Champions for Children

Each year Early Learning Centers recognizes individuals and groups who work or advocate on behalf of young children in our area. There are four (4) honorees each year: Teacher of Young Children in a Childcare, Teacher of Young Children in an ISD, The Robbie McGrew Memorial Honoree and the Champion for Children Honoree.

Champion for Children Honorees

Parkhill, Plains Capital Bank, McDougal Companies

As Partners in Education with Lubbock ISD, Parkhill, PlainsCapital Bank and McDougal Companies worked with the district to identify the needs within the community and where their involvement would have the most impact. For over 20 years, Parkhill, PlainsCapital Bank, and McDougal Companies have blessed the students at Alderson Elementary School with Christmas gifts. Not only do the partners provide Christmas gifts, but they also sponsor open houses, teacher appreciation events, school supply drives, mentoring, financial literacy programs and a graduation ceremony for 5th graders going into middle school at the end of the year. 

Building community is what Parkhill is about. They not only build communities physically, but also build communities through their involvement in programs like Partners in Education. Parkhill employees have a heart for helping students and enjoy the stories they get to hear from the children while delivering Christmas gifts at Alderson Elementary. Leslie Moss, wife of Mike Moss at Parkhill, plays a huge role in purchasing toys for the annual Christmas campaign at Alderson. Parkhill is continually inspired by gratitude of the children, knowing they have helped to fulfill a need.  

Giving back to the community is something Plains Capital Bank is passionate about. Plains Capital Bank believes in the importance of investing in local schools, students, and teachers and the impact it has on the lives of so many children. The investment made now is an investment made for the future. The students they work with today are tomorrow’s citizens, business owners, and leaders of our community. Plains Capital Bank employees are always excited to help the students and continue to be inspired by helping young children who are just beginning their life’s journey.  

The McDougal team loves to be involved in the Lubbock community and work together to help and support fellow citizens. McDougal Companies have been involved at Alderson Elementary with the partners since 2013.  Over the last 9 years, McDougal Companies has been immensely rewarded by all the smiling faces and true excitement they’ve seen from all the Alderson students!  One of the most awesome things is not only how the kids respond, but how their teachers are all so very thankful for their involvement.  The Alderson staff truly cherishes seeing their students cared for and happy.  Alderson’s teachers and administration work hard to love and take care of their students. It’s a privilege to be able to walk alongside them as they make the REAL difference in kid’s lives. 

Robbie McGrew Memorial Honoree

State Representative John Frullo

This award is given to someone in our community who works or advocates on behalf of young children.

State Representative John Frullo has been an advocate for children for many years. Before becoming involved in politics, State Representative Frullo was involved in many clubs and activities that prepared him for his role in the government. 

Representative Frullo is passionate about advocating for children because it’s important we help kids to be the best. “Advocating for those who need help, who are the most vulnerable, is a great place to start to help the community,” State Representative Frullo says. After creating Alicia’s Law, Representative Frullo continued to create legislation during his time in office to further protect children across the internet. Another element of advocating for children is educating the public about the things happening around us, that we don’t necessarily see ourselves. As a child advocate, State Representative John Frullo says he’s more aware now of what’s happening in our world and learning as much as he can to help children in need. 

State Representative Frullo, thank you for making a difference in the lives of children! 

Teacher of Young Children In An ISD

Keri Henderson

Keri Henderson teaches 3-year-olds with special needs at Bennett Elementary School. For 31 years, Mrs. Henderson has gone above and beyond in her role of advocating for young children. 

Mrs. Henderson believes this is where she is meant to be. She works with the parents so they can see the potential their child truly has. Her heart shines as an advocate for children. Her greatest joy working with children is seeing the progress they make and the happiness on their faces when they achieve that goal of saying hello or letting people know what they want. Mrs. Henderson is passionate about the difference she’s making in the lives of her students and in the lives of their parents. Mrs. Henderson says, “I see the world around them. Almost every day, I see something new through kids’ eyes. It keeps me compassionate towards others, and people that are different from myself and helps me to remember there’s humanity in all of us.”  

Mrs. Henderson, you are truly making a difference in the lives of young children. Thank you! 

Teacher of Young Children In A Childcare

Jazmine (Ledesma) Smalts

Jazmine (Ledesma) Smalts is a Pre-Kindergarten teacher at Guadalupe Early Learning Center where she has worked with young children for 5 years.  

Jazmine says she did not choose the early childhood education field, it chose her. She is a passionate teacher, continuously learning and applying what she’s learned in the classroom. Her greatest joy working with children is just conversating with them. Jazmine loves to build relationships with her students, and sometimes, these students don’t want to leave her class! She takes pride in knowing she’s preparing young children for successful futures. Jazmine said, “Oh man, the impact that I make on them… they don’t even realize the impact they make on me. They make me a better person; they make me want to try harder and do better for their world because I want them to have a successful life in their future.”  

Jazmine, you embody the mission of Early Learning Centers while making a difference in the lives of young children, and we thank you! 

Previous Champion for Children Honorees

2010-Success By 6

2011 – Wentz Orthodontics

2012 – TTU Health Science Center: School of Nursing

2013 – Lubbock Children’s Health Clinic

2014 – South Plains Association for the Education of Young Children (SPAEYC)

2015 – Junior League of Lubbock Food 2 Kids

2016 – Amerigroup

2017 – Family Promise

2018 – Parenting Cottage

2019 – Family Guidance and Outreach Center

2020 – Eddy Morelock

2021 – Literacy Lubbock

Previous Robbie McGrew Memorial Honorees

2007-Robbie McGrew, Child Advocate

2008 – Canzada Bray, Child Advocate

2009 – Claire Dulaney, Child Advocate

2010-Paula Jones, Child Advocate

2011 – Glenda Mathis, YWCA

2012 – Johnanne Reynolds, Child Advocate

2013 – Bob Craig, Child Advocate

2014 – LaNelle Etheridge, Texas Tech Early Head Start

2015 – Merinda Condra, The Institute for Creative Learners

2016 – Rebecca Wilson, Parent’s in Crisis

2017 – Cindy Bruington, Texas Tech Child Development Research Center

2018 – Nancy Rasco, Child Advocate

2019 – Aaron Dawson, One Heart Orphan Care

2020 – Jeremy Cares, Tiny Tots, Read A Lot!

2021 – Helen Liggett, Tiny Tots, Read A Lot!

Previous Teacher of Young Children in an ISD Honorees

2007 – Irma Guerra & Carol Schempp, Lubbock ISD

2008 – Susan Weiland, Lubbock ISD

2009 – Kathy Pearson, Lubbock ISD

2010 – Louise Sullivan & Becky Geist, Lubbock ISD

2011 – Lisa Simmons, Frenship ISD

2012 – Shawnda King, Lubbock ISD

2013 – Sharon Zumwalt, Lubbock ISD

2014 – Tracie Grimshaw, Lubbock ISD

2015 – Penni Pennington, Lubbock ISD

2016 – Martha Jones, Lubbock ISD

2017 – Tina Thompson, Lubbock ISD

2018 – Dorothy Tavarez, Lubbock ISD

2019 – Donna Bullington, Frenship ISD

2020 – Andrea McCallister, Lubbock-Cooper ISD

2021 – Naomi Ortiz, Lubbock ISD

Previous Teacher of Young Children in a Childcare Honorees

2007 – Darnise Austin, Covenant Child Development

2008 – Ruby Phenix, Carver Early Learning Center

2009 – Bobby Hiracheta, Covenant Child Development

2010 – Michelle Hunter, Talkington Early Learning Center

2011 – Glen James, Texas Tech Head Start

2012 – Jackie Bradshaw, New Directions Early Learning Center

2013 – Ana Bosquez, Christ the Kine Early Childhood Development Center

2014 – Mary Boone, Christ the King Early Childhood Development Center

2015 – Mary Street, Oakwood Methodist Child Development Center

2016 – Babs Gamez, Christ the King Early Childhood Development Center

2017 – Yolanda Guzman, YWCA Head Start

2018 – Virginia Martinez, Guadalupe Early Learning Center

2019 – Gracie Sandoval, Sunnyside Learning Academy

2020 – Monica Pendgraft, New Directions Early Learning Center

2021 – Lorraine Bliss, Learning Tree Children’s Academy


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