ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The 2022-2023 school year was the first that home schooled students in the Abilene ISD area got to participate with their public school peers in UIL competitions. It was a program available through UIL as part of House bill 547. The board met last week to evaluate the program’s success and consider whether to continue it into the 2023-2024 school year.

Home schooled students Jaslin Ortiz and Carter Batton have made use of the program to much success. Both went before the board Thursday, June 1 to express their thanks and ask the board to keep the program alive.

Jaslin Ortiz addresses the AISD school board at Thursday’s meeting

“Thank you for acknowledging our voices. My gratitude to you all is indisputable. I only aspire to continue my journey, expand opportunities, create new memories, and continue growing as a person,” Jaslin told the board.

Carter piggybacked off Jaslin, “I’m asking for you to allow me and others to enjoy the journey of UIL sports and being part of that AISD family.”

Although only seven home schooled students participated in the program this year, they have made an impact. Carter alone lettered in three sports, was named Abilene high’s #1 and #2 runner, and won numerous medals, plaques, and merits.

Carter Batton holds up several of his medals at Thursday’s meeting

Beyond mere accolades, the students said it was the connections they’ve made that have really set this experience apart as a formative and important addition to their young lives.

“My favorite memories this year are trying to teach some of the soccer team how to swim, talking to coach Graschel on the bus, and playing football,” said Carter.

“Closing out this school year, I can gladly say the experience was far greater than I anticipated… Little did I know I would be leaving with an abundance of memories, self-growth, and many friendships that turned in to family,” Jaslin added.

While the UIL program was available as early as 2021, Abilene ISD did not take part until this school year. Letters from Jaslin and students like her displayed the desire for participation in the home school community.

The board will meet again soon to vote on whether to continue the program. Superintendent Dr. David Young voiced his optimism at last Thursday’s meeting, saying several other superintendents had reached out to talk about the program’s success.