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How this eSN Hero Awards winner helps at-risk students turn their lives around

Through her work in a specialized learning center, this educator's dedication to helping troubled students sets her apart

One of three eSN K-12 Hero Awards winners and nominated by Ripple Effects, Ann Hughes was selected for her dedication to struggling students and the innovative ways she helps these students succeed.

The challenges that students face at Linda Tutt Learning Center in Sanger, Texas are tough. Ann Hughes is tougher.

As she told the Houston Chronicle earlier this year, “I bet on the outsider because when I win, I want to win big.”

Ann’s students struggle with myriad challenges, including issues such as depression, hyperactivity disorders, and anger. Troubled students frequently come to Linda Tutt from other districts in the state as a last resort. In short, Ann’s program is the last hope to get these kids on the right track.

In her previous role as Director of Social Emotional Learning & Behavior Intervention for Linda Tutt and her new role as Director of Student Intervention for Sanger ISD, Ann has limited resources, both from a funding and personnel perspective. However, she meets those challenges both holistically and creatively. She stops students each day to engage in meaningful conversations about their lives. She taps into programs like Ripple Effects for Teens, which has modules that address a wide range of issues, including mental health, personal trauma, and academic challenges.

Ann has designated individual rooms throughout campus dedicated to giving students space to regroup. There’s a Movement Room to work off excess energy and a Chill Out Room for relaxation. Music, yoga, and dance are other key elements that she incorporates to reach her students, encouraging sing-alongs and dance parties.

To fill the gaps in funding and personnel resources, Ann has spearheaded community partnerships with local churches and charities, which provide counseling support not available at school. These collaborations have resulted in students honing their agriculture skills at community gardens and learning how to run a business via a nonprofit grocery store.

Meet the 2022 K-12 Hero Awards winners!

Preston Westbrook, who graduated from Linda Tutt in May, still volunteers at the store, having found a sense of purpose through his work there. When he first transferred to the school, he had severe anger issues stemming from abuse and an unstable home life, including 26 foster homes. He often ran onto the roof of the school to escape, telling CBS News Dallas, “That’s how I’d get away from people when I would get mad.”

He credits Ann and the programs at Linda Tutt with helping him through those dark times.

“”I’ve ripped off door hinges when I was 9. I’ve punched holes through doors,” Preston told the station. “Without Ann, I wouldn’t be here . . . she understood what I went through.”

Students like Preston, who were on track to drop out of school or had tantrums and threw trash at teachers, have gone on to attend college and cultivate successful careers. They learn important life skills while uncovering their own value as a person. All because Ann “bet big” on them.

As Ann’s colleagues recently told the Houston Chronicle, she is “a dealer of hope.”

Ripple Effects is proud to nominate Ann as a K-12 Hero for her unwavering dedication and creativity. While she may not wear a cape, she rescues students every day.

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