By Devin Corbitt-Garcia, The Belton Journal
Walking the Red Carpet is always a thrilling experience, particularly when you know you’re walking it because you’ve made a difference in the life of students. This was exactly the case last Thursday, when more than 200 members of the Big Red Community attended the Belton Educational Enrichment Foundation’s (BEEF) annual Red Carpet Event.
The event is a fundraiser that benefits the Belton Independent School District (BISD), both for students and teachers. BEEF was founded in 1992 to provide student scholarships and teacher grants within the district to those most deserving or in need of help.
“Our purpose is to provide student scholarships and teacher support to the Belton Independent School District (BISD),” BEEF President Robert Jones said. “Last year, we funded 132 scholarships for seniors, giving out $115,000. We also awarded $45,000 in teacher grants. This year’s Red Carpet Event has turned out to be better than we could have imagined. We’ve raised over $15,000 already tonight in table sponsors, and that doesn’t even include our live auction.”
The Red Carpet is one of two major fundraising events for the Foundation. The golf tournament, which was held in June, raised more than $19,000. Of that money, nearly 100 percent will go toward grants and scholarships, as all who serve with BEEF are volunteers.
“The overwhelming support from the Belton and Temple communities enabled us to raise $110,000 for scholarships and teacher grants,” Leshia Toliver, BEEF member and Red Carpet Coordinator, said. “It was wonderful to see everyone come together to support students and teachers and have so much fun in the process. The auctioneer for the evening, Trey Gallaway, is always entertaining. With his help our auction items raised over $11,000. Bob Shipley and his daughter Shelby were wonderful emcees and helped everyone enjoy the entire evening.”
BISD Athletic Director Bob Shipley and his daughter Shelby Nuñez emceed the event, introducing such names as Superintendent Susan Kincannon and BISD Board of Trustees President Randy Pittenger. Kincannon opened the speeches by sharing her view of BISD as an educational utopia.
“This community supports our kids and wants them to have the best of everything. We want to provide the best educational opportunities for them,” Kincannon said. “The money raised from this event is going to create some opportunities for teachers and students. By funding grants for teachers, you’re empowering our educators to be innovators in the classroom and go above and beyond. By funding scholarships for our students, you are empowering our kids to excel in tomorrow’s world, and that’s our mission. So thank you for supporting our kids. This really is a great place to live; it’s a great place to raise your kids. While we may not be perfect, many people do think it’s the place to be and one of the most desirable school districts to be in.”
Kincannon went on to introduce Rachel England, a 2014 BEEF scholarship recipient. England graduated last June from Belton High School and currently attends Texas A&M University, where she is pursing a degree in animal science.
“I’m particularly interested in genetics. I want to thank BEEF because they have given me a general scholarship to get me this far in Texas A&M, and I really want to thank them more because they might be supporting the next geneticist who creates the next Secretariat,” England said with a laugh. “I have about 10 friends who have gone to A&M with me. They all received BEEF scholarships. One of them, a business major, wants to be an entrepreneur. For all you know, maybe you have the next Bill Gates. I want you to thank yourselves for creating a future for everyone: agriculture, theater, business. You’re creating the future for society and for the world.”
Kincannon then brought Joshua Essary to the stage. Essary has taught in the district for eight years, serving as a middle school assistant band director, head band director and technology instructional facilitator. He has received not one, but two teacher grants for his students.
Essary applied for his first BEEF grant during his first year with the district as an assistant at Belton Middle School and didn’t expect much from it.
“So I’m in front of the band one day teaching, and all of a sudden, I hear cowbells and Randy Pittenger coming down the hall,” Essary said. “I went to South Belton (three years later) and applied for a grant there, and I did not get a parade like I wanted, but I was also not declined.”
Instead, then-president of BEEF Judy Owens worked some BEEF magic and found Essary the computers he needed for his band hall. That inspired Essary to apply for one more grant when he moved positions to the technology side of the school. This time, the grant would allow Essary to purchase an open software operating system, creating nearly limitless opportunities for students’ imaginations on the computer.
“I got it, got my parade; it was amazing! We had some sixth graders that made their own time-lapse cameras; we made a light show and turned the lights off for a disco party; we made (musical) compositions,” Essary said. “Without organizations like BEEF that support innovative teaching grants and innovative ideas, I would have never been able to do that with a regular budget.”
Board Presidnet Randy Pittenger rounded out the guest speakers for the night by emphasizing the need for an organization like BEEF and the events they put on for the Big Red Community.
“Everything we do is about our kids and giving our kids opportunities to achieve and do great things,” Pittenger said. “What an awesome, awesome way to see the excitement from our students and our teachers, how excited the get about the opportunities they have. This is a special place. It takes the support of the community to have strong schools, and it takes strong schools to have a great community. We have that here. Sometimes, it’s easy to take that for granted, and I appreciate y’all reminding us it’s not that way everywhere. Thank you for being part of a community that values students, that values public education.”
And then came the moment that attendees had been waiting for: Trey Gallaway took the mic. Gallaway is a state champion auctioneer from right here in Belton, and he graciously agreed to lead the auction for the Red Carpet Event. Thanks to his skills and the generosity of all in attendance, the auction raised $11,000, for a total of $110,000 raised for the students and teachers of BISD.
To find out how you can get involved with BEEF or to support the Big Red Community, call (254) 215-2024 or visit www.bisd.net/beef.