Kids Aspiring To Dream (KATD) is set to honor community educators with a fun evening for its gala this June.

KATD is a talent and mentoring arts organization, whose goal is empowering youth to develop and enhance their artistic skills. It is celebrating 10 years of servicing the community.

After seeing a need to provide a platform to allow kids to showcase their gifts in the community, former art teacher Doris Batson presented an idea to fellow like-minded individuals to start a program which could help mentor talented youth.

Since its conception 10 years ago, KATD has been helping nurture poets, musicians, artists, singers and other individuals interested in the visual and performing arts in youths all over East Texas.

Published author Tricia Billington recognized the need for a talent and mentoring organization as well. While judging a poetry contest of young writers, she noticed how students’ interest piqued when they were able to have a platform outlet to explore and express themselves both written and orally using their imagination.

“Kids have a lot of feelings on the inside that they’re trying to express,” she said. “I’m just floored by some of the stuff they are going through. It’s a deep level — dealing with family, peer pressure at school and bullying.”

Billington, who also serves as vice president of KATD, believes the organization also is a way to nurture students in a way that boosts their self-esteem.

The organization has benefitted kids in ways to build a connection with other talented kids, creating a social bond of all working together and gaining confidence while learning and discovering their own uniqueness.

This rule of learning is substantiated by research including a study by the National Endowment for the Arts. The study shows that the arts help improve behavior and social cognitive skills in young people, the press release said.

KATD has also served to enhance the steps of former members, having provided various programs, platforms and scholarships. Such alumni include Taylor Radford-Hawley, who is an educator and Christian Kay, a cellist who has his eyes set on entering the medical field.

With the outcome of their successes, Batson reminds all members that throughout the tenure of success gained, yields the importance of giving back to their communities in using their gifts.

“No matter where you go in life and what may be accomplished, it means nothing if you don’t give it back to help somebody else,” Batson said. “What you do for other people will last a lifetime.”

The success of the KATD comes with support from community and friends.

Their realization of the vision has helped so many young people achieve their dreams, especially through the Light the Dream Honors program, which is an annual event that helps build a connection with leaders within the community. Each year local leaders and area scholars are honored for their achievements. The program provides community leaders a chance to offer their own success story of achievement to encourage others along their journey.

As the organization celebrates its 10th anniversary, the Light the Dream Gala, this year will recognize local educators. The uniqueness of the honorees recommendation however comes in the way of students including those such as Oliver Finney, Mari Gonzales and Dulcinea Coss having recommended educators who truly have made a tremendous impact on their lives.

The honorees will include: Lisa Lininger, orchestra director at Tyler Legacy High School; Kristina Hastings, ESL teacher (English as a Second Language Teacher) at Moore MST Magnet School, TISD; Anetha Francis, BIM, Career Preparation & Accounting educator at Alto ISD; Nancy Michelle Taylor, English, Language Arts Reading teacher at Tyler High School; and Jerrod Tomlinson, photography and yearbook teacher at Legacy High School.

The Light the Dream Gala event will host special musical performances by Dulcinea Coss and Sophie Coss, members of KATD and The East Texas Youth Orchestra. Song selections by Melody Wiltz and Kianna Sanchez along with Chynna Wilson performing in a skit.

The guest emcee will be KLTV’s news anchor and reporter, Andrea Valdez and special guest speaker, George Faber will offer inspiring words to encourage all educators.

A silent auction will be held and various artworks will be displayed. Dinner will be included.

The gala’s theme will be “Educators Who Light The Torch.” The idea of the theme relates to how educators, in shining their light, help to allow kids to shine in their own way, according to a press release.

The program will serve to benefit further outreach activities and scholarship opportunities to help the dreams and goals of local deserving kids.

“Kids Aspiring to Dream showed that they’re interested in you and want you to accomplish what you want in life,” said former member, Nytesia Ross who is a producer. “When I received that scholarship, it really helped. They’re dedicated to my dream, (and) that just warms my heart, to be quite honest.”

The continued goal of the Kids Aspiring To Dream organization is to grow a network of dreamers from state to state and eventually world wide to allow voices to be seen and heard through various artistic and creative platforms.

The Light the Dream Gala will be held Saturday, June 3 at 6 p.m., at the Ornelas Activity Center, 3402 Old Omen Rd. Tyler.

The public is invited to attend. Registration may be made on

For more information about Kids Aspiring To Dream, to donate or become a sponsor, visit

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