Before debate, Alief Independent School District Kerr High senior Queen Eche was a competitive force on the soccer field. Upon enrolling in a magnet high school where sports weren’t the focus, the spunky, extroverted senior turned to debate through an afterschool program. Today the Dartmouth-bound, 17-year old insists it’s not just her grades that helped her get recruited into the Ivy League college, but rather her steadfast dedication to debate after the school day. Harris County Department of Education funds debate for inner-city youth through CASE Debates, an afterschool collaboration between HCDE’s Center for Afterschool, Summer and Enrichment for Kids (CASE for Kids) and the Houston Urban Debate League. Tournaments scheduled throughout the year give teens the opportunity to compete locally and nationally. Last year Eche went to nationals, climbing her way up the ranks in Washington, D.C. She was named as one of two top national debaters. CASE Debates offers two debate formats for competition: World Schools Debate and Policy Debate. Eche prefers Policy Debate, honing the pros and cons about an argument throughout the year. In a debate round, she feels empowered by sharing facts, putting ideas forth a mile-a-minute. They are contested by teammates and judges. New arguments are researched, reasoned and put forth. As her team continues to collect awards, she insists it’s not about the winning or losing. “Competition isn’t about hard feelings; it’s about ideas,” she said. While some high school students might shun afterschool opportunities, Eche welcomes the chance to learn new things, especially when it comes to debate.
“Passion strikes out of nowhere,” she said. “You miss all the shots you don’t take, and you’ve got to test new things out.”
Parents Peter and Jenifer Eche praise the power of afterschool as they watch the eldest of three children set an example through her activity of choice. They moved to Houston from Singapore and understand the importance of their three daughters venturing into the macrocosm outside their southwest Houston neighborhood. “Without afterschool, kids have a monotonous life,” said her father. “But afterschool helps kids see beyond the academics, and they become unique by finding new talents and even choosing their future.” Mom Jenifer elaborates on the benefits. “Kids spend most of their time in the classroom, but she (Queen) gets to express herself freely within the supervised school space,” she said. “It helps them realize their potential.” Kerr Principal Vinson Lewis traveled to Washington, D.C. with the debate team members last year as they qualified for nationals. Because of financial limitations, many students wouldn’t have the opportunity to leave the four-square miles surrounding the school, he explained. “The opportunity for us to partner with CASE Debates and to have that financial support is remarkable,” Principal Lewis said. Once a hobby, debate is now Eche’s future as she says 80 percent of her life revolves around it as she researches and shares ideas. Next fall she moves to New Hampshire to join the Dartmouth debate team. (For more information about CASE Debates and opportunities in area afterschool: .) Source: HCDE
More than 79,000 youth are being trafficked for sex in Texas each year, and Houston is a major hub for human trafficking. To raise awareness, The Center for Safe and Secure Schools at Harris County Department of Education calls attention to trafficking crimes during Human Trafficking Awareness Month in January. Julia Andrews, director of the Center, says human trafficking is a form of abuse or neglect, and educators and the general public must report trafficking. “Everyone has a duty to immediately report suspected or disclosed abuse or neglect, and educational professionals must report it within 48 hours and may not rely on another person to make that report,” Andrews said. Below are additional facts about human trafficking. For more information about prevention, go to . To report, call 713-222-TIPS (Crime Stoppers Houston). • 1 in 3 runaway youth are lured into prostitution within 48 hours. • 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery area children. • Human trafficking is a federal crime and is the second largest criminal industry. • 76 percent of transactions for sex with underage girls are conducted via the Internet. Source: HCDE
New York Times bestselling children’s author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds entertains and inspires early childhood educators Saturday, Feb. 1, from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at the R.T. Garcia Early Childhood Winter Conference. As a bonus for registering, attendees will receive one of his children’s books. The 34th annual Harris County Department of Education conference held at the Kingdom Builder’s Center, 6011 W. Orem Dr., is one of the Texas’ largest conferences for children in grades pre-k through second. Bilingual keynote is singer and songwriter Gilberto Soto, professor of music education at Texas A&M International University. “This year, every attendee receives one of six bestseller books from Peter Reynolds, courtesy of Scholastic Books, a generous sponsor and supporter of our conference,” conference coordinator Andrea Segraves said. “Reynold’s is globally popular as his books are now published in over 25 languages.” Storyteller Reynolds books are about protecting and nurturing the creative spirit, including the three books in his “Creatrilogy”: The Dot, Ish and Sky Color. He owns the Blue Bunny Bookstore in Denham, Massachusetts and has written or illustrated more than 50 children’s books. More than 50 conference breakout sessions include presentations ranging from classroom management, reading, math, social studies, science and social-emotional learning. Education vendors line the exhibition hall with products and educational services. Historically, HCDE continues to provide the conference at a low cost for early childhood educators. The daylong conference is available for $125. Register: Source: HCDE
Newly appointed board member Andrea Duhon was sworn into office Dec. 18 to represent Position 4, Precinct 3 within the Harris County Department of Education Board of Trustees. A self-professed public education advocate, Duhon wants to bolster Harris County student opportunities in early childhood education, adult education workforce certification and second-language acquisition. “I have been in the fight for public education programs for several years now through galvanizing public support and testifying in the 86th (Texas) Legislature in support of HCDE,” she said. “I will continue to stand up for the good of our community through public education programs.” The Katy resident holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from McNeese State University. She is a territory manager and marketing strategist for Plant Sight 3D. Her affiliations include community leader for Combined Arms, formerly Lone Star Veterans Association, a nonprofit helping veterans transition to civilian life. Her husband Hank is active-duty Navy. As a mother to second-grade student Jaci, Duhon talks about education reaching outside the school. “Education does not end in the classroom,” she said. “It extends to the playground, the sports field, the neighborhood and home. When we support our students from a community level, we grow as a society.” Source: HCDE
The After-School Achievement Program (ASAP), is pleased to announce an opportunity to provide a limited number of Houston area child care practitioners a Professional Development Scholarship to attend at least one or all three of the following conferences:  
  • Beyond School Hours Conference: February 26-29, 2020, Orlando, FL
  • National Afterschool Association Convention: March 15-18, 2020, Washington, DC
  • Best Out Of School Time Conference (BOOST): April 28 - May 1, 2020, Palms Springs, CA
  The goal of this scholarship is to help child-care practitioners who would not otherwise have the resources available to gain access to the latest national trends, policies impacting the afterschool field, network with other practitioners and gather information on developing best practices in building quality afterschool programs in licensed child care facilities.   Eligibility:  
  • The Professional Development Scholarship is made available only to Child Care Directors managing licensed child care programs in the Houston area.
  • ASAP will accept only two (2) applications per site.
  • Applicant must have an existing afterschool program; serving youth ages 5 – 13.
  • Applicant child care license must be in good standing with the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services (TDFPS).  ASAP will not accept licenses that are currently in probation status.
  • Applicant must be available to attend the entire conference, and register for the Site Visits provided as part of the conference to local schools/programs scheduled.
  • This is a reimbursement scholarship; thus applicants must have the initial resources to cover the cost and submit an expense reconciliation report to the ASAP office no later than 10- working days returning from the conference.
  • Deadline date to submit invoice expense reconciliation report for each conference is as follows:
    • March 13, 2020 – Beyond Schools Hours Conference
    • April 3, 2020 – National Afterschool Association Convention
    • May 15, 2020 – Best Out Of School Time (BOOST) Conference. 
  Failure to meet the deadline date will result in non-payment of expenses.  NO EXCEPTIONS.   Application Process:
  • Applicants may request a scholarship in the amount not to exceed $2,000 per conference.  Funds will support travel costs, lodging, meals (not to exceed GSA daily per diem) and conference fees only.
    • For Example:
      • 1 child care staff x $2,000 x 3 conferences = $6,000
      • 2 child care staff x $2,000 x 3 conferences = $12,000
o   Lodging and meals must fall in alignment with the General Services Administration (GSA) daily per diem.  A current schedule can be found at  Justification of expenses exceeding the daily per diem rates must be submitted in writing.  
  • To apply, Child Care Director must complete and submit the following items in its entirety.  Incomplete applications will not be accepted:
    • Application Information Form
    • Scholarship Narrative (not to exceed 1 page in length)
    • Deadline date for submittal: Wednesday January 22, 2020
  • Applicants package must be submitted to the ASAP office located at 6200 Wheeler, Bldg. 3, Houston, TX  77023.  Package must be clearly labeled “ASAP Child Care Quality Improvement - Professional Development Scholarship”
  • Applicants will be notified of scholarship opportunity within 10 working days of receipt of the application.  If your organization is currently not a vendor with the City of Houston prior to accepting the scholarship you must sign up as a City of Houston Vendor online at
  For more information: Please contact Twonda Thompson at or 832-395-7244.    

Click HERE to download the application 

The Harris County Department of Education Board of Trustees voted Dec. 18 to replace trustees George Moore, Position 1, Precinct 2 and Josh Flynn, Position 4, Precinct 3 with Amy Hinojosa and Andrea Duhon, respectively. Both Moore, board vice president, and Flynn, president, had tendered their resignations prior to the meeting. “I give my sincere appreciation to Dr. George Moore and Josh Flynn for their service to the students and citizens of Harris County,” HCDE School Superintendent James Colbert Jr. said. “Dr. Moore is an outstanding man and has left a significant fingerprint on this organization as a fierce advocate for the underserved and as a great supporter for our 1,100 employees. Mr. Flynn was a good leader who is very well read, extremely efficient and took pride in his leadership post, and I wish him well in his new endeavors.” Hinojosa, a Pasadena resident, was sworn into office shortly after her appointment. She is a 16-year, oil-and-gas project manager. She volunteers with an education advocacy group called ProUnitas. “I’m passionate about serving my community and about improving student outcomes,” said Hinojosa. “I look forward to the work ahead, and I’m excited.” Duhon, a Katy resident, is a small business financial advisor who has a record for advocating for public education programs such as Head Start. HCDE currently serves 1,250 Head Start children and families in northeast and east Harris County. “I look forward to serving the community on behalf of the students of Harris County,” Duhon said. At the meeting, the board also named Eric Dick as president and Danyahel “Danny” Norris as vice president. Dick called the new trustee appointments “a breath of fresh air.” Source: HCDE
At first, afterschool coordinator Susana Salinas was skeptical about commandeering a drone. Once she was behind the controls, she owned the experience. Salinas is one of 30 educators attending drone training hosted through HCDE’s CASE for Kids which introduced curriculum to use drones in afterschool programs as part of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. Educators may borrow the drones from the SMART Zone, which stands for Sharing Multiple Afterschool Resources and Technology. The afterschool resource is a comprehensive collection of materials available to all out-of-school time programs in Harris County. The drones are housed there, as well as sports and fitness equipment, electronics, activity books and curriculum. First, the afterschool adults must learn how to manage the drones themselves. “This was my first time working with a drone, and it was definitely a lot more difficult than I thought,” Salinas said. Afterschool educators were introduced to control panels using Androids or I-pads. Salinas sees the flexibility which drones offer as afterschool curriculum through her organization called Sewa International, a nonprofit which serves underprivileged youth.
“Working with drones you can go anywhere—with the kid who likes art to the one who loves science,” she said.
Teachers attending the drone training Dec. 13 and 14 learned about flying and gained certificates. They may borrow drones from the SMART Zone.  For more information about CASE for Kids SMART Zone, go to . Source: HCDE
Harris County Department of Education Head Start Mom Jessica Bouldin and two sons Jyree, 3, and Jasious, 6, were gifted a shiny, blue, rehabbed Nissan Altima this Christmas through Bates Collison Centers. View photo album: Bicycles, gifts and car were presented by Lee and Leila Bates and employees as they volunteered their resources through the Responsible Parenting Award, a philanthropic project which has been ongoing for 20 years. The Bouldins received car number 37. Bates employees rehab the car and community members help with resources such as insurance, gas, tires and gifts. “I think the important thing we need to recognize is that sometimes life gets in the way for whatever reason,” said HCDE Superintendent James Colbert Jr. “Someone needs a helping hand to get them back into a direction that can change their lives forever.” Bouldin is a victim of domestic abuse and is raising her sons as a single parent with the help of her aunt. She must find transportation to get herself to work and her sons to separate schools each day. Recently she was promoted on her job. “I know that this car is going to make a big difference in your life,” said Leila Bates. Bates said she and husband Lee organize the event, but staff volunteer hours to rehab the car. “They put cars back on the road every day,” she said. “That’s what they do for a living. But for this they are putting a family back on the road.” HCDE Head Start programs like the one Jyree attends in northeast Houston are free and help prepare children and their families for success in school. Bouldin looks forward to volunteering in her son’s classroom now that she has wheels. “I watched my aunt take people in that really needed help,” she said. “It taught me that helping others is very important.” For more information about Head Start services and enrollment, go to . Source: HCDE
CASE for Kids is pleased to announce an opportunity for experienced contracted services and trainers to compete for a contract to provide services to the afterschool community in the Harris and surrounding counties. If you are interested in competing to contract services or be a trainer for CASE for Kids, please go to the HCDE eBid System to register as a bidder.  Respond to RFP #19/031IA-3 (CASE for Kids Contracted Services and Trainers).  Deadline to register as a bidder and respond to Request for Proposal (RFP): Tuesday, January 14, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. A committee selected by HCDE will review and evaluate all proposals and make a recommendation to the HCDE Board of Trustees. HCDE will base a recommendation for contract award on the evaluation factors listed in accordance with Texas Education Code § 44.031. Any questions regarding this proposal should be directed in writing to Inga Ash at
Through the generosity of nonprofit Houston Children’s Charity, more than 450 Harris County Department of Education Head Start students and their siblings will have gifts this holiday season. That’s a sigh of relief for Fonwood Head Start parent Jasmine Samuel. “At the time, I wasn’t so sure about Christmas for us,” Samuel said. “My mom passed away from cancer about two months ago. I didn’t think I would be able to afford Christmas presents for my daughter.” Kailyn Samuel-Clark, 4, attends the Head Start program at Fonwood, one of 15 Head Start centers in east and northeast Harris County administered through Harris County Department of Education. Income-eligible families and children with disabilities gain free Head Start services to help equip children with academic and social skills for school. Families receive support services in the school readiness program through community partners like Houston Children’s Charity. Siblings in HCDE Head Start families will also each receive three gifts from the nonprofit, even the teenagers, said Michael Muniz, marketing communications and social media manager for Houston Children’s Charity. “This partnership with HCDE Head Start is particularly meaningful because we get to share our community’s giving spirt and joy of Christmas with so many families as the blessed recipients of donations collected through the U.S. Marines’ Toys for Tots program,” he said. Muniz said the goal for this year is for the nonprofit to provide 6,500 Houston families with toys for more than 20,000 children. Families receive their toys at George R. Brown Convention Center on Dec. 20 and 21. The preidentified families will be provided wristbands and a letter to enter the toy store. Giveaways range from plush toys to Lego sets to bikes to board games. Head Start mother Samuels is excited about seeing the look on her daughter’s face on Christmas morning as sheopens the gifts donated to her family. “I’m grateful and really appreciate them for doing this for us and everyone else,” Samuels said. “It will help me put a smile on her face and see her happy to receive something on Christmas morning.” If you would like to donate gifts to the Houston Children’s Charity for the holiday gift giveaway, learn more at Head Start and Early Head Start centers at HCDE serve children ages six weeks to age 5. For more information about HCDE Head Start, go to Source: HCDE