HARLINGEN — Be strong for your students.

Be their champions, inspire them to become champions, support them both in and out of school.

That seemed to be the core message of Harlingen school district administrators and the guest speaker yesterday at the HCISD 2018 – 2019 Kickoff.

“If you can’t serve, you can’t lead,” said Principal El, aka Salome Thomas, the event’s guest speaker.

“It’s inspiring what children go through to be in our presence,” Thomas said. “Ordinary teachers teach ordinary children to do extraordinary things.”

The event at the HCISD Performing Arts Center also showcased some of the district’s brightest talent. Bianca Mattysyn Rios, 9, was a little girl with a huge voice who sang, “We Are the Champions” to an adoring audience.

Sylvia Flores, the new choir director at Harlingen High School South, also performed. Anne Marie Boeding, assistant choir director at Harlingen High School, sang a duet with Cadee Velasquez, 13.

“I feel this is a really good experience,” said Cadee, a Vela Middle School eighth grader. She and Boeding performed the song “For Good.”

“I’m really happy to be performing,” she said. “It feels really amazing.”

Boeding shared her excitement

“Oh, it’s awesome,” she said. “This is my third time to be involved. It gets bigger and better every year. It brings the theme of the year together.”

Thomas, principal of the Thomas Edison Public Charter School in Wilmington, Delaware, spoke of the hardships children face at home. Teachers must go the extra mile and support those children inside and outside of the classroom.

“We should stop praying for a lighter load and start praying for a stronger back,” said the motivational speaker.

Arturo Cavazos, superintendent of Harlingen schools, extended the same sentiment. He vividly recalled two students who had a horrific experience at home and their teachers who came to their aid.

“You have to be 100 percent,” he said. “As tired as you may be, think about how the student feels. Don’t count the days, make the days count.”

School board President Greg Powers spoke to the hard work performed by teachers.

“The more time I spend on the school board the more I realize how difficult your jobs are,” he said. “Teaching and caring for children with such diverse needs as we have in our district is very challenging.”

The event concluded with more performances to “kick off” the year, with cheerleaders from Cano Freshman Academy rushing onto the stage to get everyone jazzed for the coming year. Mariachi singers from Harlingen High School and Harlingen High School South also performed several numbers.

“It’s wonderful,” said Rebecca Cavazos, who teaches at Coakley Middle School.

“I love it when they do this,” she said. “It’s very moving.”