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Since people are no longer going to museums like they used to during the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft has used technology to bring the museum to the people.

The global tech company launched its Legacy Project in honor of Black History Month. The virtual gallery honors 30 Black American achievers who are shaping the future today; and mounted on the “young and gifted” wall, a Mansfield ISD student is one of only three standouts displayed.

Orion Jean, a fifth-grader at Mary Orr Intermediate School, is the winner of the 2020 National Kindness Speech contest. He used the prize money to launch his own community campaign to spread kindness, which he dubbed “A Race to Kindness.”

“My first one was collecting 619 toys for the Children’s Health Hospital in Dallas,” said Jean. “My second one was collecting 100,000 meals by Thanksgiving (making it a five-week food drive), and we were able to reach both of those goals.”

Jean’s efforts have caught the attention of major companies that have donated to his cause. He has also been highlighted on major media platforms, like ABC News and NBC, and invited to different conferences.

The 10-year-old said the recognition is nice, but that’s not what fuels him.

“It’s not really about me. It never has been, and it never will be,” he explained. “It’s about bringing kindness to the forefront. While it was great to see me next to these big names and big stars, it was also important to know that the 100,000 people that were able to get meals were known.”

His parents said watching their son grow up to be such a compassionate team player is more than words can express.

“What’s a word that’s bigger than proud? It’s an indescribable feeling,” said mother Kherri Jean. “I think he fully has understood the impact of what one simple act can make, but also just the power of community coming together.”

The young philanthropist has won numerous community service awards. Most recently, he received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, the largest U.S. youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service.

To encourage a love of reading, some Mansfield ISD schools are getting creative in the way they’re offering books to students and the community—for absolutely no cost.

Carol Holt Elementary recently debuted its new book vending machine.

Students earn a golden token by reaching certain achievements, like an Excellence Award or Awesome Author Award. They then put the coin in the vending machine to redeem a new book.

“We all like to go to vending machines,” said Patricia Robinson, the school counselor. “We like to push the button. We like to see the magic of the, whatever we’re buying—cokes or chips or whatever—come down. So, we want them to experience that same magic of seeing a book come down.”

The vending machine was sponsored through a grant awarded by the local Elks Lodge chapter. The grant also supplied the books to put inside the machine.

“Books, through reading—that’s how we learn. And so, we want our students to be well-versed. We want them to be able to be productive citizens,” said Robinson.

Holt Elementary also has a literacy mentorship program, called Literacy with Lollipops. Staff members said the vending machine has been a great extension to that initiative.

Over at Annette Perry Elementary School, the community will soon have access to a Little Free Library box.

The red box, which will be located at the front of the school, will house books that anyone can take and return at their own leisure. Users are also encouraged to leave a book of their own in the box to share with others.

“You just walk up, and you grab a book,” said Kristen Hendrix, the school librarian. “You can look through the different books and see which one looks like something you would like read, or something that your child would like to read.”

Hendrix said the idea for the Little Free Library book-sharing box was brought up by a parent, who decided to build it after getting the green light.

To keep the community safe, the box will have an area to sanitize hands and the books. There will also be a separate box to pick up and drop off books.

“The reason that we have this Little Free Library is just to start a love for reading and a passion for reading. Reading is in everything that we do in life,” Hendrix added.

The box is almost complete. It is scheduled to be up and running by Feb. 8.

Three Mansfield ISD students are proving that you’re never too young to publish your own book.

Hiroshi Sosa-Nakata, a seventh-grader at Rogene Worley Middle School, is working on his third novel. He said he is an avid reader who started his “I Saved the World” series to fill a void he noticed on the bookshelves.

“I read basically every book in the library, and there weren’t many diverse books,” he said. “So I just decided, ‘You know what? I’ll do it myself.”’

Sosa-Nakata said the characters in his book come from varying backgrounds but still tackle obstacles by working together.

“Diversity is something that is a part of reality,” the 12-year-old added. “And friendship is a very strong thing that can make or break something.”

Sosa-Nakata’s books are available at online retailers, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Another pair of young writers at MISD got their start at being published authors by wanting to teach about the importance of proper hygiene, especially during a pandemic.

 “Our mom told us that people aren’t washing their hands much, so we decided to make a book about washing hands,” said Rinnah Maduabuchi, a third-grader at Judy K. Miller Elementary School.

After that book, she and her sister Olivia wanted to keep teaching important life lessons, like taking a stand against bullying.

“‘Should I Speak Up’ is about speaking up for yourself and others, so that people don’t hurt themselves because of being bullied,” explained Olivia, fifth-grader at Mary Lillard Intermediate School.

The sisters said they are looking forward to writing more books because they believe in Maya Angelou’s quote—“When you learn, you teach. When you get, you give.”

The Maduabuchis books are available on Amazon. They said they will continue writing as co-authors because two heads are better than one.

The Mansfield ISD Spelling Bee, sponsored by Mansfield Sunrise Rotary Club, is an annual tradition that mixes fundamental learning and friendly competition.

Best spellers from Mansfield ISD’s elementary, intermediate and middle schools competed in the district spelling bee on Jan. 22.

This year’s competition was a little more unique with heightened safety and health protocols, but the essence of spelling a broad spectrum of words correctly remained the same.

With the winning word of “encore,” Dejanira Castillo from Asa Low Intermediate School took home the top prize. She beat 37 other students to be the district’s spelling bee champion. She said her technique was to trust her gut.

“I was trying to find it in my brain,” the fifth-grader explained. “I just kind of closed my eyes, and I thought, ‘It feels like I’ve seen this word before.’

The 10-year-old couldn’t help but to jump up and down when she realized she successfully spelled the word.

“I felt amazing, and I immediately closed my eyes and thanked God.” Castillo said.

Castillo is enrolled in MISD’s Virtual Learning Academy, the district’s online school. Virtual Learning Academy winners from the elementary, intermediate and middle school level were a new addition this year.

“I thought the icing on the cake is that our winner was one of our Virtual Academy students,” said Sarah McMurrough, English language arts instructional coach. “To me, it just proves that our virtual learners are still learning, and they’re still involved in school.”

Organizers said pulling this contest off took teamwork from campuses, staff members, students and the community, but it was done safely and without a hitch.

Castillo will advance to the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee. The winner will represent the region in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

MISD Spelling Bee Contestants



Charlotte Anderson Elementary

Brady Grey

J. L. Boren Elementary

Michael "Griffin" Woodard

Janet Brockett Elementary

Shane Gibler

Willie Brown Academy of Young Scholars

Jayden Howell-McCurdy

Louise Cabaniss Academy for Young Scholars

Holden Willamson

Anna May Daulton Elementary

Omar Brown

Kenneth Davis Elementary

Miracle Awujo

Imogene Gideon Elementary

Nada Al Mayahi

Glenn Harmon Elementary

Khalid Khalid

Carol Holt Elementary

Slade Wood

Thelma Jones Elementary

Phoebe Iyoke

Judy K. Miller Elementary

Cameron Phomsengdy

D. P. Morris Elementary

Kaleb Berry

Erma Nash Elementary

Noah Romero

Nancy Neal Elementary

Ellis Cottrell

Annette Perry Elementary

Dahlia Nguyen

Alice Ponder Elementary

Noah Ruiz

Martha Reid Leadership Academy

Robert Fisher

Mary Jo Sheppard Elementary

Autumn Linwood-Cotton

Elizabeth Smith Innovative Learning Academy

Ean Dalley

Cora Spencer Elementary

Wyatt Lyles

Tarver-Rendon School of Agricultural Leadership

Kaylyn Marstaller

Roberta Tipps Elementary

Jayden Hill

Cross Timbers Intermediate

Anthony Nieto

Della Icenhower Intermediate

Santiago Flores

Mary Lillard Intermediate

Zain Durrani (runner-up)

Asa Low Intermediate

Hanna Sharif

Mary Orr Intermediate

Aaron Fung

Donna Shepard Leadership Academy

Sophia Graham

James Coble Middle

Sofia Rahman

T. A. Howard Middle

Mohammed Koudy

Linda Jobe Middle

Jaxson Latimer

Danny Jones Middle

Dakota Dickerson

Brooks Wester Middle /
Jerry Knight STEM Academy

Joshua Oyerokun

Rogene Worley Middle

Edward Mello

Virtual Learning Academy - Elementary

Edward Lam

Virtual Learning Academy - Intermediate

Dejanira Castillo (winner)

Virtual Learning Academy - Middle

Drew Dazey

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