On the stage of the church sanctuary, the Rev. Orenthia Mason looked at home. Known for her rousing speeches and dedicated service to education, she showed another side Friday: the performer.
The Rev. Mason rapped her welcome to the more than 2,600 Tyler ISD employees during the district’s convocation Friday at the Green Acres Baptist Church.
“Good morning employees of TISD/We are back together as one family/From the east to the west, north to the south/The buses will be traveling on their routes/Smiles on faces, students well dressed/Parents expecting great success.
“The school board appreciates you/For all that you continue to do/With a raise in your hand/Let’s get ready to take a stand/Every day to pledge to be/The best in Tyler ISD/So, let’s get ready family/We are Tyler ISD/T-I-S-D.”
With that, the Rev. Mason set the tone for a celebration of the people who make up the school district and the work they do to invest in the lives of children in East Texas.
The event served as an opportunity to officially kick off the new school year, which begins when students return Monday.
It featured representation from all schools. District employees filled the main church sanctuary and sat together by campus, with each group wearing different colored campus-themed T-shirts.
A choir and band made up of TISD employees provided musical entertainment for the event and George Faber, director of visual and performing arts, served as the emcee.
Ina Miller, the receptionist at John Tyler High School, led an electrifying performance of the national anthem, with powerful vocals that earned a standing ovation.
And each 2013 campus teacher of the year walked in with a school flag that they posted on stage.
The event promoted the past and present potential in the district. A procession of alumni came on stage one at time as Faber announced the TISD schools they attended and their present occupation.
Many TISD employees and board members were represented among them. In addition, professionals from the business, legal, local government and military communities also were recognized among the alumni.
Eduardo Serratos, a 2012 John Tyler High School graduate, offered an inspirational speech to attendees.
Serratos, 19, attends The University of Texas at Austin where he is a business communications major and Spanish minor.
As the second son in a poor family in Mexico, he spent the early years of his life helping his siblings and parents graze cattle. At 10 years old, he immigrated with his family to the United States.
“I was introduced to a new culture, new people and a new language,” said Serratos, who attended Orr Elementary School.
The first few years were a struggle, but at Boulter Middle School, he became involved with AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. He continued his AVID involvement through high school.
Through the program, which aims to encourage and equip able students to succeed at high levels, he became more involved on campus and received support to help him excel academically.
In 2012, he graduated eighth in his class and earned $40,000 in college scholarships. Serratos said he went from being a shy student to one who held elected office in several organizations and became involved in the community.
“Although I am extremely proud of my accomplishments, I am also proud to say that I am not the only example …” he said. “Tyler ISD has sent hundreds of gifted and qualified people out in the world. Each of us graduates with a sense of pride of being part of the Tyler ISD family.”
Serratos thanked the educators for their support and urged them to remain invested in their students and school community and work hard to be the best they can.
“Each and every one of you contributed to my success, and it’s an honor to stand here before you and say that I am Tyler ISD, and together we are Tyler ISD,” he said.
Superintendent Gary Mooring said there are many students who, like Serratos, have — or will have —inspirational stories because of the investment of TISD educators.
“This is an opportunity we have in Tyler ISD to move forward and to even ... push our students even further than they (have) been pushed before and to accomplish more than Tyler ISD has ever accomplished in student academic progress,” he said.
He talked about some of the highlights of the past year such as the community’s passage of the bond and standardized test scores.
“A lot of positive things happened last year, but it’s just setting the stage for what we’re going to do this year,” he said. “You have the opportunity to affect kids every day.”