SALADO, Texas — Lt. Col. Gilberto Escobedo, executive officer, U.S. Army Garrison – Fort Hood, along with mayors and representatives from the Texas communities of Belton, Copperas Cove, Gatesville, Harker Heights, Killeen, Lampasas, Nolanville and Salado, gathered at the Grace Jones Ballroom to proclaim April as Sustainable Environment Month and also present the Cen-Tex Environmental Ambassador and Youth Environmental Ambassador! awards April 24 here.
“Through engaging and interactive initiatives, the Cen-Tex Partnership is inspiring youth to feel empowered in making a difference, encouraging residents, Soldiers and families to lead as environmental stewards, and serving as a model for other communities to collaborate and create similar partnerships,” Escobedo said. “Helping to champion our mission of environmental and community stewardship are today’s awardees, who we will recognize for raising awareness about stewardship and sustainability, inspiring others to develop connections with our environment and fostering positive changes to enhance the well-being of our Central Texas communities.”
Escobedo and D. Jasen Graham, alderman for Village of Salado, hosted the event to celebrate youth, organizations and individuals from each of the partner communities.
“We celebrate individuals, organizations and schools for demonstrating a high degree of environmental achievement,” Graham said. “As each of our awardees are recognized, take note of the amazing and positive work being done to furthering sustainability across Central Texas, and seek inspiration from their successes.”
Recipients included Kira Woods from Belton; Hettie Halstead Elementary from Copperas Cove; Arletta Carr-Afalava from Fort Hood; Cheri Shepherd from Gatesville; Kristina Ramirez from Harker Heights; Youth Advisory Commission from Killeen; Wings of Eagles Outreach from Lampasas; Nolanville Lions Club from Nolanville; and Thomas Arnold Elementary from Salado.
Many notable accomplishments were recognized including Carr-Afalava, a Killeen Independent School District staff member, who is creating a positive impact in the hallways and classrooms of Oveta Culp Hobby Elementary.
“She has inspired Pre-K through third grade students to make their school and the Fort Hood community better by protecting the environment with one recyclable at a time,” Cristina Miranda, counselor, Oveta Culp Hobby Elementary, said. “Over the years, our school has won in the top 3 of the Greater Fort Hood Area Recycle Bowl because of Arletta’s commitment and selfless service to keep Fort Hood youth engaged, supported and challenged to be good stewards of their community and school.”
Ramirez, director of planning for Harker Heights, was recognized for her continued contributions to the Cen-Tex Sustainable Communities Partnership since its establishment in 2009, when Fort Hood, Killeen, Gatesville, Harker Heights and Copperas Cove signed the initial memorandum of understanding for a five-year partnership.
“Kristina has made substantial impacts to the sustainability and environmental protection for the region, and the resounding success of this partnership can be traced to volunteers like Kristina,” Yvonne Spell, staff committee chairperson, Cen-Tex Partnership, said. “Her contagious enthusiasm has led to increased participation from both local communities and city of Harker Heights staff members. We are extremely lucky to have Kristina as part of our team at the city of Harker Heights, and as a member of the Cen-Tex Sustainable Communities Partnership.”
For the first time, the Cen-Tex Partnership recognized winning schools for the 2022-2023 Youth Environmental Ambassadors! program, also known as YEA!.
The YEA! program is a collaborative partnership between the Cen-Tex Partnership and the Fort Hood School Liaison Office Adopt-A-School Program to encourage youth to make a difference within their footprint. YEA! features several initiatives that promote litter prevention, conservation, recycling and beautification across Central Texas.
Recipients included Hettie Halstead Elementary for the Greater Fort Hood Area Recycle Bowl award for recycling 1739.86 pounds; Fairview/Miss Jewell Elementary for the Plastics for a Purpose award for recycling 240 pounds of plastic bags and also winner of the Pull Together to Make a Difference and recycling 26.8 pounds of pull tabs; Leon Heights Elementary as winner of Lights Out Lunch for turning off the lights for 779 hours; Oveta Culp Hobby Elementary as the Sustained Excellence award winner for participating in the YEA! program for seven consecutive years and placing in the top 3 of the Greater Fort Hood Area Recycle Bowl.
During the recognition, awardees were presented with a tree cookie – a cross section of a tree and a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from Congressman John Carter.
“Over the years, the Cen-Tex Sustainable Communities Partnership has set the stage for knowledge-sharing, collaboration and resilience,” Graham said. “I look forward to the continued environmental successes and positive impacts throughout the Central Texas region.”
Following the awards presentation, Graham, the mayors and representatives gathered to sign a proclamation declaring April as Sustainable Environment Month.
Graham concluded the event expressing appreciation to the partner communities and awardees recognized.
“Thanks to each of you for your leadership commitment, community involvement and environmental stewardship,” he said.