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Dayton Thomas Selected as Section 6 Recipient of NFHS Heart of the Arts Award

Media Contact: Chris Schmidt
Phone: 512-471-5883
Fax: 512-471-6589

Date: Mar 14, 2019
Category: General Information


Dayton Thomas, a student at Mabank High School, has been selected as the 2019 Section 6 recipient of the “National High School Heart of the Arts Award” by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

The National High School Heart of the Arts Award was created by the NFHS to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive heart of the arts that represent the core mission of education-based activities. This is the sixth year that the National High School Heart of the Arts Award has been offered.

Thomas has muscular dystrophy (MD) – a rare disease that afflicts less than one percent of the United States population – and developed Scoliosis as a toddler. Despite undergoing multiple surgeries and complications due to this disease, Thomas is an outstanding student who is involved with numerous clubs and activities.

Among them, he is in the National Beta Club and DECA, and he participates in archery. A National Honor Society member, he ranks in the top 10 percent of his class. In addition, he is very involved in his youth group at church and has given sermons to the group.

As a high school freshman, Thomas joined the Mabank High School speech and debate team, where he learned how to express opinions in front of a group and not be a shy public speaker. The following year, he placed third for the sophomore class in the Texas Association of Pupil Transportation speech contest. In January 2019, he was one of 58 students in his conference that advanced to state in University Interscholastic League (UIL) Congress. During the preliminary rounds at state, he was one of two students elected by his peers as Presiding Officer. Thomas advanced beyond the preliminary round to Super Congress held at the Texas State Capitol, and ultimately won second place overall in Conference 4A.

When it comes to competing in UIL Congress, Thomas faces several complications that require forethought and practice.

Among them, because he cannot raise his arms, he holds the placard by bending his elbow and using his other hand to help wave his arm to gain attention during questioning.

His MD affects his physical excursion when using a gavel as a presiding officer. He also cannot grasp stopwatches, and therefore was granted permission to use his offline phone to time speeches.

And, since Thomas lacks the muscular power to breathe in a consistent rhythm that would be considered normal for any other person, in order to speak, he must pace his breathing, avoid speed and concentrate on clarity.


About the Award

The NFHS divides the nation into eight geographical sections. The states in Section 6 are Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Colorado and New Mexico.

Nominations for this award were generated through NFHS member state associations and reviewed by the NFHS Heart of the Arts Award Selection Committee composed of state association staff members.

While the national winner will be recognized June 29 at the NFHS Summer Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, the section winners will be recognized within their respective states and will receive awards before the end of the current school year.

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About the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)

The NFHS, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, is the national leadership organization for high school sports and fine arts activities. Since 1920, the NFHS has led the development of education-based interscholastic sports and fine arts activities that help students succeed in their lives. The NFHS sets direction for the future by building awareness and support, improving the participation experience, establishing consistent standards and rules for competition, and helping those who oversee high school sports and activities. The NFHS writes playing rules for 17 sports for boys and girls at the high school level. Through its 50 member state associations and the District of Columbia, the NFHS reaches more than 19,000 high schools and 11 million participants in high school activity programs, including more than 7.9 million in high school sports. As the recognized national authority on interscholastic activity programs, the NFHS conducts national meetings; sanctions interstate events; produces publications for high school coaches, officials and athletic directors; sponsors professional organizations for high school coaches, officials, spirit coaches, speech and debate coaches and music adjudicators; serves as the national source for interscholastic coach training; and serves as a national information resource of interscholastic athletics and activities. For more information, visit the NFHS website at

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