CLUTE — The Taylor Whitley Show Up Foundation united middle schoolers and high schoolers who have learned the importance of serving others at an early age Thursday at Brazoswood High School.

Rasco Middle School Mission Specialists raised the money to award Dustin Gaona and Caroline Sablatura, seniors at Brazoswood, for their extraordinary inclination to put others above themselves, Foundation Founder Shannon Whitley said.

Shannon Whitley created the foundation in honor of her late husband, whose motto was “Show up. Give a flip. Repeat.”

Brazoswood Lead Counselor Joy Helton nominated the two students for the $500 Show Up awards. The Rasco Mission Specialists raised the money they donated to the Show Up Foundation through a bake sale, fifth-grader Mya Fraker said.

The Mission Specialist program teaches fifth- and sixth-grade Rasco students how to give back to their community with a variety of service projects throughout the school year, Fraker said. Shannon Whitley was so impressed by the children’s giving hearts, she invited them to Brazoswood to present the Show Up awards on Thursday.

At a young age, these kids know what it means to show up and get to recognize other “show up” kids, she said.

“They’re the ones who are going to change our world,” Shannon Whitley said.

Dustin Gaona and Caroline Sablatura are both extremely active students, Helton said.

Dustin Gaona is planning a career in law enforcement and planning to major in criminal justice at Sam Houston State University in the fall, Helton said. He is a dual-credit student and maintains high grades, she said.

“He’s an all-around, hard-working, giving young man,” Helton said.

Dustin Gaona has dreamed of becoming a police officer and serving his community since he was 2 years old, his mother Sophia Gaona said.

He lives by the motto “a life well served is a life well deserved,” she said.

It was extraordinary to see the children come together for a service organization and this cause, Dustin Gaona said.

“It’s just amazing,” he said. “I’m very thankful.”

Caroline Sablatura volunteers for Habitat for Humanity and earned a Girl Scouts Gold Award, Helton said. She’ll be graduating with honors and attending Texas A&M University to major in mechanical engineering in the fall.

Her mother Carri Sablatura was very emotional to see her daughter get the award Thursday, she said with tears in her eyes.

“She’s an awesome one,” Carri Sablatura said. “She’s an overachiever.”

Caroline Sablatura was very surprised and said it feels pretty great to get the award.

Both of the students plan to put the money toward college in the fall, they said.

The counselor nominated them for the combination of everything they do, she said. Helton is very proud of them and they’re always humble, she said.

“They do what the Show Up Foundation embodies,” Helton said.

Shannon Whitley hopes the awards will encourage them to continue showing up, she said.

Maddy McCarty is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0151.

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