Made To Excel

In Mesquite ISD we believe in our people.

The MISD Communications Department is looking for stories of excellence to share with our community. 

We want to know about Mesquite ISD students and staff with extraordinary talents, confidence or creative genius. We are looking for stories of resilience and success about individuals who demonstrate excellent integrity, empathy, grit and/or service. We won't be able to tell every story, but with your help we will be able to shine a light on the excellence of our people!

Tell us about a Mesquite ISD student or staff member who has a story of excellence by completing the form linked below or tagging us in your social media post with #MadeToExcel. 

#MadeToExcel in Mesquite ISD

Peniel Nnamdi is Made to Excel

January 2022 

Peniel Nnamdi is a sixth grade student at Terry Middle School who recently became a published author after launching her first book at the end of last year. Peniel, the oldest of four siblings, enjoys writing and finding different ways to help others. At just 11 years old, she understands the importance of giving back to her community through volunteer work and natural storytelling skills. 

Peniel wrote her first unpublished book back when she was in third grade. Initially, she created a story about superheroes for a classroom project. Three years later, she knew she wanted to create a book for children of all ages to read and become inspired. 

On Children’s Day 2021, Peniel joined her father by preaching in front of dozens of children. It was at that moment that she realized that her perspective as an 11-year-old child was important in conveying her message. Peniel focused on the message she preached that morning and began writing How to be Successful: A Simple Guide to Success for Children. 

After one week of initiating her draft, Peniel finished an interactive book featuring seven important steps to help children in their everyday lives. One of those steps is for children to turn to their faith and pray. “I’ve been raised by a family that teaches me values, and I just want to follow them,” she says. 

With the help of her parents, Peniel was able to publish her book in November 2021. Now that she has become a published author, Peniel wants to continue excelling in athletics, choir and continue to write books to inspire younger children to be leaders in their community. She is especially proud that she is able to connect with young readers through her work to motivate them to “focus on their studies and avoid distractions that lead to bad choices.”

Ryleigh Adams was Made to Excel

December 2021

Each year as the holiday season approaches, Ryleigh Adams, a fifth grade student at Motley Elementary, only has one item on her wish list: bicycles. However, the bicycles are not for her. They are for the annual fundraiser, Ryleigh’s Bike Drive. For the past five years, she has raised funds to donate to the Mesquite Police Department Santa Cop Toy Program. Rather than receiving gifts from her loved ones, she always asks for donations to support this program that benefits underserved children of Mesquite. 

Ryleigh was in kindergarten in 2016 when she first told her family she did not want any birthday gifts. Her birthday falls three days before Christmas, and her wish was to help underprivileged children by donating her presents. For people who know Ryleigh, this came as no surprise. Her mother Lara Bryant says, “She has always been a kid who cares, and she has been that way since she was a toddler.” 

After two years of donating toys, Ryleigh realized the most requested gift through the Santa Cop program was bikes, but they were also the least donated item. Ever since then, she has focused her efforts on donating bicycles. Over the years, Ryleigh’s Bike Drive has donated 50 bicycles. Her goal is to donate 100 bikes per year. 

Although she is just a kid herself, she has become Santa Cop's biggest individual bike donor. Ryleigh says, “I know some kids have what others don’t, and I want to donate what I can so they can play and be normal kids.”  Whether it is by selling homemade salsa, T-shirts or conducting raffles, she is always looking for ways to earn money to support her cause. 

Bryant says her daughter’s caring heart may have stemmed from their own life experiences. Bryant was a single mother who fell on hard times and relied on helping hands. “Ryleigh saw that and she wants to do that for other people. At just 10 years old, she has an understanding of how we take care of each other.”

In December 2021, Ryleigh’s Bike Drive donated 20 bicycles and one scooter. When she dropped off the donations she thought to herself, “I just accomplished something really big, and I just made many kids' day.” Ryleigh’s Christmas wish for the children who receive those donations is for them to “enjoy their bike and have so much fun.”

Ms. Kerby was Made to Excel

November 2021 

In a classroom full of 18 first grade students eager to learn, Ms. Kerby is often faced with the same question: ‘What happened?’ Kerby often responds by telling her story. “When I was a baby, I was sick and the doctor gave me a prosthetic leg so I can feel better,” she tells her students. Kerby knows her 6-year-old students may not fully understand that she had to undergo an amputation 10 days after being born. Although this may seem like a limitation, having a prosthetic leg did not stop Kerby from excelling in sports from 3 years old until eventually becoming a cheerleading coach and elementary school teacher. 

Kerby was born weighing 1 pound, 5 ounces and was the lone survivor of a set of triplets born at three months of gestation. After spending days in the neonatal ICU fighting for her life, Kerby lost oxygen in her left leg. According to her father, her foot was ‘as black as coal,’ so he had to make the decision to authorize his daughter's amputation. 

Although growing up with a limb difference was the only lifestyle she knew, Kerby’s parents did not want her to feel limited. “They enrolled me in soccer when I was 3 years old so I could learn to play a sport that needed both of my legs. They wanted me to know that just because I had a limb difference that didn’t mean it was going to hold me back in life,” said Kerby. 

When Kerby is not in her classroom teaching, she is out on the field volunteering as a cheer and tumble coach for limb-different athletes at a non-profit organization known as NubAbility Athletics Foundation. Being involved in sports at such a young age helped her gain the confidence she needed by embracing what made her unique. “I realized that just because I have a prosthetic leg doesn't mean I am not going to be good,” she said. Beyond the sport itself, Kerby's objective as a coach is to empower other children who are in similar situations. “I want young athletes to be more confident in who they are and in who they were meant to be.”   

Back in her classroom, Kerby has been able to connect with a student whose father is also an amputee. Even though most of her students are still too young to comprehend why their teacher wears a prosthetic leg, Kerby has embraced their curiosity to teach them a valuable lesson. “Just because someone looks different or may act differently than you doesn’t mean we treat them differently.” This is a lesson of kindness and respect she hopes will follow them throughout their lifetime.

Mr. Pelayo is Made to Excel

October 2021 

Six years ago, Mesquite High School (MHS) was experiencing a growing dropout rate among Hispanic students, most of whom were new to the country and did not speak English. First-generation Mexican-American science teacher Ricardo Pelayo faced the difficult-yet-natural task to become an ally and connect with Hispanic students in hopes of encouraging them to stay in school. Pelayo’s vision was to create an organization to let students know they belonged at Mesquite ISD, and with the help of other teachers, the student club Aliados was formed. 

Although Pelayo was born and raised in the United States, he understands the many struggles immigrant families face. The Hispanic instinct of survival usually drives many younger men to join the workforce before earning a high school diploma. “We wanted to show them the importance of that high school diploma and something to fall back on instead of just work, and we were able to create around that,” said Mr. Pelayo. 

Since 2015, Aliados has been registering about 30-40 student members per year. The key to success has been making students aware that there is a space for them at school with people who are in similar situations. The first event Aliados organized was a trip to the MHS homecoming football game. “The students didn’t know about pep rallies or homecoming,” said Pelayo, “but they started to take pride in the concept of high school, which they didn’t [initially] understand.”

Pelayo’s passion for helping Hispanic students is derived from his relationship with his father, who migrated to the United States at the age of 16. “I can just imagine my father's look on his face of being clueless, and I see that look in a lot of students.” Watching students walk down the halls feeling lost is a call for help Pelayo does not ignore. “They are going around hoping to find someone that looks like them.”

Being an advocate for Aliados transcends the club itself. “We push students to get involved in AP, dual credit classes and sports, and when they do, they want to finish instead of dropping out,” said Pelayo.  Whether it’s translating announcements, updating students on school events or tutoring, Aliados not only creates a safe space for students but allows them to network with each other and create long-lasting friendships. 

Although being in a new country and enrolling in a new school may be intimidating, Pelayo reminds students every day, “It doesn’t matter what language or culture barrier there is, someone is out there willing to help you.”

Cash Cochran is Made to Excel

September 2021

Austin Elementary’s fourth grade student Cash Cochran loves to do math homework, play basketball and video games. But now--instead of simply getting past the defense or fighting villains--he is now fighting the biggest battle any kid can face. 

On September 13, Cash went to a doctor's appointment. His mother, Ashly Cochran, who’s also the principal at Woolley Middle School, thought he was suffering from severe allergies and stomach aches. Unfortunately, the 9-year-old student of Mesquite ISD was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). 

Even though these are difficult times for the Cochran family, Cash has managed to keep a smile on his face. Ms. Cochran tells us, “Some days are more difficult than others, but Cash is responding well to treatment although he is upset he is missing out on school.” 

The Mesquite ISD community is rallying behind the Cochran family. Today, Thursday, Sept. 23, MISD staff and students across the district are wearing orange, the color that represents Childhood Cancer Awareness in September. Ms. Cochran says, “My husband and I appreciate the community's support. That is what is helping us get through this difficult time.” 

Although Cash is missing school, he sees his classmates every day. His fourth grade class sends him a daily joke by video in hopes of bringing a smile to his face. Even though he will not return to campus this year, he sends his friends a message saying, “I am doing well and cannot wait to see you all again!” Cash is eager to return to school and continue training hard to accomplish his dream of becoming an NBA player. 

Go Cash go! 

Iris Perez is Made to Excel

September 2021

At just 6 years old, Range Elementary 1st grader Iris Perez has left her parents and teachers wonderstruck after learning nine languages. Perez, who is Cuban-American, grew up speaking Spanish in her home. Once she enrolled in the Mesquite ISD pre-K 3 program, she immediately became fluent in English. Three years later, and thanks to the power of the internet, she now speaks French, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese and American Sign Language. 

Perez is not keeping her language prowess to herself. Besides learning new languages, she also likes to share her expertise with her family members. Her mother, Eris Morrondo, migrated from Cuba 13 years ago without knowing a single word in English. Thanks to Perez, she is now learning to master that language. 

“My mom asks me about the phrases and what they mean and then I tell her. Sometimes it’s hard, but I repeat it until she gets the hang of it,” said Perez. 

Proud of her daughter's accomplishments, Morrondo says she is glad she enrolled her daughter in school at a young age and says, “I am going to do everything I can for her to become successful--everything I couldn’t accomplish as an immigrant she will accomplish.”

Although she is still in first grade, Perez has many plans for the future. She plans to learn more languages so she can travel the world and communicate with people in other countries. She also hopes to become an astronaut and travel to space or become a first grade teacher and inspire other students to discover their talents. 

Diego Barron is Made to Excel

August 2021

Mesquite High School sophomore Diego Barron has become a top prospect in boxing after joining Team USA as the number one champion in the nation. Last spring, the Junior Olympic Boxer earned his spot at the top of the list in the 110-pound junior division. Diego’s hard work is not going unnoticed. He recently received a an honorary proclamation voted and approved by the Texas House of Representatives and signed by Texas State Representative Victoria Neave for his boxing achievements. 

Boxing trainer Jesse Vasquez is confident Barron will one day make it to the big stage saying, “he has what it takes to maybe get to that spot where some of the top Mexican Hispanic Americans have been.” The Mesquite boxing champion will also represent the Skeeters this year after trying out and making the Mesquite High School Cross Country Varsity team. Diego says he “will continue to work hard and strive for greatness keeping God, family and school first.”