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“It’s the most wonderful time of the year....” or so the song goes. Festive decorations, yummy treats, stores bustling with shoppers and uplifting melodies all set the tone for what is considered the merriest of holidays.
But, for thousands of people, this time of year is a true struggle. Depression and loneliness are common during any holiday season, especially Christmas. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 24% of people diagnosed with mental illness admit that the holidays actually worsen their condition.
When you couple these already staggering statistics with a pandemic that has plagued our world for the past 10 months, the numbers only get worse.
No one knows and watches these numbers more than those who work in the mental health field. Ashley Ward, LPC and Coordinator of Counseling for Mabank ISD, knows first-hand how difficult helping people navigate through the holidays can be. Even more difficult this year is helping students and their parents get through the holidays amid a COVID pandemic. Students and parents have struggled for months with the stress of extended school closures, the difficulties of navigating virtual learning, and the fear of contracting the virus. The stress that holidays can bring is just another plate on top of a stack that is already teetering.
Ward said she has known for years that working with students and supporting their mental health is her passion. She has shared her vision for Mabank ISD with many of the community groups in the area, including the Cedar Creek Lake Rotary Club, the Kiwanis Club, the MISD School Board and, most recently, the MISD District Educational Improvement Committee.
“It was during my first teaching assignment in the Spring of 1999,” Ward recalls. “I remember standing in front of my classroom teaching the planets to a group of kids about five years younger than me. About half way through the lesson, while they were doing whatever it is they do when it looks like their big sister is leading the class, I was struck.”
Ward said she remembers looking out at her class and being overwhelmed by the realization of what she saw… “that kiddo only eats at school, that one gets beat at home, this guy gets locked in his locker between lunch and the next class period every day, and that one has no friends.”
“At that moment, I realized that until some basic needs were met no one would ever care how many planets there were. It was a real learning experience for me,” Ward said.
It was that experience and realizing that helping students meant building relationships in order to become a difference maker that led her to become a counselor.
Ward began working on her master’s degree in counseling while teaching in Mesquite ISD. After graduation, she landed her first job as a counselor at one of the most “at risk” schools in Mesquite.
“On the first day, I had a suicidal outcry and by day four I had an officer restraining a student in my office,” Ward recalled. “This was my introduction to counseling, a so-called trial by fire. It drove home for me the seriousness of the task that I had taken on as a school counselor.”
It was during her time on this campus that Ward realized she had a calling, or aptitude, for crisis counseling and how important crisis counseling can be in a school setting. She went on to get her LPC and become a crisis counselor in Mesquite ISD.
“Studies show that trauma changes the brain,” Ward explained. “When students experience trauma, they are impacted in a way that changes learning, behavior, and life expectancy.”
Ward cited the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) which looked at traumatic childhood experiences (divorce, addiction, abuse, neglect). In this study, researchers gathered data on 17,000 people, over a span of 20 years and discovered that 67% of the American population has experienced at least one traumatic experience in their childhood and that 1 in 8 has experienced 4 or more.
“The study shows that 4 or more traumatic experiences in childhood shortens life expectancy by 20 years, increases the risk of disease and increases the potential for risky behaviors,” Ward explained. “This study forced me to look at what we, as educators, can do on the educational and mental health forefront to change this trajectory.”
It is Ward’s experiences, as well as thousands of other educators, that is spearheading the somewhat new movement for social and emotional learning (SEL) in schools.
Years before there was a pandemic, there were social and emotional discrepancies in learning (socio-economic backgrounds, diverse cultures, abuse, neglect, etc). Educators and mental health workers have been pushing for the need for SEL in schools and touting its benefits: academic achievement, self-regulation, social awareness, building relationships and decision-making to name a few.
“Statistics show that 50% of mental health issues show up by junior high and 75% show up by age 24,” Ward explained. “The problem is that there is an 8-10 year delay in onset of symptoms and formal diagnosis. As school counselors, we want to help shrink that time delay.”
Ward explained that oftentimes the school counselor, while not a therapist, is the only help some students get.
“As counselors it is imperative that we try and shrink that delay from onset to diagnosis,” Ward said. “So, as we begin to see behaviors, or deal with outcries, we need to make connections with the families of our students and help provide them with resources in our area to shorten the time span and help them become healthier, more productive adults.”
School counselors shoulder a myriad of responsibilities: 504 cases, special education referrals, homelessness issues, master scheduling, class scheduling, graduation requirements, college preparation, classroom guidance and testing to name a few. In addition, they provide individual and group counseling.
So, naturally, before implementing any new programs, Ward is ensuring each of the eight counselors in Mabank ISD have plenty of support on their campuses for their already busy schedules.
Ward meets with district counselors monthly for training and to discuss their needs on each campus. She visits campuses regularly to meet with students, advises campuses on frequent consults, and responds whenever a crisis occurs on campus.
“Mrs. Ward has made a positive impact at the high school level,” counselor Kathy Norman said. “Her role allows counselors to come together as a district team and invest in the mental health of our students and staff. She was able to build on some of the responsive services and system supports we had in place and has been extremely supportive and understands the needs of this district.”
In a presentation to the MISD Board of Trustees, Ward addressed the district’s suicide prevention efforts and the district’s suicide protocol.
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24, second only to car accidents. Every year 1 in 6 students seriously consider suicide and 1 in 12 attempt,” Ward shared. “Every expert in the field tells us we should only expect those numbers to climb due to COVID.”
Mabank ISD has a protocol in place for when a student makes a suicidal outcry and all staff members are trained in suicide prevention. Campus counselors will ensure that the student, as well as their family, is provided with local mental health resources to ensure their safety.
Mental health resources are just one piece of information available on the new Mabank ISD Counseling Website (https://www.mabankisd.net/page/counseling) that Ward created once she joined the district. In addition to the resource rich web page, Ward also created a new counseling newsletter that goes out quarterly.
“We are fortunate to have Mrs. Ward as a new member of our Mabank ISD team,” Superintendent Brad Koskelin said. “The social and emotional well-being of our students is of the utmost importance. Her knowledge and expertise in this field has added great value to our counseling program and enhanced our ability to address the varied needs of our students.”
Earlier this month, Ward outlined her implementation of the ChangeMaker curriculum with the MISD District Education Improvement Committee (DEIC).
This evidence-based program, from Momentous Institute, aligns with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards and is a Best Practice Model by the Texas Education Agency. The program will be rolled out in grades Kindergarten through 4th in January, 2021.
“This program is designed to help students understand their brain, cope with difficulty, and empower them,” Ward explained. “Basically, it helps create new and healthier neural pathways.”
The ChangeMakers Model addresses five different steps including (1) Safe Relationships, (2) Self-Regulation: brain, breath, body, feelings and impulse control; (3) Awareness of Self: gratitude, optimism, grit, resilience; (4) Understanding Others: perspective taking, empathy; and (5) ChangeMaker: kindness, compassion and hope.
The plan is to start this curriculum on the three elementary campuses after the holidays and roll it up to the Intermediate campus in the 2021-2022 school year. From there, the program will be integrated into a SEL-rich secondary advisory curriculum.
“Rebecca Stephens, MISD Chief Academic Officer, has been instrumental in making student mental health a priority, and paving the way for strengthening our counseling program. She has been incredibly supportive through our SEL curriculum selection process, and in connecting me with district and community leaders to work together for the benefit of our students and their families. I can’t thank her enough,” Ward stated.
One of the most unique pieces of the curriculum is the universal language of the “Flip Your Lid” brain basics.
In the flip your lid training, students learn how the brain works and how behavior is affected in the midst of crisis. Using their own hands, four fingers (prefrontal cortex) folded over their thumb (amygdala), students can learn how the brain works and how to communicate their feelings. This model helps students identify emotions, learn self-awareness, self-regulate, learn about what they are feeling, the levels of their emotions and a variety of coping mechanisms.
Counselors provide age-appropriate classroom advisory activities, one-on-one counseling sessions, future planning and goal setting, and small group sessions or mediations to implement the program on their campuses.
Ward will ensure that counselors receive ongoing staff development to ensure continuity and fidelity for the program. She will also create a district-wide language for self-regulation and care for self and others, along with providing tools for self-regulation and self-care.
“I knew right away that Mabank ISD was a special place. It’s easy to see that our leaders, community, and stakeholders truly care about the well-being of our students, both physical and mental. As counselors, social-emotional health and mental wellness are at the forefront of our minds, and we are committed to equipping, supporting, and empowering our students to overcome the obstacles in their lives, and achieve their personal and academic goals.” Ward said. “I am so thankful to be part of a district and community that supports that vision and the students we are blessed to serve.”
By Tonya Chapman
MISD Communications Liaison
Mabank ISD hosted its annual food drive through the month of November. This year, the drive benefitted the Mabank Area Good Samaritans food pantry. We were humbled by the generous response of our students and families. A total of five truck loads and one trailer full of donations were delivered just in time for the Holiday Season! We would like to thank all students and families that helped to support our efforts!
Click here for an important message from MISD Administration regarding the back to school guidance documents linked below:
Elementary Back to School Guidance - Click Here
Secondary Back to School Guidance - Click Here
Education Rights and Responsibilities - English | Spanish
The Mabank ISD Education Foundation awarded $40,000 in grant monies this year to Mabank ISD campuses!
Click here for information regarding Senior Graduation Product Ordering from Balfour.
Short Video Exaplaining the Order Process
Product Catalog Link
Mabank High School students, along with local business leaders, participated in the CCL Rotary Club Day of Remembrance and Service Above Self program Friday, Sept. 11. The program recognized first responders from police, fire, school and emergency medical service departments in the area.
Click here for information regarding all Balfour processes being handled electronically this next year.
Short Video Exaplaining the Link Design Process
Jewelry Catalog Link
This information is for returning subs only.
1. Go to classroom.google.com
2. Login with a personal google account.
3. Click the little plus sign in the upper right hand corner and choose “Join Class”
4. Enter the class code: m26ztbr
5. Proceed with content in the class.
2020-2021 New Student Enrollment
New Student Online Enrollment
Returning Student Enrollment
**Update** - June Letter To Families - Click Here
Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) is a one-time food benefit for families who lost access to free or reduced-price meals due to school closures. Eligible P-EBT families will receive application instructions from schools in late May. The P-EBT application will open the first week of June.
P-EBT food benefits are for children who received SNAP food benefits for March 2020 and children who are certified for free or reduced-price school meals during the 2019-20 Texas school year. For more information, visit: hhs.texas.gov/PEBT
MHS Seniors and Parents –
We want to thank all who took part in the Mabank High School Class of 2020 Parade and Graduation Ceremony. Below you will find a link to the YouTube channel that houses the video of the event from both the High School porch area as well as Market Street. We also have provided a link to a google drive containing the photos taken at the event.
Videos: Click Here
Pictures: Click Here
MHS Administration and Senior Sponsors
Click the image below to access the COVID-19 FFCRA Notice:
Mabank High School Sophomore Emily G. received the “Gold Seal” from the VASE (Visual Arts Scholastic Education) competition making her work among some of the most elite high school artists in the State of Texas.
Emily’s work, “Natural Beauty,” was one of 31,237 entries, state-wide, in the competition. Of those entries, 2,442 advanced to state. From those entries, only 150 students received a score of “5” which earned those entries the “Gold Seal” recognition. The “Gold Seal” status placed Emily in the .48 percent of artists in the competition.
“Natural Beauty” is a 3D sculpture, made from recyclable materials, depicting a tropical fish. Emily’s inspiration for the piece came from her time spent in Hawaii before moving to Texas this year. Her goal was to capture the beauty of Hawaii and the things from there that were familiar to her.
“This is a remarkable achievement of recognition, especially for a student new to the art world,” MHS Art Teacher Wendy Brantley said. “Emily is a visionary and has a unique process in formulating her creations. I would not at all be surprised to see her in a gallery showcase as an adult artist in years to come.”
According to Brantley, Emily’s use of recyclable materials allowed her to experiment with the creative process and at the same time encourage others to treat the environment responsibly.
The 150 pieces that earned “Gold Seal” status will continue to be viewed on a gallery tour across Texas during the next school year.
Click the below image for a pdf version of important Pre-Kindergarten, Head Start, and Kindergarten Registration Information:
Click the image below to view a pdf version of this important information from TEA regarding COVID-19:
Congratulations to our Campus Teachers, Paraprofessionals and Auxiliary Employees of the Year!
Pictured below are the MHS Band State Solo and Ensemble Qualifiers and All State Band Member, Hayden E.
National Signing Day February 5, 2020 (Pictured Below: Kaleb A., Laura D., Devyn G., Bodie R.)
Mabank High School hosted Alumni Day on Friday, January 10. This event featured former MHS students who returned to visit with current seniors about college-life and work experience. The 9-person panel spoke about where they were in the educational/workforce process and answered questions from students. Alumni members were able to share a wealth of experiences including how high school prepared them for secondary education and what students should seek out in high school for a better experience, the college admission/vocational school process, advice about continuing education and cost, and life beyond school. The panel included Jacey Pridgen, Dustin Huffman, Brittany Findley, Whitney Cathey, Andrew Rogers, Conner Pierce, Kaylee Caffey, Cotton Riley, Ty Winkelvoss, and Adrian Gonzalez. Principal Brett Haugh spoke with the panel about their past experience as a MHS student. High School Counselors Kathy Norman, Patricia Riley and Erika Zeller plan to make Alumni Day an annual event. See pictures below:
The MISD Education Foundation awarded $40,000.00 worth of grant money to our wonderful teachers!
The Mabank ISD School Board, Superintendent Joffre, and some central administration staff awarded retention incentive checks to employees! See pictures below:
(opens PDF document)
We are excited to present our new IOS/Android App!
You can find out more about the Mabank ISD Mobile App by clicking here(opens PDF document).
To download the app, simply search "Mabank ISD" in the Google Play and/or Apple App Stores or click the links below on your phone:
(opens external link in new window)
As a young boy Cotton Riley dreamed of flying. So much so that the self-proclaimed “speed and adrenaline junkie” worked most of his high school years toward attending the US Air Force Academy and becoming a fighter pilot. That all changed during his junior year at Mabank High School. Cotton Riley still wanted to fly; he was just going to use a different vehicle to do so.
Cotton switched gears on his career plan as a student in Leonard Eason’s high school automotive class.
Eason recalled the day Cotton came into his class and told him about his dreams of becoming a fighter pilot.
“I told him that becoming a pilot was fine, but asked him if he had ever considered the possibility of flying two feet off the ground,” Eason said. “I remember him processing that for a second or two, then replying, “Wow! That sounds like fun.”
Eason spent the next few months teaching, talking up the advantages of a career in the automotive industry and showing his students the possibilities that awaited them with time and proper training.
That is when it clicked for Cotton.
“I saw an opportunity to be in a career field that would not die out in a few years,’ Cotton explained. “I knew that after graduation I didn’t want to sit in a classroom anymore. I wanted to go to work and I wanted to work with my hands.”
His mind began to soar. Cotton started looking at options for continuing his education in a new field of study.
“The CTE (Career Technical Education) classes at Mabank gave me an opportunity to learn a craft before I left school,” Cotton explained. “I knew that when I left Mabank I wouldn’t be behind the curve.”
Cotton shopped the top schools in the automotive industry including Universal Technical Institute (UTI), Texas State Technical College, Lincoln Tech and WyoTech in Wyoming.
“Mr. Eason was a great resource for me. He is great at what he does and knows what he is talking about when it comes to the auto industry and training,” Cotton said. “He trained us and introduced us to so many opportunities. When he took us to tour the UTI campus I knew then what I wanted to do.”
Once Cotton was sold, the next step was persuading his parents. He knew they would take some convincing.
Like many parents Chuck and Patricia Riley were worried about whether or not a technical school would meet society’s expectations for higher education in the workplace. As a school counselor, Patricia was well aware of the need for skilled workers but also knew that society has a preconceived notion about the need for a college degree.
“Cotton’s education was important to us,” Patricia said. “We knew that Cotton was more than capable of succeeding at a four-year university and we knew the importance of having a post-secondary education. We just needed to know that a tech school could provide Cotton with everything he needed to be successful.”
A tour of the UTI facility in Irving, including a meeting with a recruiter, was all it took to convince Cotton’s parents that tech school was a great fit for their son.
“I was impressed not only with hands-on training that students were receiving, but with the academic program as well,” Patricia recalled. “There was a focus on writing, math and communication skills. I knew Cotton was going to leave UTI with a greater knowledge than just knowing how to work under the hood of a car.”
So with his parent’s blessing Cotton began his one-year training at UTI.
Like any school, UTI kicked off the year with orientation. Students were introduced to their new surroundings, rules, regulations and post-graduate programs that were available.
“That is when I set a goal to get into the Porsche Technology Apprentice Program. It was the most sought after and most difficult to get into,” Cotton said. “I saw it as a challenge.”
Cotton knew it would mean being on top of his game and that Porsche would only reach out to those students who met the UTI standards. He also knew that he would not know if he made the program until close to graduation.
So for one year Cotton worked hard, maintained a 3.9 GPA and a 99 percent attendance rate. Then, one month before graduation, Cotton got the email he was waiting for; the email that told him he qualified for the Porsche program. But qualifying did not insure that he was in, it only meant that he would take the next step. Cotton was then subject to weekly interviews by Porsche staff, sometimes more than one interview per week.
“They would ask questions about work experience, our comfort in working in certain situations, seeing if I was well versed in my skill,” Cotton said.
At the end of the month Cotton finally got the confirmation. He was invited to participate in the Porsche program. He graduated from UTI on August 31, 2018 and four days later he was sitting in a classroom in Atlanta, Georgia, at Porsche Headquarters.
Being accepted came with several perks. Aside from getting to work on some of the most exquisite, high performing vehicles in the industry, Cotton was one of only 48 students selected each year to the program.
“They paid for my travel to Atlanta, my housing and they helped make sure I had part-time employment while I was there,” Cotton added. “And, if I was successful in the program, they would make sure I had a job afterward.”
In addition to the challenge of the Porsche program, Cotton faced something even more difficult. For the first time in his life he was separated from his family and everything he had ever known. He was now more than 10 hours away, learning how to live on his own, adjusting to a place he had never been, and going to school.
“I had never lived outside of Kemp,” Cotton said. “I had attended Mabank my whole life. I didn’t know anything different. I had never lived on my own. It was a huge adjustment.”
Fortunately, the program kept him busy and the excitement of what he was doing kept him motivated.
“We spent a lot of time working on the cars, about 70/30 percent ratio of car to classroom,” Cotton said. “I am a hands on learner. I like to feel my way around and manipulate my way through the experience. It was the perfect learning environment for me.”
While repairing the cars was exciting, once those magnificent machines are repaired they have to be test-driven; and they have to be driven by the person who does the repairs.
Cotton had never driven a Porsche so getting behind the wheel of a car that is known for its high performance and speed was exactly what he was looking for in a career. It was the excitement of driving these machines, along with the challenge of the program and the advanced technology of the car that sold Cotton on becoming one of the elite members of the Porsche technician team.
One of his first experiences with a Porsche was a 2019 911 Turbo S.
“It had 5 miles on it,” Cotton recalled. “I got to drive that car on the racetrack at Porsche Headquarters. I had never been in a vehicle that accelerated that fast. It was like a go kart on steroids.”
The fastest he has ever been: 182 miles per hour on a closed track.
Cotton, who at the age of 20 is the youngest certified Porsche technician in the United States, is now a technician for Porsche Grapevine, which is just a stone’s throw from Park Place Lexus, where he worked while attending UTI. And, Grapevine is much closer to home and family.
“I get to work on people’s race cars all day long, in a brand new, spotless, air conditioned facility,” Cotton boasted.
So now that he has completed his education and is settled into a new career, what does Cotton have planned for the future?
“I hope one day to move up into a management position or even own my own Porsche shop,” Cotton said. He also said the future includes a car: a Porsche GT3RS.
For now, Cotton is focusing on becoming a great technician. His drive and his work ethic do not go unnoticed. His alma mater has taken an interest in his journey.
“I have been asked to speak at some of UTI’s larger events and I filmed a commercial for them,” Cotton said.
Additionally, Cotton was told just days ago that he was nominated for the 2019 Top Graduate award from UTI. Given by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), a win for Cotton would mean that his picture and testimonial would be aired on every UTI campus throughout the United States.
The nomination itself is prestigious. Only one student from each of the 11 UTI campuses across the country are nominated. Even more exciting, winning the award would mean that all of Cotton’s student loans (both his and his parents’ portions) would be paid in full, including any expenses that have already been paid.
“It has been such a pleasure watching this young man grow in so many ways. I am so proud of his accomplishments,” Eason said about his protégé. “I told him once, if you do your best, God will do the rest.”
Cotton’s response to all of this attention: “I just turn wrenches, and love what I do.”
So, while the landscape of Cotton’s future has changed, one aspect has not. Cotton still managed to reach his goal to fly, but now he flies on wheels, instead of wings.
State Preliminary Accountability Ratings are in:
Congratulations to all the students and staff for all their accomplishments!
Mabank ISD strives for excellence through trust, integrity, hard work, and proactive communication while providing a safe learning environment.
310 E. Market St. | Mabank, Texas 75147
Phone: 903.880.1300 | Fax: 903.880.1303
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