November 2015–Outstanding Awards Banquet

Each year, East Fort Worth Business Association recognizes the Outstanding Businesses, organizations and individuals who contribute to the quality of East Fort Worth. We also provide Scholarships to Outstanding Students to help them as they enroll in college. This year, thanks to amazing Sponsors, we were able to provide 3 scholarships to 3 outstanding students.

ORGANIZATION OF THE YEAR
TEXAS WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY

Our Organization of the Year has been a vital part of the fabric and life of East Fort Worth for 125 years.  There have been changes during that time, to be sure…. To its name, to its evolution from a single-sex educational institution to one that is coeducational…. And especially to its physical appearance and relationship to the community.  In the 1980’s, Texas Wesleyan University was the recipient of a large gift… one that was large enough to enable the school to completely relocate its campus if it desired.  Ultimately Wesleyan made the decision to, in the words of one of its trustees, “bloom where they were planted”, and they recommitted themselves to their Polytechnic Heights home.

That recommitment is bearing physical fruit in the renovation and redevelopment of its campus and the surrounding neighborhood.  Wesleyan has just completed what might be the biggest physical change in campus history by opening its new “front door” on Rosedale Street that encompasses a clock tower, reflecting pool, and parking area.  Wesleyan has also participated in the construction of a new facility adjacent to the campus for the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church that brought the local bishop…. AND 25 JOBS… to East Fort Worth.  The school has participated with city, county, and state entities in a multi-million dollar redevelopment of Rosedale Street with new sidewalks, lighting, fencing, sidewalk, landscaping, and roadway improvements.  The retail area across Rosedale from the campus has been acquired by Wesleyan and is being renovated for use by both the school and private businesses.  The historic Polytechnic Firehouse on Vaughn Boulevard has been acquired and renovated, and now houses Wesleyan’s Art Department.

Wesleyan’s commitment to East Fort Worth goes much farther than just “bricks and mortar”, however.  The university actively participates with the Fort Worth ISD in providing numerous enrichment programs to students in the Polytechnic Heights neighborhood.  These programs help K-12 age students expand their educational horizons and prepare for educational opportunities after high school.   One of the most generous programs has been Wesleyan’s “Speak-Up Scholarship”… if a local student completes grades 6-8 at William James Middle School, and grades 9-12 at Polytechnic High School with a 3.0 GPA, they will receive a scholarship to Wesleyan for all tuition and fees.  At the current rate of travel, that amounts to $96,000 over 4 years.  This year, 10 of these scholarships were awarded to students who grew up in the Poly neighborhood.  If you want to do the math, that’s almost a million bucks JUST THIS YEAR.  Of course, Wesleyan continues its higher education mission to a student body of whom over 50% come from Tarrant County…. And many of those young adults stay in the area after graduation.  Fully one-third of Wesleyan’s students are the first in their family to attend college.

For their success in “blooming where they were planted”, the East Fort Worth Business Association is proud to name Texas Wesleyan University as its Organization of the Year.

BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
MCBRAYER AWARD PIANO

Like Texas Wesleyan University, our Business of the Year award winner counts its age at a century-plus, and has also operated under different names over the years.  Around 1895, a Georgia resident named Newton Lafayette McBrayer started a family business that would utilize his personal skills of teaching and tuning pianos.  With four sons and a daughter to support, McBrayer decided to “go west, young man” and started moving towards Texas.    There were stops in Farmersville and Tulia, but ultimately the family and their business settled in Fort Worth, first in the downtown area and then on East Lancaster Avenue in the 1950’s, where McBrayer Award Piano resides to this day.

McBrayer’s has always been a family business.  I won’t go into the entire family tree from the 1890’s, but the family business is now into its fourth generation of being run by a McBrayer, as Danny and Monte are now running the show.  Like so many businesses, the arena that McBrayer’s operates in…. the sale, service, restoration, and transport of new, used, and heirloom pianos and keyboard instruments… has changed markedly since I first met Danny McBrayer when we were seventh graders at Meadowbrook Junior High School in the mid-1960’s.  The McBrayers have “rolled with the punches” as the habits and tastes of American families and their children have changed over the years regarding their appetite for music in the home and its place in the education of our young people.

Through it all, the company and its employees have continued to enhance their reputation as the “go-to” authority for all things piano.  As the demand for new instruments has changed over the years, the McBrayers have enhanced and expanded their skills and reputation as experts in the renovation and restoration of heirloom instruments… with many of those instruments being owned by families who made their original purchase from the McBrayers.  The company continues to be an anchor at the eastern end of East Lancaster Avenue as a vital part of our East Fort Worth community even though their business stretches far beyond our neighborhood and city.

The history of this great family business continues to be written… and that history continues to be a vital part of East Fort Worth.  The East Fort Worth Business Association is proud to name McBrayer Award Pianos as its Business of the Year.

OUTSTANDING MAN OF THE YEAR

CHARLES HODGES

Our Outstanding Man of the Year isn’t a native of East Fort Worth but, as the saying goes, he got here as fast as he could.

Our honoree is a much-honored professional on both a regional and national basis for his work, but it is his efforts in working with our Eastside schools that brought him to our Association, and that work is why our Association honors him tonight.

Charles is accomplished and honored public relations professional in both the public and private sectors.  He has helped create or build such successful brands as Weed Eater, Ryobi power tools, Wet n’ Wild Water Parks, GameStop Corporation, and Fox & Jacobs.  He has a list of accolades and honors as long as your arm, but let me point out two highlights for you:

Charles created the first public-private partnership between the US Forest Service and a private company to manage the annual US Capitol Christmas Tree project.

One of Charles most significant and honored accomplishments was for a national public relations and awareness campaign that he created for an event that affected everyone sitting in this room tonight:  the congressionally-mandated analog-to-digital television transition.

However, I believe Charles would be the first to tell you that the business community is looking for a pool of talented and educated workers when they are looking to open or expand a business… that the most significant priority of a business is the ability to attract and retain well-educated employees.  It is his role with our Eastside schools that we are honoring Charles for tonight.  Charles’ first stop in this role was as the community and communications point person for Eastern Hills High School.  He and his team were charged with improving academic performance, improving the school’s atmosphere for success, and reopening doors within the community that had previously been closed.  Charles went to work revitalizing the school’s communications and community relations efforts that included bringing the PTA back to EHHS after a seven year absence…. Bringing back the homecoming parade to the neighborhood surrounding the school… reestablishing the EHHS Distinguished Alumni Award… and most recently working with EHHS alumni to create a new alumni support group for the school that, since July of this year, has attracted over 2200 contributors that have donated over $35,000 to meet needs at the school.  Charles was also a driving force in the establishment of the “Highlander Care Closet”, which provides students at need with clothing, toiletries, and school supplies.  In just 2-1/2 years the Care Closet has facilitated more than 500 private visits by students and/or their parents from over a dozen schools.

This summer, Fort Worth ISD interim superintendant Pat Linares created two pilot programs to provide additional hands-on engagement with east and southeast Fort Worth schools.  Dr. Linares appointed Charles to head one of those programs….. the “Eastside Alliance”, which focuses on all of the schools in the EHHS attendance zone…. 13 schools, and over 10,000 students.  Charles and his team are working to elevate the level of the school’s engagement with its students’ families and improve the engagement between the schools and the Eastside community.

OUTSTANDING WOMAN OF THE YEAR

SARAH WALKER

Our Outstanding Woman of the Year is an individual is one whose roots in Fort Worth run deep.  In addition to holding down what could be termed her “day job”, she has been active for decades in helping to preserve and promote the history of her community.  She is a well-informed advocate and is routinely sought out for opinion and advice by decision-makers in Fort Worth, both public and private.  Suffice it to say that, if you want to get something done in “her part of town”, you’d do well to have her in your corner.

Sarah has been involved with so many efforts and organizations that it would be difficult to give a complete listing.  Some of her more high-profile involvements have been with promoting the history of the African-American community in Fort Worth through the preservation of I.M. Terrell High School, the Rock Island Bottom neighborhood as well as greater Riverside, the Lenora Rolla Heritage Center, and the Tarrant County Black Historical Society.

Sarah has worked for Edward Jones Investments in East Fort Worth, and has been an involved and valued member of the East Fort Worth Business Association for many years.

We are proud to recognize Sarah for her contributions to our Association, to the Eastside, and to the city of Fort Worth.

Sarah felt she could not accept the award by herself, so she called her friend, Brenda Sanders-Wise up to the podium to add to the acceptance speech.

OUTSTANDING SCHOLARS

Jillian Palmer
Dunbar High School

Jillian is a Senior at Dunbar, even though she lives in Arlington. She carries a full load of studies in addition to her athletic accomplishments.

She was the Capitan for 2 years on the Varsity Soccer team, she ran Varsity Track for 2 years, played Junior Varsity Basketball for 2 years before moving up to Varsity Basketball, and participated in the Varsity Cross Country team for 3 years.

Jillian is in the National Honor Society, and her studies are concentrated on Business Program of Choice and Advance Placement studies.

In her application letter, she states that her biggest goal is to be the first person in her family to graduate from college.

Jillian plans to join the Navy and attend Prairie View A&M to attain a Bachelor’s degree in Mental and Behavioral Health Nursing. Her goal is to become a Registered Mental and Behavioral Health Nurse and work with children at Sundance Hospital.

Keiri Ruvalcalba
Fort Worth Can Academy

Scholarship award winner Keiri Ruvalcalba is currently a senior at Fort Worth Can Academy.

Keiri is a dedicated and diligent student at Fort Worth Can who is three credits away from receiving her diploma… a diploma she will have earned while juggling her roles as a wife, as a mother, and as an employee.  She has already passed all of the state-mandated tests required for high school graduation and has been accepted at Tarrant County College where she will continue her education.

In her nomination letter to us, she says that “attending college full-time and working will be the next obstacle I will face, but I am willing to do what I have to do to get a higher education and work towards having a better life… the road to success isn’t a straight path and sometimes we take wrong turns… but my destination is soon to come”.

The East Fort  Worth Business Association is proud to honor Keiri not only for her personal accomplishment, but also as a way to highlight the role that Fort Worth Can Academy plays in educating the young people in our community.

Isaiah W. Thompson
Eastern Hills High School

Isaiah is a young man going places! He is a Senior at Eastern Hills High School, where he has been a member of the Student Council for four years. He joined the Student Education Advisory Council his sophomore year. He was elected class president his sophomore year, and is Quartermaster of the Highlander Knights Chess Club.

In addition to his studies, Isaiah is a member of the football, soccer, tennis, wrestling, cross country and track teams.

He is a member of the TRIO Upward Bound program, Martin Boys & Girls club,is president of “Tomorrow’s Resilient Leader” Keystone Club of the Martin  Boys & Girls Club, was nominated for the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists Award of Excellence, and is the Assistant Chief of the EHHS Fire Science Academy.

Upon graduating, Isaiah plans to attend Wake Forest University while achieving a double major in Associates of Science in Wellness & Exercise Specialist and Associates in Health & Kinesiology. He also wants to enlist in the National Gurad and assume a leadership position in firefighting. HIs ultimate goal is to attend Harvard and study Law. After graduating college, he will return home and give back to his community via teaching, public speaking and becoming a Fire Instructor/Inspector.

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