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Congressman Johnson recognizes community with awards ceremony

Elm Grove STEM teacher Spencer Kiper was recognized by Congressman Mike Johnson in a ceremony Thursday in Bossier City. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

By Stacey Tinsley, stinsley@bossierpress.com

U.S. Representative Mike Johnson (LA-04) hosted an Art Competition and Community Awards Ceremony Thursday to recognize winners in his Congressional Art Competition and constituents for their community service. 

The event was held at the Louisiana Tech University Academic Success Center on the campus of Bossier Parish Community College Campus, to honor the 2019 Congressional Art Competition winners, Congressional Community Award recipients, and the 2019 service academy appointees.

“We were honored to recognize people from all across Louisiana’s Fourth District for their outstanding public achievements. The people honored today are some of the best and brightest in our community, and their talent, leadership and hard work are an inspiration to all of us.”

2019 Congressional Art Competition winners were:

First place — Madalyn Hobbs of Kingston Christian Academy for “Meet Me on Bourbon Street”

Second place — Terrell Walker Jr. of Homer High School for “Colorful Music”

Third place — Griffin Williams of Evangel Christian Academy for “State Fair of Louisiana”

Since the Artistic Discovery Competition of the Congressional Institute began in 1982, more than 650,000 high school students have participated in the annual event. Students submit entries to their representative’s office, and panels of district artists select the winning entries. Winners are recognized both in their district and at the annual awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The winning artist from the district will have his or her work displayed in the United States Capitol for one year and will also receive two round-trip tickets to attend a reception in Washington, D.C., to honor the accomplishment.

Congressional Community Award recipients were:

Matthew Thibodaux, a 2019 Service Academy Appointee to the U.S. Naval Academy. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

Addison Boyd, for orchestrating the Bayou Cleanup — At the age of 12 years old, Addison noticed a need in her community and decided to take matters into her own hands. She helped orchestrate a bayou cleanup to ensure Linwood Avenue was pristine for its citizens and any visitors passing through. It is that kind of initiative that should inspire us all to work harder and serve better.

Sharpel Welch, Combat Veteran and Community Coordinator — Alongside her husband, Sharpel lives in and runs the Community Renewal’s Friendship House in Shreveport. Their organization is a beacon of hope to low-income, high-crime neighborhoods. It is a safe place that offers after-school education programs, character building, GED courses, art and music lessons, family nights and much more.

Dr. Lamar Goree, Louisiana Superintendent of the Year — Superintendent of Caddo Schools, Dr. Lamar Goree, was named the 2019 Superintendent of the Year for his superb efforts in transforming Caddo Parish’s school system. Dr. Goree has taken Caddo schools from a state of crisis to a national model of success and continues to work toward more innovative strategies that will lead to higher-quality education for all Caddo Parish students. 

Kim Howell, Louisiana Librarian of the Year — Kim was selected as the 2019 School Librarian of the Year for her commitment to kindness and continually equipping Stockwell Elementary students for success. From always greeting her students with smiles and hugs to innovating new ways of learning, Kim has spent the past eight years ensuring her students are nurtured and prepared for the future.

Spencer Kiper, Louisiana Teacher of the Year — STEM advocate and educator, Spencer Kiper, was named this year’s Louisiana Teacher of the Year. Spencer teaches STEM enrichment to over 100 students at Elm Grove Middle School in Bossier City and serves as an adjunct professor of education for Louisiana State University in Shreveport. When he is not teaching, Spencer spends his time volunteering and mentoring at Civil Air Patrol.

Dieter Neumann, Chains for Vets Founder — As a nine-year combat veteran of the U.S. Navy serving during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Dieter decided to combine his passions for service and disc golf to help others. Dieter founded Chains for Vets, a disc golf fundraising benefit that supports local veterans. In the past five years, Dieter, along with members of the Shreveport Bossier Disc Golf Union, have raised nearly $43,000.

Casey Warford, Women Helping Others Founder — Casey is the founder of North Webster’s Women Helping Others, also known as WHO. It is a non-profit organization comprised of 42 members with the sole purpose of meeting needs and serving the community. WHO has arranged meal trains, Thanksgiving deliveries, fundraisers for medical treatment, Christmas events and has helped pay for the funeral expenses of families in need. Casey has led this initiative for the past five years and has raised over $250,000 for people in the community.

Town of Minden, for St. Jude Fundraising Efforts — The Town of Minden contributed more money per capita to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital than any other city in the United States. Approximately, $1.5 million was raised, going towards life-saving treatment research for children suffering with cancer. Accepting this award on behalf of Minden was Mayor Terry Gardner.

2019 Service Academy Appointees were:

Matthew Thibodaux, U.S. Naval Academy — Matthew is the son of James and Nina Thibodaux. He is a student at St. Mary’s High School in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy. 

Wesley Launey, U.S. Air Force Academy — Wesley is the son of Jacob Launey and Britney Fontenot. He is a student at Sacred Heart High School in Ville Platte, Louisiana, and was appointed to the U.S. Air Force Academy. 

The honor of attending a service academy comes with the obligation and commitment to serve in the military for a minimum of five years upon graduation. Johnson may nominate up to 10 individuals for each vacant academy slot allotted to his district. The individuals above were nominated by Johnson and received their appointments.

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Sean Green is managing editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune.