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Northeast Times | October 18, 2021

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KISD: HES 3rd Grader Named State Board Of Education Student Hero

KISD: HES 3rd Grader Named State Board Of Education Student Hero

Stella Austin, a third-grader at Heritage Elementary School, was recently named a Student Hero by the State Board of Education (SBOE).

Begun in 2015, the Student Heroes Award recognizes Texas public school students who voluntarily perform acts of kindness and do outstanding works of service to benefit their fellow students, schools, and their communities. One student is recognized in each of the SBOE’s 15 districts. This year’s recipients range from third-grade students to high school seniors.

“Each year, I’m amazed at the volume of caring and compassionate work carried out by our Texas students,” said SBOE Chair Donna Bahorich. “They see a need and they step in to fill it, typically without any thought of recognition or awards. These 15 award recipients are role models for both students and adults.”

The students were presented with a plaque and a medallion during events at their schools. The board approved a resolution in their honor during the SBOE meeting in Austin on June 14.

Maggie Inlow, a teacher in Kennedale ISD, nominated Austin for her passion for helping others with her sewing ability by creating stuffed kittens to give to children in need. Austin provided more than 110 stuffed animals to children who are hospitalized or living in homeless shelters. She says having a stuffed kitten to cuddle makes children feel less alone or scared. Inlow has known the Austin family for many years and immediately thought of Stella when she received the nomination form.

Austin has always loved stuffed animals and they have been a source of comfort and companionship for her – she rarely leaves home without one. Her father has had health problems over the years that have led to several hospital stays, and she will usually send one of her stuffed animals along with him to keep him safe.

While she knew she couldn’t get a stuffed animal to every kid in the world, her mother suggested she could start making some to give to kids locally. Austin loves cats, so they found a simple kitty pattern for her to make. Through a friend, they got connected with the Team Lilly Foundation and had been sending gift boxes to kids with cancer several times a year. Austin was then asked if she would like to include kitties in their Easter box last year, and she was so excited. The organization sent her a small grant that she used to purchase fabric and stuffing.

Her goal was to get as close to 150 kitties as she could, but since she couldn’t do it all herself, she reached out to other sewing friends and had “flat kitties” shipped to her to stuff. Austin and her family spent Sundays sewing, stuffing, and packing up kitties. She was able to send about 75 stuffed kitties to the Team Lily Foundation.

Also this last year at Christmas, Austin wanted to give kitties to the Salvation Army. Her family has volunteered there, and her grandfather serves on the board for the Fort Worth location. She was able to sew 40 kitties and delivered them the morning of Christmas Eve.

After each large kitty donation, Austin takes a break, but she is always looking for the next opportunity to give them away!