Chicken Express Community Heroes: Hamlin's Jenna VanCleave and Atlas HomeSchool's Mason Gilmore!

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When Jenna VanCleave is not participating in four different sports for the Hamlin Pied Pipers, the senior is heavily involved in several different organizations around the school and within the community.

VanCleave’s activities range from excelling in discus to keeping her grades up in the classroom to being a member of the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes, where she has had the opportunity to give online devotionals.

“In school, I am a part of National Honor Society and the student council,” VanCleave said. “I am in basketball, cross country and track. Out of school, I am in a youth group and our mission team decided to give the money that we raised to go to Puerto Rico to people who need it.”

In addition to finding the time in her busy schedule to get involved with different organizations and activities and to help out in her community, VanCleave stands out in the classroom.

“We just got our class rankings, and I am now second.” VanCleave said. “I am going to try to keep that, at least, so maybe that I can graduate Salutatorian.”

Head track coach and athletic director Russell Lucas explained that VanCleave excels in everything that she does.

“Jenna stands out academically, athletically, and in the community,” Lucas said. “She is always involved around our town, and she is a great mentor to the younger kids. My hope is that younger girls are looking up to her and saying she wants to be like Jenna.”

VanCleave is a member of the team’s cheerleading team in addition to playing basketball, throwing discus in track, and running cross country.

“Discus and basketball are my two favorites,” VanCleave said. “Discus is the individual sport where it is just you and your coach, while basketball is fun because you have a team of your sisters.”

Lucas explained that VanCleave had a very good chance to make it to the state track meet before the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She is not the only member of the family that has excelled at the sport. VanCleave’s older sister made it to state during her high school days, and that is a big motivation for the younger VanCleave to make it to Austin as well.

“It is definitely one of my goals to go to state,” VanCleave said. “I was hoping to go this year, but I really do want to make it to state next year.”

The upcoming senior is interested in pursuing a career as a nurse or as an orthodontist, and has her eyes on attending Texas Tech after she graduates from Hamlin. Lucas explained that VanCleave has a bright future in whatever she ultimately decides to pursue thanks to her “bulldog mentality”.

“She always puts her all into everything she does,” Lucas said.


Mason Gilmore lines up all over the field for the Atlas HomeSchool Rattlers on Friday nights. When he is not wearing the black and red colors of the Rattlers football team, Gilmore is heavily involved in the community.

“I help people, usually elderly, around the community with outside work that they need,” Gilmore said. “I repair AC units and mow and weed-eat lawns. Pretty much, if they need help with it, that is what I am there for.”

Gilmore explained that he often does any little job around the house that his neighbors may not be able to do. He is heavily involved with extracurricular activities. One of his favorite things to get involved with is an event at the local church that celebrates special needs children.

“Every month, we have this thing called Revive at my girlfriends’ parent’s church.” Gilmore said. “We have a big party with food and music that makes all of the special needs children have a really good time.”

Gilmore is regularly active around the community, participating in several different organizations and charities. Atlast HomeSchool head coach Chris Connaughton described some of the organizations that Gilmore is involved in.

“Mason raises awareness and helps fund for different charities,” Connaughton said. “He runs the Spartan Dallas Obstacle in support of Oscar Mike, he runs Rugged Maniac in support of the American Cancer Society, and he runs Bone Frog in support of a Navy Seal Based Cause in addition to working with special needs children.”

Gilmore’s dad, Aaron Gilmore, is a big influence on his life. The elder Gilmore is a firefighter for the Fort Worth Fire Department, and the younger Gilmore recently had the opportunity to spend a full day with the crew.

“I got to ride along for 24 hours,” Gilmore said. “I was able to see them go on calls, attend to a car wreck, and watch them deal with the different tasks that comes with the job.”

On the gridiron, there was nothing that Coach Connaughton asked Gilmore to do that he could not accomplish. The former soccer and baseball player found a passion for football during his first season playing the sport last year. Gilmore explained that he fell in love with football and that recording a quarterback sack is his favorite thing to do on the field.

The Rattlers coaching staff used Gilmore’s talents in a variety of ways. From playing linebacker to lining up in the trenches when the Rattlers were on offense to playing on special teams, Gilmore always stepped up to the challenge that was presented in front of him.

“I played everywhere,” Gilmore explained. “I played linebacker, lined up at corner, was a long snapper, played on the offensive line. Anything that was needed, I did for the team. Linebacker is definitely my favorite position.”

Gilmore has dreams of eventually becoming a firefighter, but he also explained that he has interest in attending college in the state of Texas or at the University of Alabama once his high school playing days conclude.

Regardless of which route Gilmore ultimately takes, Coach Connaughton is confident that Gilmore will find success.

 “Whatever Mason does in life he will be successful at it,” Connaughton said.

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