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The Mansfield ISD Orchestra Program made its debut four years ago with a phased in approach.

It started as an introduction to string instruments for fifth-graders in 2016. Now, those students who stayed in the program are freshman in high school.

“I think it’s just exciting to be part of something that’s new, and we’re the first group to experience it,” said Eliana Nguyen, freshman at Legacy High School.

Nguyen is one of seven MISD string students to be selected for one of the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) high school all-region orchestras. Dr. Russ Sanders, director of fine arts, said it is a pretty big accomplishment to achieve that in the program’s first year of high school eligibility.

“We’re proud of these students for working hard and achieving such an honor,” he said. “This is the first step, and we’re working toward the all-state level next.”

Dr. Sanders added that the district’s orchestra program gives students an opportunity to pursue their love of music while developing a number of skills that extend far beyond the rehearsal room. Nguyen agrees.

“It helps you to listen more and to be more aware,” the 15-year-old said. “You just get to communicate all the different emotions when you play a piece.”

The MISD Orchestra Program will continue to expand every year until it is available to students in grades 5-12. Nguyen said joining the string orchestra program and sticking to it is a decision she doesn’t regret.

“It’s just amazing to see how much we have improved,” said Nguyen. “If you think about where we used to be and compare it to now, it just makes it all worth it.”

For more information about the MISD Orchestra Program, visit the MISD Fine Arts web page.


Mansfield ISD will still be ringing in the holiday season in a major way with its well-known annual Toys for Tots Drive.

This year, the toy drive will look a little different; but the goal to help children in need while providing fun for the entire community remains the same.

“Toys for Tots 2020: Holiday Cheertacular” will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 2 from 5 to 10:30 p.m. at the MISD Center for the Performing Arts, located at 1110 W. Debbie Lane. The event is absolutely free to attend.

Guests are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy to drop off. Guests can then drive around to view the festive light displays and experience the drive-in movie theater featuring holiday student performances.

The purpose of the event is to gather thousands of toys in partnership with schools, local business partners and other community organizations to help families in need—a mission that is more important than ever. Mansfield ISD has reimagined this community event this year to help spread holiday joy all from the comfort and safety of your vehicle.

Guests must remain in their vehicle throughout the event. Restrooms will be available on the first floor for guests, and any person using the restroom must wear a mask once outside of their vehicle and practice social distancing.

Don’t miss this holiday celebration filled with safe, family fun! For those who cannot attend the event, student performances will be available to watch live on Dec. 2 at www.mansfieldisd.org/MISDTV.

Please note that event attractions and offerings may be subject to change to ensure the safety of the MISD community. For more information, call the MISD Center for the Performing Arts at 817-299-1230 or visit center.mansfieldisd.org.


Practice makes perfect for the members of Mansfield ISD’s Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corp (JROTC) classes.

Every move has to be precise, and there are many hours spent together making sure the cadence of each step and movement of each tool is on point.

With the option for students to take classes online this school year, that expectation didn’t change for the virtual JROTC students. The use of technology and creative thinking has helped cadets who are learning online to still be very integrated in the physical daily routines.

“Being a veteran for 20 years, we’re used to being safe, we’re used to changes,” said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Kinnel, army instructor at Mansfield High School. “The way we looked at it is this pandemic didn’t change anything we’re doing; we just had to figure out a way to keep our students involved.”

Kinnel has a session for virtual students and in-person students every day. Every student is expected to be ready for their drills, even if they have to make some minor tweaks to what they use.

“It’s interesting because instead of using a real saber, I have to use my broom,” said Amanda Vidal, a junior at Mansfield High. “I love JROTC because that’s what has helped me to stay disciplined.”

To keep his virtual students’ interest in the program, Kinnel said he makes sure they have a part in everything that happens. The online students even marched in a parade for Veterans Day dressed up in full uniform from home as Kinnel carted them along on his laptop.

“It was very pivotal to us to have the kids virtual and to have them interact with the kids who are in person,” he said. “We wanted them to feel as if they were here.”

Despite the changes being made to accommodate all students, Kinnel said the coronavirus pandemic was a way to teach kids that they must remain resilient in life.

“Keep moving. Keep driving on. Find a different way, and conquer whatever’s out there,” he added. “Nothing in the world can stop us. You just have to find a better way to do things.”

MISD has a JROTC program at each of its traditional high schools representing different branches of the military.


Not too many people can say they've made items for a NASA mission, but some Mansfield ISD students are already working on another order of manufactured parts to send to the International Space Station.

Students in Ben Barber Innovation Academy’s computer numerical control (CNC) classes created special lids for storage containers that the astronauts used to transport needed supplies.

“Initially, we started off looking for some projects for the students to work on that would give them some real-world experience,” said Tim Sherwood, CNC manufacturing teacher. “NASA HUNCH was a program that allows students to do things like that, and we reached out to them and offered up our services.”

HUNCH stands for High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware. Through the program, youth gain real-world experience building cost-effective hardware and soft goods for use on the space station and for the training of NASA astronauts and flight controllers.

The MISD students made approximately 40 special aluminum lids for the astronauts to take into space. The lids made it to the space station after a historic blast off on May 30, 2020 when NASA astronauts launched from American soil in a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft.

“It’s a big pride thing. Not a lot of people got to go through the experience that we did like getting to sign our names on the part that goes to space,” said Kaden Affleck, a senior at Legacy High School. “It’s real cool to talk about to have under your belt.”

Only a handful of schools nationwide take part in creating the needed parts, and the Ben Barber Innovation Academy CNC classes are already making more.

This school year, the students will be sending 75 lids for NASA to use. Sherwood said he expects that number to grow in the future.

“We’re going to keep making as much as we can,” he explained. “We can finish about two or three each class period. It’s giving the students a lot of great experience, and even certifications, in an industry that is needing workers.”

In addition to making the lids, the students also have an opportunity to intern with NASA during the summer. Learn more about the manufacturing class offerings at Ben Barber Innovation Academy here.


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