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If you want to get students prepared for the real world, you have to give them real-world experiences.

The full-functioning, student-run print shop at Ben Barber Innovation Academy is doing just that for MISD students.

Blue FX gives students a real look into the world of graphic design and production. On one side of the shop, students create designs. On the other, the designs are printed out.

One of the newest features of the shop is an industry-standard automatic screen printer, which allows students to print up to 400 shirts per hour. Graphics design teacher Brandon Buckner said it is a game changer.

“We’re the first school in North America to actually have one of these machines, so we’re pioneers in that way,” said Buckner.

The new Roqdry Evolution machine has leading-edge technology that major companies use. Students said they feel like they have an edge on other students nationwide.

“It feels really special to know that we’re the first out there with this screen printing press and able to do the stuff that the big time places like Nike does with their kind of T-shirts,” said Cainon Neal, senior at Lake Ridge High School. “We can just do it here, make it ourselves and then distribute it among Mansfield. It’s really nice.”

The purpose of Blue FX is to give students the practical skills they need to create and print designs, but Buckner said he wants to also instill an entrepreneurial mindset in each of the kids.

Students are the ones who come up with the quotes, charges and marketing plan for the shop.

“My vision is that students are coming out of here with plans to build their own business day one after they graduate or create a business right here where they have me as a mentor teaching them through how to run a business, so that they can be successful after they leave here,” Buckner explained.

Blue FX services all Mansfield ISD schools and departments. Students are able to create a design from scratch or use a logo that is given to them to complete the orders.

The shop is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, email bluefx@misdmail.org.


The leader of primary and secondary public education in Texas made a stop in Mansfield ISD to see the transformational work the district is doing in early education.

Commissioner Mike Morath and other officials from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) toured the Dr. Sarah K. Jandrucko Academy for Early Learners on Wednesday.

MISD staff members gave an overview of the interactive learning environment. After seeing a presentation on how the prekindergarteners are seeing significant progress in literacy and numeracy, Morath experienced the fun for himself.

“It’s nothing short of remarkable,” said Morath. “The entire facility has been built with intentionality to create experiences for kids that maximize their growth.”

The commissioner is a parent of four young children. He said the Jandrucko Academy is a place he would love his kids to be.

“Everything here is constantly reviewed. It’s constantly evaluated. It’s constantly measured. This is not just loving on kids. This is loving on kids with a very intentional outcomes orientation, which is exactly what we want to see to maximize the impact of education.”

Morath toured some of the 16 experiences, typically called classrooms, and saw how each child was engaged in the lesson. Morath’s enthusiasm for the learning that is happening at the facility was Board President  Karen Marcucci’s favorite part.

“I could see that he was excited to be here,” she said. “He could see all the learning that the kids were doing in the classroom, and we were able to show him the great data of all the amazing things that are going on in our current pre-K center.”

Staff members said they are proud of the innovative learning happening at the academy and are honored to be recognized by the Texas Education Agency for a job well done.

“I’ve always known that the teachers who work in pre-K in Mansfield ISD and the staff are doing an incredible job,” said Kristi Cobb, director of early literacy. “But it does give you a sense of pride when you get noticed at the state level.”

The Dr. Sarah K. Jandrucko Academy for Early Learners opened in January 2019. The facility is categorized into four themed pods—exploration, investigation, interaction and navigation—to take foundational learning beyond the four walls of a classroom. View more about the school here.


A Mansfield ISD high school student recently returned from Canada after catching his big break in film.

Edison Grant, a junior at Legacy High School, stars in the Hulu original series “Endlings.”

The theater student started acting around the age of 8. He has booked commercials and minor roles here and there, but said he was in disbelief when he landed one of the leading parts in the science fiction television show.

“I went through the whole process of doing the audition, getting called back, going through those different levels,” Grant explained. “Eventually they said, ‘Edison, we want you on our show.’ My mom just started jumping for joy.”

“Endlings” is about four foster children who come from rough backgrounds. A spaceship crashes on their property, and the children become drawn into the adventure of helping the alien in its mission to save endangered species.

“I play the character Johnny. He has a very kind heart, but his past kind of conflicts with that sometimes,” he said.

The series is filmed in Canada. Grant said his school and friends have been so encouraging while he was gone, and he’s happy to be back.

“MISD has been really cooperative with me and very supportive. Legacy High School—it’s my high school. I couldn’t see myself anywhere else,” he said.

Legacy High School’s theatre teacher Jeremy Ferman said he was excited to hear the news and thought Grant was very deserving of it.

“Edison has always been a great student, a fun actor to work with. He has a lot of fun doing the things we do in class,” said Ferman.

Grant noted that he’s grateful for the experience in Canada and has his eyes set on becoming a top-tier actor. Although he loves entertaining, he said he also wants to leave a lasting impact on his audience.

“I’m an actor at heart, but I want people to learn from the roles I play,” the 16-year-old explained. “That’s really my main goal.”

“Endlings” was released in the United States on Jan. 17, 2020. The show has already been renewed for a second season.


A new reading and mentoring initiative at a Mansfield ISD elementary school is turning out to be a pretty sweet deal.

Carol Holt Elementary School’s Literacy with Lollipops launched this school year. The program encourages senior citizens to come onto the campus and spend time reading a book and talking to a child.

The senior women are called “lollis,” and their male counterparts are “pops.” The idea for the program was birthed in the summer months by the school’s principal.

“I had a vision last summer, and I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a group of senior citizens come to Carol Holt and spend their time with our children?” said Principal Thelma Foster. “We learn so much from our grandparents—them reading to us, teaching us, telling us stories—that I was like ‘Oh my gosh. I would really like for them to share that with our students to build those connections and relationships.’”

A campus committee was created to determine how Literacy with Lollipops could be implemented. Things started to come together rather quickly after a teacher received a call from a group of senior citizens who wanted to start volunteering at the school.

“The Elks program contacted myself, and they let me know that they were wanting an opportunity to volunteer in the elementary campuses,” said fourth-grade teacher Heather Carson. “Then, our counselor came to us and said Bethlehem Baptist Church had some volunteers that they wanted to implement into the program as well.”

The children meet with their lollis and pops every Friday morning for approximately 45 minutes. It’s a time to read, talk about the day and foster positive relationships.

“I like working with the kids,” said Ray Tills, an Elks Lodge member and volunteer. “They get excited, they look forward to seeing you come, and they need a male influence in their lives.”

Tills is so close to his student that the child nearly cried when he saw that his pops was not on campus one Friday. The child later cried tears of joy when he spotted Tills coming through the doors a few minutes later.

“I walked in the doors, and he jumped in my arms. He had tears, and I had tears. He’s a great young guy, and I just enjoy working with him,” said Tills.

The Elks Lodge of Arlington donated $6,500 to the school to encourage the students to continue reading over the summer. Administrators plan to use the donation by giving each child a backpack with a book inside of it.

Holt Elementary currently has 25 senior citizens signed up for the Lollipops initiative. The school hopes to increase this number so that even more children can benefit from it.


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