• Diversity Leadership Awards, January 23, 2019

    This award is coordinated annually by the Plano ISD Diversity Advisory Committee to recognize students, staff and community members who have shown leadership and commitment in fostering and promoting harmony, respect, acceptance and understanding among the beautifully diverse cultures within this community. All of our nominees have been invaluable assets to Plano not only for promoting and embracing diversity but for their efforts to educate others on diversity as well. Award winners and their applications and letters of recommendation are listed below along with a full list of award nominees.

  • Anwen Heise, Schimelpfenig Middle School: Student Diversity Leadership

    Anwen Heise, Schimelpfenig Middle School: Student Diversity Leadership Award Winner 

    Nominated by: Terri Richards, Rebecca Mediaceja, and Lori Peters

    Anwen Heise accepting award

    Using the key components of the Diversity Leadership Award provide an overview statement of how this individual/group has demonstrated in their initiative and/or program a commitment in fostering and promoting harmony, respect, acceptance and understanding among the beautifully diverse cultures within the district and/or community.

    Seventh grader Anwen Heise, founder of "Life, the Universe, Everything" - Schimelpfenig's first LGBTQ+ student club - is a true leader in promoting respect and understanding within our school community. Starting this club from the ground up, her goal was to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth and their allies to come together in learning and outreach. One way in which Anwen leads students to a harmonious future is through weekly online presentations from experts in the topics of acceptance, self-esteem, and advocacy, among other things. Other club activities designed to foster multiculturalism and positivity include discussions of identity and labeling, as well as strategies for diffusing conflict when confronted with negativity. The students meet weekly to talk and be together. They are there for different reasons but find support knowing that they are not alone. This was very courageous of Anwen to take on, and we are very proud of her for being the voice that many others need. She demonstrates maturity beyond her years.

    lndicate three qualities or attributes of the individual or group that add to the richness and understanding of different groups within the district and/or community.

    One quality that Anwen brings to the club is compassion and empathy. She has created an environment that makes people feel that their voice is heard and understood. lnclusivity is another attribute that Anwen brings to the table. All are welcome in the club and she actively works to make it a safe space for everyone. Finally, Anwen is empowering to her peers, from whom she elicits leadership and voice by giving them opportunities to take the lead or express themselves.

    Using the key components of the Diversity Leadership Award provide examples of specific activities or programs in which the individual or group has demonstrated leadership by initiating, implementing, or sponsoring programs which improved relationships among various cultures within the district and/or community.

    Anwen has shown leadership by creating the LBGTQ+ club at our school. This has brought understanding and comfort to many students and teachers at Schimelpfenig. One of the first activities Anwen brought to the club involved examining terms or labels that some individuals use to identify themselves or others. Students discussed whether these labels reflected positive or negative connotations. They also discussed whether people use them to identify themselves, or conversely, whether they are assigned by others. In this way, the group works together to foster inclusivity and harmony.

    Letters of recommendation:

    To whom it may concern,

    Anwen Heise and two friends came to me mid semester and asked me to sponsor a club for them, "Life, The Universe, and Everything Else." I asked for a bit more information. Anwen and her friends wanted to have a club that LGBTQ students could come to and be themselves. A place to come to and find other students like themselves and learn how to support others. The club focuses on education and outreach. Each week they discuss different topics, spend time in group activities, and reflect on life as a LGBTQ teen. Anwen is witty, funny, kind, respectful, helpful, and dependable. She has a heart of service. Her Science Fair project is very relevant for this nomination, She attempted to code a program that could read emotions and expressions from faces to help people with autism. It takes a bit of nerve to organize a club like this. Middle school can be difficult to maneuver as it is. Life, the Universe, and Everything Else pretty well covers it all.


    Terri Richards
    8th Grade Teacher
    Life, The Universe, and Everything Else Club Sponsor
    Schimelpfenig Middle School

    To whom it may concern,

    Several 8th grade teachers at Schimelpfenig Middle School have taken notice of Anwen's ambition to create an LBGTQ+ club at our school. We feel that she has demonstrated bravery and maturity in approaching a teacher at our school to ask permission. Because of her, we now have a safe, supportive group for students to meet who feel that they need a community. Anwen's selfless act has helped other students feel that they are not alone-they have a group.


    Rebecca Mediaceja
    8th Grade Team Leader
    Schimelpfenig Middle School


    My name is Amy Lenord, and I am writing you today regarding Shannon carter, a student of mine who has been nominated for a leadership position with your group.

    Shannon is my student in Spanish 1 this year, and despite her young age, she has demonstrated remarkable maturity and leadership in comparison to other students her age. Shannon is always on time, and she is always very pleasant to work with and be around. She is very helpful to both her fellow students and her teachers, and seems very self driven in all that she does.

    Academically speaking, Shannon is one of my top performers in class. She is an avid learner, easy to coach and always looking for how to be and do better in all that she does. with all of this in mind, I enthusiastically recommend that you choose Shannon for this opportunity in leadership.


    Amy Lenord
    Spanish l & 2 Honors
    Jasper High School

    To AVID Tutors:

    I am pleased to write this letter to recommend Shannon Carter for a the leadership award. Shannon is currently in my Advanced Theatre class and a member of the theatre club, Broadway Bound. She has been involved in two productions this year Atmost, Maine and Eurydice, where she received All Star Cast for her portrayal of The Lord of the Underworld. Shannon has also recently been cast in our upcoming musical, Once Upon a Mattress.

    In being around Shannon in these contexts, I have been able to watch her grow and develop as not only as an actress but as a person. Shannon is an extremely hard worker and puts in a hundred percent in any challenge you give her. To put in to context, as a freshman I have trusted Shannon to take on lead roles in my shows because she can handle the workload, she is talented and she set a precedent for the other students. Shannon doesn't just make a great role model to her peers because of her work ethic. Shannon is passionate and put heart into what she loves. She set her mind to reach a goal and approaches that goal wholeheartedly. Her love and willingness to rehearse and prepare is amazing to me.

    Shannon is humble, challenges herself and others to do what is best and right, and because of these qualities I believe she would be an excellent recipient for your leadership award.

    lf you have questions, please contact me.

    Kaci Wilhelm
    Jasper High School
    Theatre Director




  • Caring Cats, Plano Senior High School: Student Group Diversity Leadership Award

    Caring Cats, Plano Senior High School: Student Group Diversity Leadership Award Winner

    Nominated by: Bryan Spiritus, Plano Senior High School Assistant Principal

    Plano Senior High Caring Cats

    Sponsors are Carolyn Crawford (pictured left) and Abby Lanford.

    Using the key components of the Diversity Leadership Award provide an overview statement of how this individual/group has demonstrated in their initiative and/or program a commitment in fostering and promoting harmony, respect, acceptance and understanding among the beautifully diverse cultures within the district and/or community.

    The Plano Senior High School Caring Cats promotes relationships and friendships between Special Education students and general education students. The club's goal is to set the example across the campus, and in the community, to treat individuals with disabilities as equals. The   students involved in this club model respect and kindness while displaying patience, understanding, and positivity for their Special Education counterparts.

    Indicate three qualities or attributes of the individual or group that add to the richness and understanding of different groups within the district and/or community.

    Inclusiveness - General education students go out of their way to include Special Education students in the Wildcat family. They organize social functions and overall, ensure they have a wonderful high school experience equal to any of their general education peers.

    Compassion - Both groups of students learn the essential tenants of compassion and understanding while embracing differences.

    Leadership - General education students set the example for their Special Education peers by demonstrating the true meaning of kindness and friendship during planned events and daily social interactions. These examples enable both groups of students to form friendships and helps to break down the barriers that often separate us.

    Using the key components of the Diversity Leadership Award provide examples of specific activities or programs in which the individual or group has demonstrated leadership by initiating, implementing, or sponsoring programs which improved relationships among various cultures within the district and/or community.

    The general education students, under the guidance of their sponsors, lead the Caring Cats Club. They informed their peers on campus about the purpose of the club, upcoming events, and opportunities to foster inclusion while protecting the privacy of students with disabilities and promoting a fun and loving culture.

    General education club members create mums and garters for all Special Education students for Homecoming through a "Buddy System," developed by the general education students, that creates unique relationships between one Special Education student and one to two general education students.

    The general education students routinely demonstrate simple acts of kindness, modeling thoughtfulness and compassion for every student on campus, including giving each other "high fives," friendly greetings, eating lunch together, etc. throughout the school day campus wide.

    Letters of recommendation:

    To Whom This May Concern,

    My name is Amy Weiner and I am a parent of a child in the Special Education program at Plano Senior High. We feel so blessed to be at such a wonderful school and to be able to have our daughter get to benefit from the Caring Cats organization. This incredible organization gives typical students and Special Education students a chance to interact and form relationships with each other through social events the students plan for the kids. As a parent to watch these relationships form so organically is wonderful. The students plan socials, holiday events and also will get the students involved in school events like homecoming. There is nothing more incredible to watch the Special Education kids get Mums & Garters, a homecoming tradition made for them by the caring cats students. I have been so touched to see the students be so inclusive and I love when we are at school or out in the community that these students will acknowledge my daughter and make her feel apart of Plano like all the other students. Plano is lucky to have such a wonderful organization that kids can be inclusive with each other in a fun and happy environment. These students that are apart of Caring cats are incredible with huge loving heart and I feel the students see these special kids for all their abilities not their disabilities. This organization should be recognized and modeled at all levels and all schools. These students could teach us all something. Thank You Plano Senior High for opening up your campus to the Caring Cats organization.


    Amy Weiner

    Nominee: Plano Senior High School Caring Cats Club

    Nominated by: Jennifer &-Tammy Tatum (parents of a Plano Senior High School student)

    Kids taking selfies, laughing and eating together, or just hanging out together in the School hallway. Sounds like a typical day at a high school event, right? For many kids in Special Education, these experiences are rare. At Plano Senior High School, one group is on o mission to make those fun experiences happen more often. The Plano Senior High School Caring Cats Club description reads “…a club that gives Plano Senior High School students a chance to interact and build relationships with students in the Special Education program through events, buddy programs, and full inclusion in Wildcat Traditions.”

    As parents of a student in the Special Education program at Plano Senior High School, we are thrilled that this cub exists. Our son is a very social kid, who happens to have many learning and cognitive challenges. He struggles with academics and needs help with some daily tasks, and social interactions at school help him feel accepted and included. He is always seeking ways to have those social interactions. But some Special Education students may not find it very easy to initiate those interactions. Or maybe they don t hove many opportunities to do so, for a variety of reasons, such as not being a licensed driver, or being limited in terms of the .types of classes in which they may be enrolled. Caring Cats events provide those opportunities. The benefits for Special Education students are fairly obvious. But the program's value to Plano Senior High School goes much deeper than that. For starters, the general education students who are "mentors" have the opportunity to learn some things about people with disabilities. For example, they can see that they have much in common with these friends. They find out that when they toke the time to get to know, a person, they will learn about that person’s individual  value, and about their hopes, fears, and dreams. And possibly the most significant benefit Caring Cats offers to Plano Senior High School is setting on example of acceptance, inclusion, and school spirit. When this small group of students are seen around campus interacting with all their peers, other students often follow their example. This undoubtedly creates s ripple effect, benefiting student's from all marginalized groups. Plano Senior High School students are learning to value differences and find some new friends in the process - now THAT is a great Wildcat Tradition!

  • Volunteers at Medical City Plano: Community Impact Diversity Leadership

    Volunteers at Medical City Plano: Community Impact Diversity Leadership Award Winners

    Nominated by: Michelle Shaffer

    Volunteers at Medical City Plano

    Using the key components of the Diversity Leadership Award provide an overview statement of how this group has demonstrated in their initiative and/or program a commitment in fostering and promoting harmony, respect, acceptance, and understanding among the beautifully diverse cultures within the community.

    Volunteers at Medical City Plano arc a diverse group made up of nearly 400 people from over 85 different nationalities, ages and abilities. High school students come from Plano Senior High and Frisco ISD special education programs to serve while gaining valuable work exposure and experience. Collin College and Brookhaven nursing students as well as UTD pre-med students all spend time in the volunteer program at Medical City Plano during their educational years. They welcome patients and families through every non-emergency door, maintain a kind and professional demeanor through wonderful and difficult moments. There is a dedicated 'blue' phone with 20 language (other than English) interpreters on call used to support guests' communicative needs. Their Mission Statement conveys the promise that volunteers at Medical City Plano demonstrate on a daily basis: "Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of life in the communities we serve."

    Medical City Plano volunteers and employees use an AIDET program to guide guest service with 5 fundamentals of guest care: Acknowledgement by name or with a friendly smile. Volunteers put down paperwork and make clients the focus of their attention. They make introductions by their first name and ask how they can help. While many guests come through hospital doors for less than desirable events, Medical City Plano volunteers do everything in their power to make the hospital experience as comfortable as possible. Guests are informed about an estimated Duration to expect for travel to their room or destination, to speak to a nurse and wait time. Some volunteers arrive at 5:00 am or earlier; the registration opens at 5:30 am, Medical staff provides an Explanation of procedure(s). Guests are always Thanked for choosing Medical City Plano, and asked if there anything else that could be done for them.

    Indicate three qualities or attributes of the individual or group that add to the richness and understanding of different groups within the district and/or community.

    There is a sub-group of pastoral care volunteers who may visit with patients, providing a familiar space and ministry they gain comfort from. Within this group, there are Vietnamese, Hindu, Islam, Christian, Jewish and Catholic providers available for patients and families. Pastoral care leadership and volunteers have a list of additional providers to allow for opportunity to meet with liaisons of their faith and/or spiritual group, (ex. Jehovah's Witness, Christian Orthodox, Christian Science, Jain etc.) to support guests during their hospital stay. This subgroup is also known to actively embrace, cooperate and support each other, as Christian volunteers meet with Hindu priest for lunch weekly.

    Letters of recommendation: 

    Plano Diversity Advisory Committee

    It is my pleasure to write this letter of recommendation for the Volunteers of Medical City Plano. This group is made up of people from a diverse background of ethnicity, religion, age and culture working together with harmony and efficiency. They live out their compassion for people every day and in a multitude of ways and show it by their actions and their "commitment to the care and improvement of human life." They do it not for a paycheck but for the satisfaction that they are helping people.

    We have volunteers who escort people where they need to go with smiles and enthusiasm. Other volunteers help families as they are discharged get to their cars. One volunteer who himself had a traumatic brain injury visits with patient and families to give them hope. Cookies and milk are delivered to families in waiting rooms. Volunteers' help in the waiting rooms to make sure families are cared for and have what they need. During the summer, High School and College students volunteer their time to help.

    Pastoral Care volunteers work with me to bring spiritual care to our patients and families. This is a diverse group with people from Baptist, Methodist, Hindu, Catholic, Islamic, and Jewish traditions. They read scripture, encourage, and pray for our patients, their families and our staff. A Baptist, a Methodist and a Hindu until recently had lunch every Tuesday until one of them died. The other two went to the funeral together.

    We are truly blessed to have this group of kind compassionate people to work alongside us in our commitment to care for and improve human life.

    If you have any further questions with regard to this letter of recommend, please do not hesitate to contact me.


    Rev. Garry Higgs, M.Div., B.C.C.
    Chaplain Clinician
    Medical Center Plano
    Medical Center Frisco

    To: The Plano ISD Diversity Advisory Committee

    Re: Medical City Plano volunteer corps diversity award nomination 2018-2019 It is my pleasure to write this letter of recommendation for Medical City Plano's volunteer group. I fully support the nomination for the Plano ISD Diversity Leadership Award. I have had the pleasure of working alongside many from this team for over a year on a daily basis as a Guest Information Specialist in the Surgery Waiting Room.

    This wonderful group of volunteers at Medical City Plano: -Welcome families that come through our doors, closer to loved ones registered. -Deliver families and patient personal items upon request to their guest rooms. -Provide humor, laughter and respite from serving families in stress. -Brighten perspective with smiles, laughter and camaraderie in a setting that can be difficult on the easiest of work days.

    The volunteer corps at Medical City Plano is made up of organized, diligent workers with excellent communication skills. They are an organized, thoughtful and reliable crew who work independently and follow through with requests from faculty, medical professionals and families alike. They complete their tasks with great initiative and positive attitudes. I wholeheartedly recommend them for the Diversity Leadership Award. I truly believe this hospital could not function smoothly without them.

    Sasha Gonzales
    Guest Information Specialist, Surgery Waiting Room
    Medical City Plano

  • Kattia Prado Saenz, Armstrong Middle School: Individual Diversity Leadership

    Kattia Prado Saenz, Armstrong Middle School: Individual Diversity Leadership Award Winner

    Nominated by: Glenda Rouse and the Armstrong staff

    Kattia Prado, Armstrong Middle School

    Using the key components of the Diversity Leadership Award provide an overview statement of how this individual/group has demonstrated in their initiative and/or program a commitment in fostering and promoting harmony, respect, acceptance and understanding among the beautifully diverse cultures within the district and/or community.

    Kattia Prado, is the Parent Involvement Liaison at Armstrong Middle School. Kattia has served and given tirelessly to the to the community, first-as a very involved and supportive parent, and has demonstrated, through her positive interactions with others, a respect and value for differing background and points of view in the Plano ISD community.

    Her contributions are immeasurable around the Armstrong campus, as she works with and train parents., assisting and engaging parents in the educational process, assisting teachers with building relationships and communication, and encouraging students

    Several of the AMS staff members wanted to contribute to this nomination. The following contributors below are an indication of the impact Kattia makes on a daily basis.

    Renee Davis:

    Kattia has been a wonderful resource for our parents reaching out to our .community by providing classes, the mobile computer lab interpreting during conferences, home visits, and just making them feel at home on our campus. She truly uses her heart to make an impact with our community.

    Laura Simmons:

    Kattia is an amazing asset to our school and community. She understands our diverse culture at Armstrong and embraces it by being involved with parents and students. Kattia has helped not only translate in various situations, but reaches out to our families in the community to assure they are receiving what they need. She has a passion for increasing parent involvement on campus and for giving parents the opportunity to understand what their child needs to be successful here at Armstrong. She has truly changed the climate and culture of our campus and community through her dedication to families and students.

    Ghada Mohammad:

    Kattia is dependable, organized and efficient. Her skills do not end with her office work. She also projects a warm, cheerful attitude to our parents. She loves people, works hard, and always tries to lift the spirits of those around her.

    Belinda Harrington:

    Kattia is always eager to help. Her response to my request for her assistance is always an immediate response. She is always so positive with a ready smile. It is evident that she truly cares for our students and their families. She conducts numerous activities to encourage and allow our parents occasions to participate in school events, as well as, provide parents with the prospect to better themselves through planned learning opportunities.

    Glenda Rouse:

    I have never worked with a Parent Involvement Liaison who gives as much attention to detail as Kattia does. Also, her willingness to take on difficult projects like the AMS Multicultural Celebration; the Hispanic Heritage Night Celebration and various events throughout the year and follow them through to successful completion.

    Molly James:

    Kattia has been an important part of the Social Emotional Learning process at Armstrong. When asked to translate the SEL competency poster into Spanish for our ELL families, Kattia thoughtfully wrote a translation that was shared with the district. A new poster has now been created in Spanish, and is displayed on PISD campuses with for the Spanish speaking population. Kattia has also assisted in communicating SEL events to families and has created a series of coffees to assist families with navigating the teen years, in English and Spanish. She is involved with our school, our community, and the district.

    Indicate three qualities or attributes of the individual or group that add to the richness and understanding of different groups within the district and/or community.

    1. Kattia speaks multiple languages.
    2. Kattia is patient, caring, dependable, efficient, and unfailingly punctual.
    3. In the community Kattia goes out of her way to help people in need by finding and organizing resources and donations of tangible goods or services for families in need.

    Using the key components of the Diversity Leadership Award provide examples of specific activities or programs in which the individual or group has demonstrated leadership by initiating, implementing, or sponsoring programs which improved relationships among various cultures within the district and/or community.

    • Multicultural Planning Team
    • Hispanic Heritage Night Planning Team
    • Implements parent training, familiarize them with district website and parent portal
    • Translates for non-English speaking parents
    • Converts English documents to Spanish
    • Make phone calls to parents with teachers
    • Provides the mobile computer lab
    • All-in when involved in any project or task

    Letters of recommendation:

    Dear Selection Committee:

    Please accept this as a letter of recommendation for the nomination of Kattia Prado for a Diversity Leadership Award.

    Kattia Prado serves as the parent liaison for Armstrong Middle School. This is Kattia's first year in this position, and in one semester, Kattia has transformed the position into something new and unexpected. Through her position, she built a bridge between our school and the greater community by enhancing our overall communication methods and assisting us in building stronger relationships with parents and families.

    Kattia's enthusiasm and passion were evident as she explored various ways to connect with families immediately from day one. At schedule pick-up, she stood prominently greeting the lines of parents arriving, greeting many of them in Spanish and making them feel welcome. She spent hours that day assisting with Parent Portal, answering questions. and encouraging parents to get involved in our school community' On the first day of school, Kattia was also present greeting our students and parents as they walked through the front doors. Throughout the entire semester, she has maintained the same commitment to personal contact. Kattia makes it point to connect with the faculty, staff, and the students. She is in the cafeteria each day smiling, conversing, and encouraging our students. Kattia also frequently conducts home visits in order to make connections with our families. She provides families with information related to district resources while also getting to know them. This is essential in building trust, and Kattia's work in this area has been invaluable this school year.

    Kattia's passion and enthusiasm also shine through her coordination of events and activities designed to bring families into our school community, including Hispanic Heritage Night, scheduling the district’s mobile computer lab visits to campus, and also coordinating English language classes and other parent information sessions.

    In the short time that we have worked together, Kattia has earned my utmost respect. I am proud to nominate Kattia Prado for this award. She embodies the spirit of the MLK Diversity Leadership Award.


    Melissa Blank
    Principal, Armstrong Middle School

    To Whom It May Concern:

    It is with great pleasure that I write this letter of recommendation for Kattia Prado. I have the privilege of watching Kattia serve the Armstrong Community as the Parent Liaison. In this capacity, she leaves no stone unturned in her efforts to connect with and engage all parents. Not only is she kind, but also demonstrates on a daily basis her respect for all and her desire to impact and promote the campus understanding of diversity. She works tirelessly to understand and meet the needs of parents and students as well as encourage respect and understanding for all. I have seen her dedication to cultural awareness; she coordinated an amazing Hispanic Heritage Night. I have seen her desire to promote the understanding and respect for differences, really on a daily basis. She coordinates on campus Parenting Workshops delivered in both Spanish and English. She has arranged for the PISD Mobile Computer Lab to be available on campus to assist with ongoing education. Kattia's work demonstrates her commitment to understanding, empowerment and education - all delivered in such a way as to encourage and promote harmony. Kattia believes in inclusiveness, her work is a complete reflection of that. She leads by example, demonstrating her own willingness to embrace the uniqueness of each culture.

    I wholeheartedly recommend Kattia for this Diversity Leadership Award!

    Thank you,

    Debi Williams
    Armstrong Middle School Site Coordinator
    Communities in Schools Dallas Region

    To whom it may concern,

    Please consider this a letter of recommendation for Kattia Prado-Saenz as a nominee of the Diversity in Leadership Award for Plano ISD. Mrs. Prado is not only a parent in PISD, but also works as a parent Liaison at Armstrong Middle School (her child's former school). She goes above and beyond to be an advocate and a voice of the parents in our school, but more than that, she has provided a variety of opportunities that have opened doors to our community and families. She has provided parent training and meetings during the school day and after, has arranged for the district's tech bus to be at our school multiple times throughout the year to help parents set-up emails and access parent-portal, and countless times acted as a translator so the parents and teachers can work towards their student’s success.

    Kattia not only helps the families at our school, but the staff as well. She is always available to lend a helping hand, help make parent phone calls alongside a teacher, attend parent-teacher conferences, makes home visits and works closely with our CIS staff member. Mrs. Prado is more than deserving of this award and the honor could not be bestowed upon a more gracious and humble person with a true servant's heart.

    Rachel B. Taylor
    Title 1 Support Staff



  • 2019 Diversity Leadership Award Nominees

    • Caring Cats, Plano Senior High School
    • Shannon Carter, Jasper High School
    • Lisa Hamid, Skaggs Elementary School
    • Anwen Heise, Schimelpfenig Middle School
    • Medical City Plano Volunteers
    • Dominika Phipps, Vines High School
    • Kattia Prado, Armstrong Middle School
    • Claudia Romanczukiewicz, Haggard Middle School
    • Volunteer Tutoring Outreach Program, Plano East Senior High School

    Nominees on stage withSandy Spoonemore Diversity Advisory Committee Chairman

    Diversity Leadership Award nominees on stage with Diversity Advisory Committee Chairman Sandy Spoonemore (far right).

    Keep reading for more information about the award winners. More information about the award winners is available in Headline News.