volunteer
- Secretly wants to adopt six more children
- Was elected to the board in May 2014
Courtney Doyle feels she is acutely aware of the importance of all kids being given an opportunity to learn. She felt running for the board was a unique opportunity to add another woman’s voice to the leadership. “I want to continue to aid in opening the lines of communication between
the district and the community. We not only have to communicate our goals to those who have been in Katy forever, we have to engage and find unique opportunities to communicate effectively to families who are new to the area,”
Doyle loves walking the halls of the schools and spending time at extracurricular events. The students brighten her day and her outlook on the future. “Children have a way of sharing hope without even knowing they are doing so. They are innocent, quick to love, quick to laugh, and eager to be great,” says Doyle.
Ashley Vann, Member
- Graduate of James E. Taylor High School
- Third-generation community servant
- Vann and her mother were the founding members of the National Charity League – Katy Chapter
- Was elected to the board May 2014
Ashley Vann feels that being a Katy resident means that you are a part of something great. “People move to the Katy area for the Katy ISD schools, and I love being a part of this district – its past, its present, and its future,” she says.
A James E. Taylor High School graduate, Vann has served in leadership positions for over a decade in Katy ISD. She is a third generation community servant who felt a calling to do more for the school district. “I campaigned honestly and tirelessly. I communicated clearly, and truly committed to do this job with all of my heart the minute I filed,” says Vann.
Vann also loves that even though the district is significantly larger than when she was a student, it still feels like a small town. “As a product of public education, I always believed my children would be, too,” says Vann. “Education is more than just the classroom. It is hands on learning outside the four walls of a school building. It is achieved through mentoring, the many co-curricular activities that are available, and the fundamental basis and commitment that exists at home.”
Joe M. Adams, Member
- Has been a proud Katyite since 1986
- Has held every board position at least once
- Is a private pilot and owns his own plane
- Has been a member of the board sine 1989
Joe Adams believes that the board’s job is managing the district along with the superintendent. He says the board wants to continue to improve the district so all students have opportunities to excel. “Education is important for our students because they are our future. One day they might be my doctor, my mechanic, or even the president of the U. S.,” says Adams. “We need to make sure every student is prepared for the next step in life, whatever that might be.”
Adams is confident in the opportunities Katy ISD can offer. “I cannot tell you how many times people have told me that their children have done well in college because of the education they received in Katy ISD,” says Adams. “We need to be proud of our district, our leadership, administration, and teachers. We are all in this together and it is important for us to be successful.” KM
Shetye Cypher is a freelance writer who is also the journalism teacher and publications advisor at Tompkins High School.
Katy, TX News (December 16, 2014) – Bo Levi Mitchell, a 2008 graduate of Katy High School, recently led the Calgary Stampeders to a 20-16 win against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and took home the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award during the 2014 Grey Cup Canadian Championship Football Game.
The 2014 Grey Cup win adds to Mitchell’s impressive list of athletic awards including the Katy High School State Championship in 2007; a National Championship at Eastern Washington University in 2010; and the 2011 Walter Payton Award, which is given to the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
Click here for more information on the 2014 Grey Cup.
Katy, TX News (December 6, 2014) – The Katy ISD Communications department has issued a letter regarding the tragic deaths of Terra Kubala and Trent Weber:
“Dear Parents and Guardians,
The faculty and staff of Seven Lakes and Cinco Ranch High School are deeply saddened to learn of the deaths of two students who tragically lost their lives in a vehicle accident over the weekend. We ask that you please join us as we extend our deepest and heartfelt sympathy to the families as they mourn their loss.
Grief counselors will be on campus on Monday to help our school community deal with this loss. We will be doing everything we can to help your child and our staff through this heartbreaking experience.
Over the next few days, you may wish to encourage your child to express his or her feelings and listen attentively. It will be helpful to recognize the various steps that we all go through in the grieving process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
If you have any concerns regarding your child’s reaction to this loss, please contact your child’s teacher, school counselor or any member of the administrative staff. Thank you for your concern and support during this difficult time.”
*Katy Magazine would like to express their deepest sympathies for the families of these students, and send wishes for comfort and healing in this time of incredible loss.
Katy ISD parents Vince and Pam Zinnante speak out on the Katy 2014 Bond Election
Written by Pam Zinnante
Katy, TX News – We have lived in Katy for 35 years, and have seen multiple bond issues approved to relieve overcrowding in schools. My husband and I were pleased to vote in favor of the bond that provided relief to the south side of Katy when there was an outcry that Cinco Ranch High School had hit over 3,400 students and would grow to almost 3,800 students by the time Seven Lakes High School was due to open. Within a few years, fast growth indicated the need for yet another high school serving Katy ISD south of I-10, and a community that should not take sides rightly voted in favor of another school and additional improvements and spaces to benefit all students district-wide.
Both Morton Ranch and Katy High School are hoping for relief from the expected growth in the Grand Pkwy. corridor. Those who think new buildings are unnecessary may be unaware that Morton Ranch High School is severely overcrowded. Lunch hours have to be expanded in order to be able to feed all of the students, and extra time between classes is needed to make it to outdoor temporary villages through halls too packed to navigate. How does that impact the education of students? Every minute of educational time lost matters!
So, my husband and I ask our friends and neighbors in Katy ISD to not abandon the needs of those students who would benefit from the changes suggested in the bond. This is not about a vote for a new stadium, but about the recognition that all students in Katy ISD, regardless of feeder pattern, have a need to be educated in a safe environment where the focus can be on curriculum. Thank you for voting in favor of the 2014 Bond Package, Build a Better Tomorrow Together, and supporting the education of our kids. KM
Vince and Pam Zinnante have lived in Katy for 35 years and have watched their three daughters graduate from Morton Ranch and Katy High School.
Katy Magazine would like to thank the Zinnante’s for offering their opinion on such an important issue. For information on the Bond package, visit katyisd.org.
Spotlighting the students who transform Katy’s Friday nights
Written by Ashley Lancaster and Kirsten Cornell | Select Photography by Craig Moseley
Katy, TX News – The stands fill with fans of all ages donning their school colors and faces painted with their favorite players’ numbers and armed with pom-poms, foam fingers, and signs. Athletes who have trained for years grind their cleats on the soft AstroTurf as they stare down the 120 yards to the goal line. Dozens of anxious students polish their instruments and fluff their plumes as they go over the spirit numbers one more time. It can only mean one thing: It’s Friday night, and the game is about to begin.
KATY’S FOOTBALL TEAMS
A Winning Mindset
While every football program has its own strategies, the coaches and players at each school will tell you that preparing to take on an opponent takes more than just physical strength. “The coaches will begin preparing right after the previous game by watching video of what our next opponent does and how they do it,” says Don Clayton, athletic director and head coach at Cinco Ranch High School. “The players will do the mental work in meetings and video sessions, as well as on their own with study of the scouting report and with opponent video that is available to them.”
Physical preparation is accomplished during weekly practices, which averages about eight hours per week. While as many as 450 students try out for football each season, only about 85 will end up playing varsity under the stadium lights on a Friday night, something that each player looks forward to. According to Taylor Jiral, team captain and student at Cinco Ranch High School, Fridays
are synonymous with football. “All I can think about is the game. After school we go straight to the meeting room and prepare as a team for our games. We get in the zone and focused for the task ahead of us.”
Taylor Mustang Eddie Schwarz is looking forward to competing with this teammates and winning this season. “We will be making new traditions this year with Coach Herrmann and the coaching staff. I can’t wait to go all out for them and for all of our supporters.”
Sounds of School Pride
In the moment before kick-off, it wouldn’t be a football game if there were no drum roll or music to lift the spirits of the fans in the stands and players on the field. That is why the high school band plays such a huge role in encouraging the athletes and keeping the crowd on their feet.
“The band is one of the integral components of the football game that helps cultivate the environment and
create excitement in the stands,” says Michael Ary, newly appointed band director at Taylor High School. Without the dedication and hard work of the band programs, like the eight-hour practices during the weeks before school and regular practices throughout the week, Friday nights at
Rhodes Stadium wouldn’t be nearly as exciting.
“Our Katy fans are really spirited,” adds Katy Tiger Nathaniel Hebert. “They make up chants and scream them during the game. They know all of the spirit songs.”
Rallying the Community
The cheerleaders, mascots, and drill team members boost school spirit with more than their presence at a game. They help rally the community to support their team. “They are responsible for so much more than just sideline cheering,” says Seven Lakes cheer coach Amy Weaston. “We go to Red Ribbon Week, pep rallies, store grand openings, public relations appearances, birthday parties, and homecoming decorating – anything that reminds the public of who we are and what school we represent.”
This involvment in the community is what keeps people filling the stands to root for their school on a Friday night. The drill team members are in charge of decorating players’ lockers to boost morale during the week and practice their half-time routine for hours each day, right up until the moments before they perform.
Darby Boyd, dance instructor and drill team director at Taylor High School, shares what it’s like to watch her team perform on game night. “I love seeing a dance evlove from initial conception, then to teaching it, casting it, and finally perfecting it. It all comes to fruition in the moments the Pacesetters are on the field,” she says. “I am always nervously excited and incredibly proud.”
Student participation is the lifeblood of the crowd, and you can feel their excitement build throughout the game. “We will have a new student section this year nicknamed ‘the Jungle’ that we are really excited about,” explains Ryver Kirk, a cheer captain on the Katy High School varsity squad.
“The THS crowd always loves the chants where we have them repeat after us, getting louder and louder,” says Taylor High School varsity cheerleader Nicole Phillips. “They also seem to love the cheers that include our stunts, which take a lot of practice. And I can’t go without saying they love tumbling. All of our varsity cheerleaders are great tumblers.”
IN THE STANDS
All for the Fans
Each group plays an important role in encouraging school spirit, but without the fans there would be no one to rally. Lorraine Eberly, cheer coach at Morton Ranch High School, remembers one fan in particular who touched her heart. “There is a little girl named Brittany that comes to every Morton Ranch game. She wears a cheer uniform and sits in the top section, brings posters and noise makers, and leads the 50 yard line crowd during the whole game. She comes down at every game to say, ‘Hi.’ How much sweeter can it get than that?” It’s safe to say that even Katy’s littlest fans love their football.
“I love being on the field and cheering for my team and the people who come out to support us,” adds Mayde Creek spirit
officer Amanda Sprague. “I couldn’t ask for a better squad. They are my family.”
Without the combined efforts of each group and the dedicated fans, Friday night football wouldn’t be able to live up to the hype. Katy High School head football coach and athletic coordinator Gary Joseph sums it up when he says, “It takes the coaches, players, school, athletic administration, teachers, student body, band, drill team, cheerleaders, parents, fans, and loyal supporters to have a successful program.” KM
ASHLEY LANCASTER is the Editorial Assistant at Katy Magazine and loves to watch her youngest brother and cousin play football for Katy High School.
Kirsten Cornell is the lead associate editor of Katy Magazine and she’s excited about wearing her spirit shirts to Friday football games this season.
Katyite Joshua Martinez shares the story of his battle with colorectal cancer
Written by Clare Jensen | Photography by Anetrius Wallace
Katy, TX News – People often take their lives and daily activities for granted, discrediting illness as too far removed to affect them. But then one day, they are taken by surprise, and the certainty of having a next breath becomes not quite so certain. This was the case for Katyite Joshua Martinez.
From Colonoscopy to Cancer
Joshua Martinez, an elementary school assistant principal with a wife and four kids, had no symptoms of cancer in June 2012. His son Ian, a medical student, encouraged both his parents to have colonoscopy screenings since they were in their mid-fifties. Within a few weeks, Martinez was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer.
The entire family was both shocked and devastated. Roxanne, the Martinez’s oldest daughter, describes her reaction to the news. “My worst nightmare: cancer hitting my family. My heart stopped. I cried. Later, I composed myself and realized we have to have a fighter’s attitude toward it.”
Having incorporated faith into their daily lives prior to the cancer diagnosis helped Martinez and his family adjust to their new perspective. “The one constant throughout it was prayer. Whether individually or corporately as a family, we prayed often,” Martinez says.
Following the diagnosis, treatment started almost immediately with chemotherapy, two surgeries, and hospitalizations. The side effects of chemotherapy were far beyond mere inconvenience or embarrassment. Besides nausea and exhaustion, Martinez suffered from numbness and tingling in his hands, depression, and complications with his ileostomy, which diverted his intestines to a removal bag. According to Martinez’s oncologist, Dr. Sunil Patel with MD Anderson in Katy, “The treatment wasn’t easy for him. He pushed through it because of the support
system that was in place. If his experience would be a lesson for anyone, it would be to rely on that base of support that you have in times of need.”
Martinez credits his wife Berta as his biggest supporter throughout the process. From his dietary cravings to his mood shifts, she tended as much as possible to both his physical and emotional needs. Dr. Patel admired the couple’s strong relationship. “She was very concerned and asked a lot of questions to help him get through it when the initial diagnosis was hard for him. [She] was very positive, and he relied on [her] in a significant way.”
His children also played instrumental roles in distracting their father from his cancer. His daughter Rhiannon knew how much her dad dreaded the chemotherapy treatments. In order to show her support, she decided to present him with a superhero shirt and themed gift every time he had a treatment. For example, an Ironman shirt was accompanied by a “gadget,” a stand for Martinez’s iPad. “My dad grew up during a time of comic books and superheroes, something we’ve been able to share every time the latest superhero blockbuster came out. I wanted him to know how heroic a thing it was that he was doing, battling cancer.”
A Musical Miracle
When he successfully completed treatment at MD Anderson in Katy, Martinez says, “We were elated and thankful to God for bringing us through this.” After a celebration dinner, his family surprised him with a mandolin, an instrument he had been interested in learning prior to his diagnosis. During his illness, his daughter Bianca would write songs of encouragement for him, and music often helped him out of depression. Now the mandolin, in addition to his guitar, represents both the victory over cancer and the love that surrounds him.
Currently, he is working to include the mandolin in a new song he is writing. “It’s dedicated to my wife as she inspired it by her Christ-like actions. Basically, it is about the spiritual struggle I went through and how she was able to help me out of the pit of despair.” The faith, music, and love that inspired the Martinez family throughout the chemotherapy and surgeries continue long after the treatments have vanished. Once Martinez reaches five years from his diagnosis, he will be considered a survivor. He says the cancer experience has changed him for the better. “There’s a reason for all we go through in life, and we’re not guaranteed our next breath, so we do the best we can with the opportunities given.” KM
Clare Jensen is a senior at Rice University majoring in English and history. She calls Katy her home, and enjoys keeping in touch with the community.
These local leaders share how they keep their teams energized and motivated to achieve victory on the field, in the classroom, and in life
Written by Kelly Boldt|Photography by Anetrius Wallace
Katy, TX News – Football coaches aren’t just drill sergeants. They are also mentors, counselors, motivators, and strategic planners. Each one of Katy ISD’s head football coaches has a different approach to their team, but a common thread is woven into each of them – their families. They are described as patient, tolerant, and understanding. The most important message is that behind every good coach is an amazing Katy family. Here is a quick glimpse of our Katy area high school coaches (in alphabetical order).
Don Clayton – Cinco Ranch High School
Cinco Ranch head coach Don Clayton loves working with and helping to develop athletes. “It’s not a job; it’s a calling,” explains Clayton, who has been with the Cougars since their first football season in 2000. “I love the way football mirrors real life. You work hard to succeed and also learn along the way that you will get knocked down, but you have to get right back up and get after it again.”
Discipline is also important for Clayton, as is intensity and a high level of commitment from his players and staff. This undertaking is not limited to the field. “We are here to supplement and reinforce what parents do in raising their children,” says Clayton. “We try to be a positive influence to keep them on the right track.”
Gary Joseph – Katy High School
After 32 years at Katy High School, coach Gary Joseph appears to have found the formula for success. He says it’s discipline. Known as a tough, straightforward leader who works at developing trust with his players, Joseph also realizes the importance of being a mentor to his team. “Leadership is important,” Joseph explains. “The biggest thing with our staff is developing trust with the kids. The players have to believe in what we’re saying. If they don’t believe in anything or anybody, they’re not going to be committed to anything in life.”
The Katy Tigers hope to continue their legacy of seven state championship wins. Joseph says, “I am proud to have helped build the great traditions at Katy High School over the years.”
Lance Carter – Mayde Creek High School
The first word Mayde Creek head coach Lance Carter uses to describe his program is “tough.” That’s their style of practice, what he expects his players to bring to the field, and how his team plays on game day. “There are lots of other details, but what really drives us is our love for the game,” Carter says. “Off the field, I have loved watching young men grow into their futures.”
Carter also believes that coaches play an important role in other facets of their players’ lives. “So much of this game is a mentality,” he says. “You’ve got to be very driven to play football, and we have the opportunity to use football to teach them drive and motivation that may last a lifetime.”
Dave Meadows – Morton Ranch High School
Coach Dave Meadows believes he can be described as intense, thorough, and caring in his role as head football coach at Morton Ranch High School. “Our workouts are intense, and we work on things that are applicable to what the kids have to do on the field,” says Meadows.
Physical training isn’t the only aspect of being a good coach for Meadows. “We hold our players to a higher standard,” he says. “They may not live up to them all the time, but we want them to understand that there are consequences if they make a bad decision. We are all part of this together.” Meadows believes the Mavericks are ready for the new season. “What we are doing here is what suits us best. It may not work for everybody, but it works for us.”
Lydell Wilson – Seven Lakes High School
In his third year at Seven Lakes High School, coach Lydell Wilson is working hard to achieve his goal of building a state champion-caliber team. Part of his strategy is to get involved with the kids. “I can relate to them, and they tend to respond to that,” explains Wilson. “I try to get individual guys to understand that winning is important. Everybody has to sacrifice something for our
For example, Wilson sacrifices his personal time and encourages the players to make sacrifices for the betterment of the team as well. Wilson says, “Every second counts, and we want to make sure they put their all into everything they do.”
Trey Hermann – Taylor High School
Head Coach Trey Herrmann will be taking over the reins at Taylor High School this year. Herrmann is a graduate of Mayde Creek High School and was previously part of the coaching staff at Mayde Creek and Seven Lakes high schools. He was named the 20-5A Coach of the Year in 2010.
Herrmann believes his hard work and commitment to the program will demonstrate the strong work ethic he expects from his players. “I am honest and work hard to be clear about expectations,” says Herrmann. “But toughness has always been the most important part of what we do. Not just the physical part, but we want them to develop the mental strength to overcome obstacles.”
Each program has its strengths, and Herrmann considers the off-season work by his players to be the cornerstone of his program. Herrmann adds, “We find that when players buy into it, that translates into better performance on the field during the season.”
Tony Tademy – Tompkins High School
As the head coach of the newest Katy ISD football program, Tony Tademy at Tompkins High School knows he and the players have a special connection. “We are learning together, growing together, and every day is a new day for us,” says Tademy. He says the team is ready for game time. “We have a plan, and every day we stick to that plan.” Organization, attention to detail, and being honest with the athletes are all important components of Tademy’s leadership style.
“We try to always do what’s best for the kids and be as consistent as we can,” says Tademy. “My coaches and I want them to know that we want to see them succeed.”
Kelly Boldt is a freelance writer and Katy mother of three teenagers.
Four multigenerational families trace their roots back to the community’s first settlers
Written by Ella Hearrean | Select photography by Sara Isola
Katy, TX News – Back when there was only one high school and the Firethorne community was a series of rice fields, four well-known Katy families planted roots in a community that they would spend generations investing in. They have built a legacy that impacts not only their families but future Katyites as well.
The Fussell and Schmidt Families
As a child, Sandy Fussell Schmidt watched the buzz of downtown Katy from her mother’s antique shop. She remembers the excitement when her father, Katy’s first volunteer fire chief, heard the siren. “Anyone who had a business was a volunteer. Men from the hardware store and grocery store would come running out in their aprons.”
Schmidt’s small town roots began in the early 1900s, when both of her grandfathers settled in Katy, one as a rice farmer and one as a grocery store owner. Her family has long since been prominent members of the community. Her mother, Blanche, served as the Chamber of Commerce secretary; her uncle, Durwood Fussell, began what is now Brazos Valley Schools Credit Union from his desk drawer as business manager of Katy ISD. Her uncle Mel Jordan, a lifelong rice farmer and rancher, still calls Katy home, along with 38 of his 51 family members.
Her immediate family is just as deeply rooted. Her husband, Hank, served as fire chief, a city council member, and mayor. Her son, Trey, works at Schmidt Funeral Home, and her daughter, Kris, and son-in-law, Arturo Gonzales, are both doctors in the area. “Everyone has always been active and knows what’s going on with everyone else,” says Schmidt.
Today, Schmidt stays busy with Keep Katy Beautiful, Katy First United Methodist Church, and with her four grandchildren. “I’m amazed at the explosive growth of this city – it’s hard to figure out who’s who. But there’s a spirit here. This is home,” she says. To the next generation of Katyites, Schmidt gives this advice: “Be involved. Help grow it. You get what you give, especially in a small community.”
The Cardiff Family
Hal Cardiff remembers Katy High School before its winning reputation. As quarterback of the school’s first 11-man football team, he lost every game his first year. “We were this little farming community with a small, old stadium surrounded by larger, more experienced schools. We played both offense and defense because we were barely able to muster up enough players,” remembers Cardiff.
His father, Charles, was one of many Cardiffs who had settled in Katy in the early 1900s as a rice farmer. After his high school graduation in 1947, Hal and his older brothers inherited their father’s land and continued to farm rice. Over the years, they and other Cardiff family members have served the community as city council members, school board trustees, and teachers.
The Cardiff family was honored as the namesake of Cardiff Junior High in 2008 for their pioneering efforts. Now retired, Hal Cardiff and his wife, Lynn, have four children. Their 11 grandchildren closely follow the success of the Katy Tigers. He is delighted that his son-in-law, Mickey Thompson, is one of the coaches. “Katy football is just so different now, but it is still home to me. Football brings everyone together.”
The Franz and Fry Families
David Peter Franz arrived in Katy in 1896 when he traveled from Russia to escape military service. Formerly a jeweler, Franz reinvented himself as a farmer and raised crops such as peanuts, corn, and rice. His sons continued the farming business after he retired; one of his sons, C.D. Franz, married Carrie Fry in 1906.
Their granddaughter, Donnah Mau Jones, lives in her grandparents’ home and recalls memories of growing up on a farm. “All I could see were rice fields for miles. My cousins lived a mile or so from me in either direction,” says Jones. She remembers gathering eggs, digging for bullfrogs, and jerkily learning to drive a tractor with her dad. “I couldn’t call friends after school because we shared a party line with a cousin that talked all the time. I’d keep picking up the phone, and she’d still be talking,” laughs Jones.
Several local landmarks honor both sides of her family, including Franz Rd., Franz Elementary, and Fry Rd. Now retired with two children and two grandchildren, Jones and her husband, Larry, are happy with the new developments in Katy. “I’m quite pleased with the hospitals that are out here now. They are really good for our community; there is very little reason to go into Houston.”
The Beckendorff Family
When Lawrence Beckendorff graduated from college with a degree in agriculture, he joined his father in the family rice farming and ranching business that had been established by his great-grandfather and grandfather in the early 1900s. “I enjoyed farming because you knew what you had to do and when it had to be done,” says Beckendorff. “There was always something different to do and after the harvest, most of the early farmers spent their time off hunting.”
Beckendorff says that over 60,000 acres of prairie in the area have gradually dwindled to only around 5,000 acres due to years of development. “It’s unreal how fast Katy has developed. Homes and traffic have replaced farms and rice fields. I remember when I-10 was just two lanes. Not only is it bigger, but now the Grand Pkwy. has opened the whole area.”
In 2004, Beckendorff Junior High was named in honor of the family legacy. Beckendorff and his wife, Pamela, have one son, Trey, and are active members of the Katy Heritage Society. “A lot has changed, but it was inevitable because of our proximity to Houston and our good school system. It’s a great place to be.” KM
ELLA HEARREAN is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader.
Former Taylor High School student and Broadway veteran, Kearran Giovanni, dishes about her life as a wife, mom, and actress
Written by Kirsten Cornell
Katy, TX News – Growing up in Katy, Kearran Giovanni filled her days with cheering on the Taylor High School Mustangs and driving down Mason Rd. heading to the local movie theater with friends. “I love the hometown feel of Katy,” says Giovanni. “It’s a place that stops in time as far as family values go.”
The Early Years
Giovanni didn’t always picture herself as a flourishing actress. In fact, she had a completely different path in mind. “I had solid plans to attend Rice University and become an ob/gyn,” she says.
Focusing on dance, gymnastics, and cheer, she has fond memories of attending Becky’s Academy of Dance where she did a majority of her training. “I met some of my closest friends in the dance company, and I still go back and visit every time I’m in town,” she adds.
It wasn’t until she attended the High School for Performing and Visual Arts in Houston her senior year that she even entertained the thought of acting. “I didn’t really perform anything ‘theatrical’ until college,” laughs Giovanni, who attended the College of Conservatory Music in Ohio. “I was more focused on dance and gymnastics.” It was in Cincinnati that she discovered her love for musical theatre, and a new path for her life became clear.
“My parents are my biggest fans. They were always supportive of everything I wanted to do growing up,” she says. “They told me nothing can go wrong as long as I work to my full potential.”
Life on Broadway
Determined to pursue her stage career, Giovanni headed to the birthplace of Broadway in 2004, the Big Apple. Landing her first role in The Lion King, many other credits soon followed, including Anything Goes, Catch Me If You Can, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Guys & Dolls, Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway, and Tarzan. But Giovanni considers her first breakout role to be when she landed a lead part as Helene, starring alongside well-known actress Christina Applegate in Sweet Charity. “It was thrilling to be 23 and get such a fantastic role,” she recalls.
The feel of a live audience is one of the factors of musical theatre that drives Giovanni. “They bring so much energy to a show every night. I also love being able to use my whole body to perform,” she says. “Screen acting is so much smaller; it takes practice to rein it in.”
Although exhilarating, Giovanni admits that the world of acting is not as glamorous as some might think, especially in the world of theatre. “It’s a grind of eight shows a week. I’ve worked every Christmas for 10 years,” she says. “We’re up there performing two or three shows a day when everyone comes to New York to catch a Thanksgiving show.”
In addition to honing her skills and developing her repertoire of Broadway experience, New York is also where Giovanni met her husband, Philip Ambrosino.
Life as Detective Sykes
In 2009, Giovanni secured the part of Vivienne Wright on the daytime Emmy-winning series One Life to Live and expanded her acting into TV roles. While she has played many characters, she cites her current role as Amy Sykes, an undercover police detective and military veteran who served in Afghanistan on TNT’s series Major Crimes, as one of her favorites. “Amy gets a back story this season. I think fans are really curious about what makes her who she is, and now they’ll finally see why,” Giovanni explains.
The third season of Major Crimes, which will debut in June 2014, is sure to keep fans on the edge of their seats. “The show will have a great rhythm this season,” adds Giovanni. “It’ll vary from some fantastic comedy to some heartbreaking episodes.”
While Giovanni says there is always a lot of jabbing and practical joking on set, the hours are long and the cast works hard to make sure they are giving it their all. “I typically wake up around 5 a.m. and sneak out of the house to the set so I don’t wake anyone,” laughs Giovanni. After hair, makeup, and blocking rehearsals, they usually shoot scenes for around 12 hours. “We have a great time,” she adds.
Becoming a Mother
Having relocated to Los Angeles, Giovanni enjoys spending downtime with her husband and two daughters, Jordan, 6, and Peyton, 4. “Balancing everything can be tricky of course. I keep a calendar everywhere and try to stay on top of who goes where and who has what,” she says. “And we always make it a point to have a date night once a week.”
Giovanni and her family love being outdoors whether its concerts, a park, or having a backyard barbecue. “I often refer to myself as the ‘activities queen,’” she laughs. They even include the family’s long-haired Chihuahua, Neo.
Having a stunning actress as a mom has not altered her girls’ perspective. “They have only seen me on TV once, and it was me on the soap opera getting a pie thrown in my face. They think that’s all I do now – like a clown,” she says with a smile.
Giovanni also says that becoming a mom has made her appreciate her own mother even more, and she has learned not to sweat the small stuff. “It really humbles you,” she says. “No matter what is going on at work, you’ll still be ‘mother’ when you get back home.”
A Heart for Others
In addition to her TV roles, Broadway, and being the family’s event coordinator, Giovanni is also heavily involved in several charities. She is active with the Sunshine Kids Organization, which was founded by fellow Major Crimes cast member G.W. Bailey, and is dedicated to providing fun events to children receiving cancer treatments.
Another cause close to Giovanni’s heart is the Lupus Foundation, especially after losing her mother to the autoimmune disorder. She also maintains a philanthropic passion for the Special Olympics and is an active supporter of dance programs and art projects that are centered on helping children. “Times have changed, and so many young people haven’t been given the guidance to make strong choices,” she explains. “I was lucky enough to have parents and teachers that gave me the confidence to own my decisions and to fall, and then get back up.”
To other young people pursuing a career in acting, her advice is clear: “Make a choice for your future, work toward it 100%, and don’t be afraid to fall, then get up and try again.” KM
KIRSTEN CORNELL is the lead associate editor for Katy Magazine. She is a fan of Kearran Giovanni and Major Crimes, and is looking forward to seeing more of Detective Sykes.
The mother of Julian Salinas, a young bowler formerly featured in Katy Magazine’s summer 2011 Notes and News section, recently updated us on her son’s current endeavors.
As a fifth grader at Hubenak Elementary, Salinas is staying busy both academically and through outside extracurricular activities. Over the past few years, Salinas has continued to practice, compete, and improve his bowling game, helping him become one of the top ranked bowlers in his age bracket in Texas. Salinas currently bowls with three different leagues – COYSL Youth League at Times Square Entertainment in Katy, SSS Sport League at Copperfield, and HS Travel League with the regional high school bowlers in Katy/Houston.
Through bowling, Salinas has won awards and over $2500 in scholarships that will go towards his college fund. During summer he will compete against the best bowlers in the country in the USBC Junior Gold Championships in Buffalo, NY.
Katy families share their thoughts on “The Importance of Grandparents.” Four ways they enrich the lives of their grandchildren.
Written by Heather Lowrie | Select photography by Sara Isola
A grandparent inspires, educates, and loves unconditionally. This special relationship is created in love and forged by family ties that can’t be broken. Carl and Norma Lenz remember how they felt when they got the wonderful news that they would be grandparents. “An overwhelming feeling of excitement and awe came over us,” says Norma. “That was shortly followed by an awareness of the responsibility to be the best grandparents we knew how to be.” Whether you have been a grandparent for years, or you are waiting for the arrival of a new grandbaby any minute now, the unique relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is something that must be experienced to truly understand.
Donned in tiaras and cowboy boots, the Katy Cowgirls celebrate over 70 years of tradition
Written by Ella Hearrean | Photography courtesy of Katy Cowgirls
Katy, TX News – Carla Fisher was in fifth grade when she watched the Katy Cowgirls perform for the first time and told her parents, “I want to do that.” Eight years later, as a senior line captain of the mounted drill team, the Katy High School junior says, “I’ve learned leadership skills, gained friendships, and I feel proud carrying the flag during parades and performances.”
Representing the Community
This year, the organization of Katy ISD student horse-riding performers marks over 70 years of representing their hometown and school district at community events. Its 27 riders, whose ages range from 8 to 17 years, don their trademark tiaras and hats and present choreographed patterns at events like the Katy Rice Harvest Festival and Special Children’s Day. The culmination of their hard work is the annual presentation of the flags at the Katy Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Anita Mancini, director of the Katy Cowgirls for the past 11 years, attributes the success of the group to the diligence of its members. “These girls are the cream of the crop. Most are in advanced academic classes and are involved in other school and social activities, but they are dedicated to their horses and to each other. They are learning to be leaders.”
Working as a Team
The Katy Cowgirls accept girls of all skill levels, which Mancini says distinguishes the group from other team sports. “We want them to simply be able to walk, trot, and lope a horse with a flag in hand. We’ll take on someone with basic skills and a horse.”
The differences in abilities help the girls work as a team. “Their talents are different. Without each person’s position, the performance isn’t right,” says Mancini. Nine-year-old rider Faith Mancini agrees. “When I’m scared of holding the flag or steering the horse, the older girls make me feel comfortable and confident,” she says.
Their challenges strengthen the team as well. “The horses are spooked by the flags at first, so we have to teach them,” says Mancini. “They are also large animals that will misbehave. The girls learn to discipline them with respect.” Fisher adds that working closely with friends can sometimes be difficult. “Sometimes we have arguments and have to work them out, but Miss Anita always helps us. These girls are my best friends. They are like family.”
The team relies on the support of others, including five cowhands who prepare horses for rides and watch for the girls’ safety. “These are strong, capable young men who are always available,” says Mancini. She adds that parents are critical to the group’s success. “They show support by driving the girls and helping them reach their goals. Their commitment is awesome.”
Spreading the Love
Their camaraderie is evident in fun group traditions such as smashing cupcakes in birthday girls’ faces and going on annual alumni trail rides. It is also evident in their ability to come together to meet goals, such as exceeding their goal to support the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Mancini says, “Their horse rides, bake sale, and collections from family and friends raised over $7,000. I was so proud of them.”
Mancini’s close relationships with her current riders, as well as her 400 alumni riders, are reflected in their nicknames for her: “Miss A,” “Barn Mama,” even “Nana” by her granddaughter Faith – one of the youngest on the team. “I get to know each girl and what is going on with her so I can help her reach her goals,” she says. “They are such a blessing in the way they love me back.”
Ushering a New Season
The team is gearing up for its annual membership tryouts at the Katy ISD rodeo arena, where newcomers are judged on basic skills and where veteran members interview for spots as captain. Mancini is confident the new season will hold wonderful adventures. She shares, “I just can’t say enough about these girls. I can’t do them justice.” KM
ELLA HEARREAN is a Katy-area writer and editor.
Lena and David Carlberg share how they manage their daily routine with 10 children
Written by Holly Leger | Photography by Sara Isola
Katy, TX News – “Alyssa, Annie, Aidan, Alec, Andrew, Adam, Ashton, Abigail, Addison, Adrian…” No you’re not listening to a nursery rhyme; that is breakfast roll call at the Carlberg home. Lena Carlberg still finds it hard to believe sometimes. “I didn’t plan it that way,” she laughs. “I wasn’t ever going to have 10 kids.” She and her husband, David, are proud parents of six boys and four girls, ranging in age from 1 to 16 years old.
Planning A Family
David and Lena met in 1996 while working at the Olive Garden. A couple of years later, they began dating. Soon both wanted a family, but had slightly opposing views on the matter. Lena’s mother came from a family of seven. Lena and her two brothers have fond memories of being surrounded by their cousins at family gatherings. “I remember crying and begging my mom to have more [kids],” Lena says.
David on the other hand, grew up with the large family Lena wanted so badly. He was the youngest of eight, and had different dreams about starting a family of his own. “I wanted twins – a boy and a girl, and then be done,” David laughs. However, before either of them compromised on the matter, they got a surprise and learned they were pregnant with a baby girl. In the following 15 years, Lena and David added nine more children to their family. “There’s no explanation,” Lena says. “They just kept coming, and we didn’t want to stop – until now. We are officially done,” she adds, looking at 1-year-old Adrian in her arms.
With six children attending three different schools and four children staying at home each day, the Carlbergs follow a tight schedule. Lena and David expect the kids to help along the way. For instance, while Lena takes 13-year-old Annie, who has cerebral palsy, to therapy after school, Alyssa, 16 and Aidan, 11 watch over their younger siblings at home. Alyssa even helps them with their homework. Lena says sometimes they perform tasks like these without even being told to. “They’re actually amazing at helping each other,” she says. And of course, mom and dad put in their share of work – with Lena doing about three loads of laundry a day, and David cooking dinner each night after he returns from work at Inchcape Shipping Services.
The Wolf Pack
Another challenge Lena faces are her sons’ seemingly endless games of wrestling. “I don’t know how to stop that,” she laughs, as David reassures her that it’s probably a universal problem with boys. These four brothers are what Lena likes to call, “the wolf pack,” because they are such close pals.
According to Lena, Ashton, age 4, was recently lost to the wolf pack, too. How did she know? “All the sudden, he says, ‘I don’t like Barney!’” But the wolf packs does more than wrestle and disown Barney. They also take good care of their sister, Annie. Lena says the boys constantly make sure Annie has everything she needs, whether it is a missing piece to a game she’s playing, or a glass of water. “I can hear them talking to her,” Lena shares. “They listen really intently.”
Hectic But Happy
It is love like that which makes their full house something special. The mess and noise may sometimes be amplified, but then again, so are the holidays and the family fun – like the 12 birthdays they get to celebrate each year. “There’s never a dull moment,” David says. “There’s always something going on.” From being the little girl who once longed for more siblings, to becoming the mother of 10 children, Lena couldn’t be happier with her lot of straight A’s. “My favorite thing is without a doubt all the love, all the hugs, and all the laughter,” she says. “I guess you can say I’m addicted to kids – especially mine.” KM
HOLLY LEGER loves hearing her father’s stories about growing up as one of 10 in the Kitten family.
Dedicated Cinco Ranch Junior High teacher Suzette Steward is named Teacher of the Year on Live with Kelly and Michael
Written by Susan Perini | Select photography by Melissa Crowder
Katy, Texas News – When Lisa Clements nominated Suzette Steward for the National Teacher of the Year Award from the daytime talk show Live with Kelly and Michael, she wrote, “You just have to meet her. [Suzette] has more energy, passion, and love for kids than you will find in any other human being.”
Clements should know. She is the mom of one of the many children whose lives have been impacted by Steward’s passion and dedication during her years teaching in Katy ISD.
More Than a Teacher
“I’m just a teacher,” shrugs Steward in the video shown on Live with Kelly and Michael. “I go to work to do what I need to do, so my kids can be better individuals later on in life.”
But anyone who knows Steward, knows she’s more than “just” a teacher. Steward, who grew up in Katy, was inspired early in life to work with people with special needs. After earning her degree in recreational therapy, she began working in Katy ISD in 2004 at Exley Elementary. When her students graduated to junior high, she moved with them and began teaching the Junior Child Autism Program (JCAP) at Cinco Ranch Junior High (CRJH). Simultaneously, Steward began working tirelessly with the Special Olympics program, as well as starting two camp programs of her own – Camp Journey and Camp Rocks – both of which offer a variety of activities for children with autism.
After Clements submitted her letter nominating Steward for the National Teacher of the Year award, Steward, who was unaware of the nomination, easily slid into the top 12.
CRJH principal Elizabeth Kuylen was thrilled when she received a call from the show’s producers telling her that Steward was a finalist. “She deserves to have this recognition,” Kuylen says. “With Suzette, what you see is what you get. She really does have that much energy, enthusiasm, and passion.”
When 12 finalists were narrowed down to five, Steward flew to New York to appear on Live with Kelly and Michael. Friends and co-workers donned “Team Suzette” shirts and rallied to get people to vote for her – which wasn’t difficult. Everyone who knows Steward is touched by her commitment to students and her genuine enthusiasm for teaching.
Beyond the Classroom
Steward’s work is not simply confined to the classroom. Every weekday, Steward runs an after-school exercise program where her students can interact with the community while burning off some excess energy. She opens her home to her students on Friday nights, Saturdays, and even Sundays to offer “weekend respite” for parents. Instead of summer vacation, Steward spearheads Camp Journey, 11 weeklong day camps for kids with special needs. Camp Rocks takes place on weekends and holidays throughout the year. Remarking on Steward’s level of dedication, Kuylen quips, “As far as I know, she doesn’t sleep.” Steward always runs an after-school care program to provide her students with much-needed physical activity.
“She really is amazing,” says Renee Thomas, a fellow Katy ISD teacher whose son Garrett has reaped the benefits of Steward’s work with the Special Olympics, Camp Journey, and Camp Rocks. “She has a passion for children. Garrett, even with his limited verbal skills, actually asks to go to Camp Rocks!”
The Big Win
On May 7, 2013, Kuylen received the news that Steward was the winner. She arranged for Steward’s husband, family, friends, students, and co-workers to surround Steward outside the front of the school as she heard the exciting news. Steward was overwhelmed. “It’s such an honor,” she says. “I feel like it shines a light on our program, the staff, the kids, and their parents. It isn’t just my award; it’s for us all.”
Steward won a new car from Ford, as well as a much deserved Tahitian vacation – which she has yet to take. CRJH was awarded $25,000 and five Mobi Learners, which allow multiple students to interact with lesson content simultaneously, creating a more collaborative classroom. With the award money, Kuylen has also purchased additional technology items for the school including 25 iPads, three document cameras, projectors, a new set of graphing calculators, clickers, and some equipment for the art department.
Kuylen hopes the attention brought to their JCAP program will produce more community awareness of Katy students with special needs as well as more support for programs like Steward’s that meet their needs.
Living the Dream
Steward plans to continue working with special needs students. “Every day, I get to help these kids reach new goals and master things they’ve never imagined doing,” she says. “I am living my dream.”
In the future, Steward hopes to become more active with Home and Community-based Services, a support group for families of people with disabilities which provides vocational training and group homes. She would like to have her own special needs community someday. In the meantime, she will continue to do what she does best: love, inspire, and teach. KM
SUSAN PERINI lives in Katy with her husband and three children, one of whom has autism.
Autistic teen, Grant Manier, transforms scrap paper into stunning works of Eco-Art
Written by Meagan Clanahan
Katy, Texas News – From magazines to wrapping paper and tissue boxes to puzzle pieces, 18-year-old Grant Manier sees more than just paper. He sees a medium that can be brought to life through hours of work fashioned into amazing collages. He is now one of the country’s most exciting emerging artists with statewide accolades. Even more amazing, he’s done it all with a diagnosis that most would consider a disability.
An Early Love of Paper
By the age of 3, Manier (pronounced maun-yay) showed an extreme fascination with shredding paper and creating tiny little drawings. In the same breath, he was also exhibiting signs of extreme anxiety, social challenges, and an obsession with lining up toys in perfectly straight lines.
At 5 years old, he was diagnosed with Asberger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Struggling academically and bullied by his peers, Manier retreated and used paper shredding as a coping technique. While some of his teachers complained that it was disruptive in the classroom, mom Julie Coy-Manier sought to channel the tearing into positive behavior. Realizing that mainstream schooling was not working for Grant, his mother decided that homeschooling was the next best option. Once at home, Julie encouraged her son to create pictures out of the recycled paper filling up their living room.
Shredding with a Purpose
Much to his mom’s dismay, he preferred to produce his art in front of a blaring TV. However, she soon discovered that TV was not the nuisance, it was the muse.
“He needed the noise to concentrate,” she explains. “He wasn’t even really paying attention to it.” While she knew that Grant had artistic talents, Julie was floored when she saw the first finished piece of Eco-Art. Entitled “Sun God” and painstakingly shaped out of almost 4,000 pieces of shredded paper – 14-year-old Grant had discovered his passion.
Soon he was spending upwards of 30 hours per week on his “eco-impressionist” pieces. He follows the same method for every painting: tear, glue, shade, glaze, and repeat. “I never know how each one will turn out. I just keep going and see what comes of it,” Grant says.
He finds inspiration and ideas from nature, academic subjects, his Native American heritage, and even from his friends. His “coolages,” as he refers to them, have brought Grant peace and purpose. “Art is my meditation,” he explains. “Sometimes I’ll go do something else, but I always come back an hour later to do more.”
Seeking a school that would allow Grant to continue to develop his social skills, keep up with his academics, and allow flexibility for his art growth, the Manier’s enrolled at Focus Academy in Katy.
“At the beginning when he was starting art shows, he wouldn’t even look up,” says Focus executive director, Jacquelyn Mulkey. “Now he is able to tell us about his art instead of just doing it. The confidence boost is amazing.”
Grant echoes her sentiments. “I can relate to the kids here,” he says. “Many of them have the same issues as me – so it works.” The other students also look up to him according to Mulkey. “They see Grant having success because of his disability,” she articulates. “Not in spite of his disability.”
Creating a Future
Because the class structure at Focus Academy allows him to attend classes three times a week and complete the rest of his coursework at home via computer, Grant is able to take his art to a new level. That includes participating in art shows, leading live demonstrations state-wide, and selling his pieces.
To date, he has sold four original Eco-Art pieces and has generated over $65,000 in sales of reprints, note cards, and calendars. He has also become an Autism advocate and is committed to giving back financially to multiple organizations across Houston. As the demand for his work has grown, he has even commissioned a local organization called Different Abilities to help mass produce and package his products. “Grant is an outstanding young man with a gentle soul. His incredible and imaginative art is a gift from God,” says District 7 Senator Dan Patrick.
According to Grant, he’s unsure what the future holds for him and prefers to live in the present, but he also feels art will always be in his life. With 85% of ASD adults unemployed, Julie sees it a little differently. She hopes that his art will be an ultimate source of income as he makes his way into adulthood.
“The greatest fear as parents of children with ASD is their future,” she states. “Initially, we saw this as an outlet. As people began to impress upon me the skill level Grant was at, I realized it could be his future, too.” But regardless of where it may lead, Julie has only one ultimate wish for her son, “I just want him to be happy.” KM
MEAGAN CLANAHAN is a Katy freelance writer who loves telling the stories of inspirational people in our community.