During this time of challenge and change, Dallas Summer musicals was looking for local stars who’ve gone above and beyond for the community. These game-changers could be on the front lines, in healthcare, organizing community events, finding creative solutions to problems, teaching in social distance or leading the fight against inequality. We wanted to celebrate the stars who are helping our communities be safer, more inclusive and all together better for all of us – just like the arts!
Thank you to the wonderful members of the Dallas community who nominated their friends, family, and coworkers for our Nominate a Star campaign! We reviewed the nominees and chose five winners, who will each receive four tickets to an upcoming show when Broadway returns to Dallas. All the nominations we received were inspiring and heartwarming, and we are thrilled to share our winners and other nominations.
- Adan Gonzales, nominated by Rita Benavidez: Adan is a behind the scenes essential employee and very few people know that his job exists. He is an Environmental Technician who is responsible for monitoring gas levels at landfills. He is at work everyday, rain or shine, 100+° heat or freezing temperatures, facing numerous environmental hazards. Adan understands the importance of the job and takes pride in his work. I feel that this unsung hero is very deserving of this recognition.
- Leslye Roberts, nominated by Joey Roberts: As the principal of Reagan Elementary in Abilene, Leslye has spent countless hours guiding her staff and students to safety through this pandemic. She spends more than 60 hours a week working on not only providing her students and staff with the instruction they need, but also showing love and compassion in the lowest socioeconomic part of Abilene. On top of everything with the pandemic and education, she is also having to guide the campus through a school shutdown because of low enrollment. She is having to not only help prepare the students for their new schools and get them to the level they need to be to succeed, but she is having to help prepare the staff for their transition as well, all while not knowing what her next role is going to be. Above all, she is an excellent mother to two elementary students and wife as well. Oh, and she loves musicals!
- Dr. Porshia Haymon, nominated by Veronica Moreno: Dr. P is the Senior Director of Programs and Clinical Services for Café Momentum. She counsels and guides youth who have recently been released from juvenile facilities. Her dedication to these young people has been especially inspiring this year seeing her go above and beyond to ensure their well-being.
- Robin Prevallet, nominated by Stacy Mantellini: My sister teaches middle school at Eagle Mountain Saginaw. She’s alway gone above and beyond, but when the pandemic started she bought loaves of bread to make PB&Js in case her kids didn’t have food. She delivered toilet paper and food to students in high risk areas, she provides clothing to her new arrived to the country students. Her job doesn’t end when the bell rings. She loves her students and deserves this gift you’re giving!
- Stephany Hume, nominated by Kayla Morrow: Stephany is a teacher who gives her students her 110%. Overcoming cancer twice, Stephany just went into surgery and still taught her students virtually from her hospital bed. Stephany has a huge heart and deserves to be recognized.
- Addison Ransom, nominated by Terri Howley: Addison Ransom is a volunteer and now doing homeless and incarceration studies. She also fosters cats, and dogs and now added Big Sister to her list. All before the age of 25 and paying off student loans.
- Amanda Bolen, nominated by Patricia Dillon: Amanda devotes ALL of her free time to the North Texas Performing Arts organization. So many children thrive because of her efforts. I haven’t met a single individual who didn’t like Amanda. She is kind, generous, funny and love the arts, especially theater. This would be the perfect prize for her. She hasn’t let Covid stop her commitment to the performing arts!
- Andrea Penny, nominated by Cassandra Rogers: She is a teacher (co-worker) who has been a source of strength and hope during this time.
- Angela Sham, nominated by Dawn Strauss: Angela is making Nutcracker performances happen for her students at the Royale Ballet Dance Academy. Everyone has told her [it] is impossible, but her marching orders are, “These girls have lost so much this year, I won’t let them lose this too.” She is probably spending her own money to make a Nutcracker like we’ve never seen before. With an abundance of safety measures, she is going forth, despite insurmountable odds and proving that when it comes to the students that she loves so much, anything is possible.
- Beth Burau, nominated by Kay Gentsch: Beth is the coordinator of instructional technology at Bishop Lynch High School. She has gone above and beyond to make sure we were prepared and had all needed resources for this topsy-turvy time. Beth is the epitome of patience and is a favorite of students and co-workers. She is the hardest-working and most creative teacher I know. She deserves recognition!
- Billy House, nominated by Selena House: When COVID first began, I was working as a nurse but I ended up furloughed and laid off because of my previous cancer history. My husband who is a Dallas County Deputy Sheriff is a local star to me. One of his secretaries’ spouse is battling cancer and so he not only ensures the health of his family but also the people he works with. Through everything he continues to persevere in these though times.
- Brittany Phillips, nominated by Paula Watson: Brittany is an eighteen-year-old who enlisted in the Army. She has been quarantined twice and exposed to the virus, yet she remains in bootcamp, which will last months longer due to COVID-19 because of her commitment to serve her country. She is an honorable soldier.
- Carolyn Mayhorn, nominated by Lashawnda Mayhorn: My aunt/nurse Carolyn has been busting her butt to ensure the safety of those during COVID.
- Charlene Ledbetter, nominated by Sharmaine Hill: Charlene has worked to keep our community theater alive during this pandemic by co-writing, directing and producing Butterfield Stage Players’ premiere virtual production “Staying In”. The rehearsals and recordings were all conducted over Zoom, a first for our playhouse. Charlene marshaled resources and creativity to produce a new form of community theater as well as to engage new audiences from around the country. Did I mention the theme of “Staying In” is about a small community theater forced to close its doors during a global pandemic? Charlene’s humor and intellect crafted a funny, farcical story showcasing how the Board of Directors for the Margarine Valley Players struggles to keep their small community theater relevant during a global pandemic.
- Claire Allen, nominated by Christopher Allen: Claire is the WTWhite High School media clerk, whose responsibilities have increased with the schools librarians departure. She keeps the library functioning, in person, for students physical and virtual.
- Judge Clay Jenkins, nominated by Donald Jordan: Judge Jenkins has worked tirelessly to try and inform and protect the people of Dallas County during the COVID crisis. I had never heard of him prior to this year, but I have grown to admire and respect him enormously through his efforts.
- Debbie Hu, nominated by Ciara Hu: Debbie is a nurse at a hospital in Irving, TX and considered as a local star. She is caring and selfless. Even during these difficult times, she always wants to help others and make sure their loved ones are taken care of.
- Eleshia Crotwell, nominated by Michele Langley: Mrs. Crotwell is Denton Guyer High School Theatre’s teacher who fought for and worked tirelessly to make sure our kids put on Bright Star with an audience and jumped through so many hoops to keep our students and audience safe and socially distanced while helping to return some semblance of normalcy which everyone so desperately needed.
- Emily Morales, nominated by Kayla Wessels: Emily teaches freshman biology at Denton High School and is working on a graduate degree online at the same time! She loves her students and truly cares about how they are doing during this pandemic. She is the best teacher and her students adore her!
- Eve Herman, nominated by Wil Matthews: Nurse Eve is a Godsend to Shelton School. As our school nurse, Eve monitors the health and wellbeing of 1,000 students aged four to 18 on a daily basis. Eve has gone above and beyond, spending her nights and weekends ensuring our students, staff and families are safe and healthy.
- Hannah Fisher, nominated by Kevin Fisher: Hannah runs the Acting Studio Rockwall which is focused on providing children learning -and- experience in singing, dancing, and acting. The studio sponsors several performances throughout the year giving local students a chance to shine on the stage. I have seen values of perseverance, self-belief, teamwork, and more build in her students, some including my own children. Despite the economic and logistical impact of the pandemic, Hannah has stayed dedicated to her students. I am proud of her commitment to the Community and the Arts. I know many agree with me and I can’t think of a better ‘Star’!
- Hannah Himes, nominated by Pamela Himes: Hannah is an ICU Nurse at Dallas Presbyterian Hospital. She and her coworkers have gone above and beyond to help COVID ICU patients and of course their normal ICU patients. Long hours and stress. Looking forward to an upcoming musical would lift Hannah’s spirits!
- Jenny McGee, nominated by Mandy Hughes: Jenny is a mother of two elementary-aged kids. While she and her husband Mark have been juggling working from home, schooling from home, and moving to a new house, she has also been working tirelessly with LovePacs to be sure that people in need in our community can get what they need.
- Jill Steinbach, nominated by Shane Steinbach: She works as a nurse practitioner at a pediatric ER as well as a nurse for a pediatric nurse advice line for a major pediatric hospital. Averaging 60 hour work weeks. Plus a home to three girls, one with cerebral palsy.
- Kat Foley, nominated by Justin Foley: My wife is an amazing reading and writing teacher, and has adapted to every change, limitation, and challenge thrown at her this year. Despite all the things thrown at her this year, she continues to inspire her kids to learn, grow, and love reading!
- Kelly Talley, nominated by Leonard Monreal, Jr.: Kelly is music/choir teacher for a middle school. He’s been very creative in teaching in person and virtually. During the beginning of the pandemic he reached out to students by phone and email to make sure they were doing ok. He continues to do both teaching in class and online inspiring his students.
- Kiley Austin, nominated by Josh King: I’d like to nominate my sister, Kiley Austin, who’s a teacher at Greenville High School – a low income school 50 miles outside Dallas. She’s done her best in 2020 to not only support the school, but to keep the students encouraged. My sister is raising two boys, and she helped her husband complete his college degree this year.
- Lacey Gee, nominated by Dawn Monroe: Mrs. Gee is my son’s Pre-K teacher at a local elementary school. As a fellow teacher myself, I know she has sacrificed much of the “normal” to make the school year “a new normal”. Teaching four-year-olds is hard, but she wears a smile daily and keeps a positive attitude to make learning fun!
- Maddison Gilcrese, nominated by Aiden Poling: Maddison is a teacher for the Talented Theatre program in Bossier Parish. She goes above and beyond creating opportunities for her students to continue performing during this time. She also works at a local non-profit children’s theatre after school and has continued teaching virtual classes and continuing to give access to theatre and an opportunity to create and express one’s self. Her students are her life.
- Mario Ordonez, nominated by Jose Guzman: He works very hard every day to ensure every single student is reached and tries all means available to reach students, parents, and other teachers to reach at risk students. He is truly an example of what no student left behind should be.
- Marj Rash, nominated by Kathryn Yingling: When the virus hit, attendance to yoga classes and sales of yoga props plummeted. So, in order to stay solvent, Marj took a part-time job across the street from Yoga Mart at our local Tom Thumb. She quickly became a model employee they’re serving our community on the front lines. Meanwhile, she had classes to teach and merchandise to make and sell at Yoga Mart. She hasn’t had a day off in months and months. And, her students are grateful for how readily she embraced Zoom so that her classes could continue. She is an excellent teacher and proud business woman.
- Mary O’Brien, nominated by Penny Chaloux: A Dallas restaurant owner, Mary was greatly impacted by COVID. Rather than feel sorry for herself, she and her Dream Cafe staff used their time and resources to feed those in need, partnering with the non-profit WiNGS (wingsdallas.org). Mary is a generous and active member of the Dallas community.
- Meg Roe, nominated by Tracy Young: Meg is a complete healthcare hero and shining star! She works nights, days and her smile lights up the room for every patient. She is a nurse – has been in cardiac and children’s [departments] and also now COVID-19 areas too. Her mask and PPE may cover up that 1,000 watt smile, but I know her patients are blessed by her nearness and the smile in her voice. She deserves recognition as big as Dallas and as big as Texas.
- Megan Fairchild, nominated by Peggy Fairchild: Has stayed positive and helped many during this pandemic. She works with volunteers and gave one who is special needs the first birthday card received outside her family. Always looking out for others! She is a light to others.
- Missey Yeats, nominated by Dale Moore: Many forget how a Dental Hygienist is exposed to countless germs. It’s a leading profession for disease exposure. When it was possible for Dental offices to open, Missey is completely covered in many layers, as many as a doctor, changing clothes before entering work, changing when leaving. Missey is a total champ and goes to every possible measure to protect her little patients since she works at a children’s office. Please consider this champion for children. She’s a tremendous valued employee of Dr. Melissa Rozas. Many thanks!
- Nicole Works, nominated by Patricia Gonzalez: Nikki is an ICU nurse caring for COVID patients at a local hospital. She has a virtuous combination of being diligent and compassionate in caring for her patients. She is valiant in the fight to give her patients and their family hope.
- Paige Lasserna, nominated by Anna Barrett: Paige works tirelessly for her alma mater as a college and career counselor for our HSI seniors. She assists with fundraising, college prep, all senior activities, and so much more. Her joy is infectious; her dedication is extraordinary. Her efforts make senior life more than a number. She bring joy to our seniors in fun and creative ways.
- Pat Bywaters, nominated by Linda West: Pat has gone above and beyond to promote live music during the pandemic. He has hosted weekly socially distanced “Tiny Porch Concerts” from his front porch since April. He invites guest artists and uses this platform to promote other live performances around Dallas. He takes care of all the lighting and sound set up and even hosed down the street to cool it off during the hottest evenings of the summer! Pat is a real Texas hero and has made the pandemic more tolerable in our neighborhood and beyond!
- Shannon Everett, nominated by Tammy Randolph: Middle school teacher teaching both online and in person classes. Overworked! Kids adore her. She is stressed to breaking point with COVID restrictions. Needs some appreciation to be inspired to go on. Past season ticket-holder. Give her a bright light!
- Sheila Bartlett, nominated by Keith Bartlett: A mother a teacher to our home schooled 17 year old and two grand daughters. A real estate broker and she donates 5% of earnings to Small World as well as sits on the board and heads up the Angel Tree Project for Frisco ISD.
- Sheree Cleaver, nominated by Gordon Markley: Ms. Sheree Cleaver works at North Dallas High School. She arranges for food to be given to those who are in need. She does amazing work for the NDHS Community. She also mentors young women in the Ladies of Leadership Group. So many have been helped by Mr. Cleaver. She is a superstar and very worthy of recognition. Thanks!
- Staci Norris, nominated by Jenny Yates: Staci is a single mom of twins. She was working two jobs when the pandemic hit and her twins, both with ADHD , became her students. Staci has systemic lupus, continues to work two jobs and then became a home school teacher as the schools closed. She is a rockstar mom and the best friend anyone could ask for.
- Susan Taylor, nominated by Johnny Barrett: Susan is the Resident Care Director and RN, BSN at The Oxford Grand Assisted Living & Memory Care Community. Oxford was one of the early crisis facilities in Texas when this unseen, unpredictable, untreatable COVID-19 struck. With great professional care and focus on resident health and protection, Susan withstood the pressure of social media, public TV and news media attention, corporate management and local and state health inspectors scrutiny. She has proven to be a model health care hero under the most trying circumstances.
- Toni Sabadach, nominated by Kara Hudson: She is an amazing hard worker she works at sprouts in Allen, TX then right after she gets off she goes and does Shipt and she doesn’t stop and take time for herself. She deserves sooo much
- Vicki Morgan, nominated by Hope Layne Morgan: I would like to nominate Vicki Morgan, an educator, for the local star contest.I am in awe of Vicki Morgan’s resilience, nurturing support and fortitude in the face of overwhelming challenges.
I admire her resilience because her property was destroyed in last year’s tornado. Yet somehow, without electricity, fences, WiFi, and with tarps on the roof to keep out the rain, she only missed one day of school–the day after the tornado–and just because it took her eight hours to dig out a pathway to her car underneath a pile of debris. She didn’t want to miss two days because she greets all her students at the front door as they enter the preschool to start their day.
She is a nurturer and an engaged mother of five, grandmother of four, and a second mother to children aged two to five at the local preschool where she works tirelessly as its Administrative Director and this fall, as a Teacher again too.
In spite of all she was going through personally to rebuild her home and professionally, not being able to hug or see her young students as a result of the pandemic, she coped by reading a thoughtfully selected book daily to her students. Posting it on the preschool’s website when schools tried to hold classes virtually after Spring Break. She thought this gesture would give the parents of her students a much needed break and provide some sense of normalcy to her student’s day by seeing her on camera.
Vicki Morgan was not only teaching virtually, but learning virtually, as well, as a second year graduate student at SMU pursuing a Masters of Education. She takes a class each semester one night a week for three hours after working at the preschool. Then studies, takes tests, researches, and writes papers on the weekends. This lonely pursuit of a secondary degree late in her life is mainly to ensure she provides an innovative curriculum for her students so they are prepared to successfully transition into elementary school.
If we didn’t collectively think being a teacher, especially to young kids, was one of the toughest professions, we realized it quickly when we found ourselves struggling to work from home ourselves, impose structure in the midst of uncertainty and chaos in our households and trying to help our kids continue to learn in this new, virtual school at-home environment. All the while trying to keep each other safe as people in her age group were the most vulnerable and dying in staggering numbers.
She is an excellent example of a local teacher doing her part to bring us stability and hope in these uncertain times.
As a patron of the arts herself, she has struggled to find an outlet for her stress although she hides it well. It use to be running at the aerobics center, going to the movies, the symphony and seeing shows at the theater.
I would love for Vicki Morgan to see herself as so many of the parents at the preschool, her students, classmates at graduate school, colleagues, children and grandchildren see her as a local star and superhero wearing a shield and brandishing a storybook.