Since 2007, the BIO5 Institute has provided a unique, seven-week summer research opportunity to outstanding Arizona high school students. Starting June 8, one student from the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District will join 48 others in the Keeping Youth Engaged in Science (KEYS) Research Internship Program.
Through exceptional training and unique, hands-on project experience in top UArizona research labs, KEYS aims to provide Arizona high school students with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to pursue their personal and professional goals. The program strives to increase the talent and diversity of students pursuing STEM degrees and careers, as well to retain students to in-state colleges and the Arizona workforce.
Choosing the 2020 KEYS class This year’s cohort was selected from more than 260 competitive applicants. Applicants were initially judged on the strength of their personal statement, teacher recommendations and high school transcript. Ninety top-scoring candidates then interviewed with KEYS staff.
After the rigorous application and interview process, 50 students representing 24 high schools across the state were selected to be a part of the 2020 program.
KEYS staff coordinated with the principals, teachers and parents of the accepted students to surprise them in-person with their internship acceptances.
“We try to keep it pretty hush-hush, so the students don’t know we’re coming,” said Kelle Hyland, KEYS co-coordinator.
One student from Rio Rico High School – Alexa Chavez – was surprised with their KEYS acceptance earlier this spring.
A seven-week experience that will last a lifetime KEYS interns are paired with leading UArizona researchers spearheading innovative projects that span multiple disciplines including bioscience, engineering, environmental science, biomedicine and biostatics. Faculty, university students and other lab personnel work side-by- side with them to provide an invaluable opportunity to these budding scholars.
Prior to engaging in research, KEYS interns get a one-week crash-course in bioscience techniques and science literacy to ensure they have the foundational knowledge necessary to begin their assigned projects.
Past students have worked with top UArizona research groups to find more effective ways to detect and treat diseases such as cancer and diabetes, as well as helped to create wearable biosensors with the goal of tracking important patient data. Others have studied alternative renewable energy sources, more efficient crop production methods, and the effects of contaminated water sources on people and the environment, among many other projects.
The show must go on In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and university-wide suspension of in-person gatherings, KEYS program staff boldly took on the challenge of quickly transitioning the traditional hands- on summer experience to a virtual program. Instead of conducting hands-on research, students will now participate in computational research from the safety of their homes, while still receiving the same training in science literacy and ethics.
Forty-nine of the original 50 accepted students enthusiastically agreed to continue with the revised KEYS format.
Students will work remotely on projects that include using advanced excel techniques to analyze genomic data, reviewing scientific literature and writing code for data analysis programs.
At the end of the summer, KEYS students typically present their work to family, friends and the community at an in-person public research showcase.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s showcase will still go on – now virtually. Instead of poster presentations, students will give short PowerPoint presentations with an emphasis on methodology and ethics. Next summer, interns will be invited back to participate in the hands-on program culminating in the public showcase.
Though it was initially difficult to wrap their heads around quality execution of a brand new KEYS format, Hyland and her co-director, Brooke Moreno, embraced the opportunity and are now excited for the program to begin its revised direction on June 8.
“It’s still KEYS – it’s just changed a little for this year,” Hyland said.
KEYS impact Most high school students typically learn about STEM fields only through textbooks. KEYS provides a unique opportunity to turn those words on a page into reality through hands-on research. This one-of-a-kind experience allows students to explore their passions for scientific discovery while advancing their academic, professional and personal goals.
With the addition of this year's cohort, 526 students will count themselves as KEYS alumni. Nearly all program alumni either attended or are currently attending college to pursue STEM fields. About 75% of KEYS alumni have chosen to attend college in Arizona, with the majority of those attending UArizona. All KEYS alumni accepted to UArizona are automatically accepted into the Honors College and awarded three units of college credit at the completion of the program.
Past interns advanced STEM fields by contributing data to research grant applications and publications. Some present their work at local and national conferences. Many students continue to work in UArizona research laboratories following the conclusion of the program, even some of those still in high school.
The KEYS program is led by the BIO5 Institute and funded by the Technology and Research Initiative Fund (TRIF) and generous supporters including individuals, families, companies, foundations and various UArizona faculty, colleges and departments. For nearly 20 years, TRIF has not only enabled UArizona researchers to conduct high-impact work, but has allowed for student-focused programs such as KEYS and community outreach events to take place.
For additional information about the KEYS Research Internship Program, email email@example.com or visit their website.
Isabella “Isa” Martinez graduated this May from Rio Rico High School, located in Santa Cruz County, just 14 miles from Nogales and the US/Mexico Border. Martinez has spent the last 12 years progressing, both academically and personally, as a member of the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona.
Girl Scouts is a one-of-a-kind, leadership development non-profit organization with services and programs open to all girls in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona is one of 112 councils across the nation and is a member of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA). Internationally, The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts has World Centers located in Mexico, Switzerland, India, Africa, and the United Kingdom. The Girl Scouts organization in Mexico, Guías de México (Guides of Mexico), is familiar to Martinez’s mother.
“I was a Girl Scout when I was growing up in Mexico,” said Mrs. Isabel Martinez. “I understood the advantages of being a Girl Scout, so I welcomed and encouraged Isa’s interest in joining the Girl Scouts when she was very young,” said Mrs. Martinez.
According to Mrs. Martinez, she felt that her own personal experiences in Girl Scouts helped her grow as a person and not be self-centered. “Girl Scouts helped me learn to think about others, not just about myself,” said Mrs. Martinez. “They taught me about being socially responsible and making a difference by becoming involved in my community.”
The younger Martinez, Isa, feels the same way as her mother about the benefits of being a Girl Scout. “My mom signed me up as a Daisy when I was six-years-old,” said Martinez. “I remember being so excited because my cousin was a Girl Scout, and I saw how much fun she had, so I wanted to be one, too. As Daisies, we had fun doing lots of art projects, activities, movie nights, and community service projects, but the best thing I remember was making new friends.”
Everything a Girl Scout does centers around four areas that form the foundation of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), the Outdoors, development of Life Skills, and Entrepreneurship. Each area is designed to meet the girl where she is now and to grow along with her as she progresses in the six levels of Girl Scouting, from kindergarten through her senior year of high school.
As a Brownie (2nd-3rd grade), Isa Martinez has great memories about selling Girl Scout Cookies. “Some of my best memories are from when I sold Girl Scout cookies,” said Martinez. “It was cool because people were so nice to us and some people even donated money to help Girl Scouts. I learned a lot and met so many people during those times. It all helped build my confidence, too. I was so shy back then. The best thing is that the friends that I met are still friends with me today.”
As a Junior-level Girl Scout (4th- 5th grade), Isa Martinez said they became involved with self-care and learning more about themselves and the needs of their community.
“We did a lot to help people, like hosting food drives, and giving blankets and things, to the homeless when it was cold,” said Isa. “We also helped people who could not afford to buy the things they needed for their families. It seems like each year that I got more involved in Girl Scouting and my community, my confidence grew.”
Isa said that going to camp each year on Mount Lemmon (Camp Whispering Pines) with other Cadette (6th, 7th, and 8th grade) troops was also a great adventure. “We learned how to use a compass, tie ropes, and make a campfire,” said Martinez. “The best part about the camping trips was that we were isolated—away from the world, so we had to focus on each other. We talked to different people we met there, made more new friends, and just had a great time.”
During the 12 years of being a Girl Scout, Martinez said she worked hard toward earning her badges and fun patches. They all represent new adventures and experiences.
“I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I look at my vests with all those patches,” she said. “I have so many memories and look back on all that I learned and experienced by trying new things. I got into STEM. I learned how to make comic books. I even went to science fairs and traveled to places like the Ice Capdes in Phoenix. These are all things that I may not have had the opportunity to do had it not been for being a Girl Scout,” said Martinez.
According to Martinez, some of the Girl Scout activities included experiences with the family, too. “I remember the ‘Daddy and Me’ program, where we had a dinner and my father danced with me,” said Martinez. “At the ‘Mommy and Me’ program we were able to have makeovers with our moms and had a tea party. They even had ‘Grandma and Me’ and ‘Grandpa and Me’ programs.”
Girl Scouts takes the potential in girls, combines it with robust skill-building programming, and adds caring adult mentors and strong female role models. Mrs. Martinez became one of those role models when she saw an opportunity to volunteer with Girl Scouts, first as an involved parent, then as a co-leader, and finally as a leader, starting with her daughter’s Cadette troop.
“It’s really great to get involved as a volunteer because it helps your daughters, and helps people in need at the same time,” said Mrs. Martinez. Her daughter added that her mom being her troop leader helped her and her sister, Regina—now a senior level Girl Scout—grow closer, enabling them all to do things together while having fun. “It made the bond between my mom and I grow closer and even stronger,” said Martinez.
According to Jeaneth Sanchez, Community Development Specialist with Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona, she has worked with both Mrs. Martinez and her daughter, Isa, and she says they are both great examples for the other troop members. “Mrs. Martinez has always been a great Troop Leader and does the best for her own daughters and their Girl Scout sisters. Other troop mothers and Girl Scouts look up to both of them as role models for what they can do, too,” said Sanchez.
The Girl Scouts’ mission is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.
“Girl Scouts helped me find out who I was and to be more confident as a person,” said Martinez.
“My best experience happened last year when we went to the G.I.R.L Conference in Tucson.”
G.I.R.L. stands for Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, and Leader.™ The Girl Scout Leadership Experience encourages girls to discover and unleash their G.I.R.L. power. The annual G.I.R.L. Conference for middle and high school girls delivers a day of skill building, self-reflection, leadership development and inspiration. Workshops include such topics as learning how to prep to backpack in desert conditions, practicing self-defense techniques, as well as honest conversations around mental health, self-esteem, and body image. Each workshop encourages girls to leave their comfort zones behind and develop new skills across a broad range of topics, including entrepreneurship, STEM, life skills, the outdoors, and healthy living.
“They had different sessions for us to pick and choose from, such as art and debate sessions, but the one I really loved the most was about self-image,” said Martinez. “I’ve struggled with loving my body and loving myself, and that session really helped me to love myself just the way I am.”
What’s next for the graduating high school senior?
“I’ve always been interested in medicine, and I followed a sports medicine track in high school. I’ll start my undergraduate studies at Pima Community College in the fall,” said Martinez. “Then after getting my two-year degree, I’ll be transferring to Northern Arizona University (NAU) to work toward a nursing degree.”
Martinez says she also plans to work part-time as a caregiver to get more practice while being a student. Long-term, she said she sees herself working at a hospital, specializing in labor and delivery.
As far as Girl Scouts goes, Martinez says as an Ambassador-level Girl Scout, she will be bridging into an adult lifetime membership. Bridging is a beloved Girl Scout tradition that honors girls’ achievements throughout the year and celebrates their “crossing the bridge” to the next Girl Scout level. It is a defining moment when a girl becomes aware of her achievements and is ready for new adventures and responsibilities.
“When I bridged in the past and got my pin for that level of Girl Scouts, I moved onto the next level of fun and adventure. Every time I received that pin, I felt I really accomplished something.”
Martinez says she has one final message to younger girls who are considering Girl Scouting.
“I highly recommend and encourage you to participate in Girl Scouts because you learn so much more about yourself, said Martinez. “You meet new people whom later become like your family—sisters really—and you learn to love yourself, and care for other people, too.
“I’m also planning to become a troop leader when I’m older. It’s just a wonderful experience.”
Once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout.
By Beverly Gomez Arriag
Victor Miranda, a 2016 Rio Rico High School graduate will attend Harvard University this fall to study chemical biology. Victor earned a Bachelor of Science in microbiology with a minor in biochemistry from the University of Arizona this past May.
René Ramirez, former RRHS German teacher and current SCV35 Governing Board member, spoke highly of Victor, “Victor was my German and chess student for 4 straight years. He was a magnificent, critical thinker and a very dedicated student. Once at the Arizona state championship, he lifted the fifteen-seeded Rio Rico Hawks to a major upset victory over Barry Goldwater High School 3-2 by upsetting his opponent in a game where everyone crowded around his table in disbelief to watch him win handily. He went on to become a professional player and win money at the North American Open in December of that same year. The North American Open is an international tournament that’s played at Bally’s in Las Vegas every year. It was such a pleasure and honor to be his teacher and chess coach!”
Teresa Potters, Victor’s RRHS Cambridge and AP Chemistry teacher first shared his story with Superintendent David Verdugo after being interviewed for Victor’s University of Arizona Grad Profile. “He was one of our top students who wondered how well he would do outside of Rio Rico. He shined like I knew he would. He seized and crushed every opportunity which led him to Harvard. He told me that the opportunities are out there if students will just do it! He is honored that he can be that example for other Rio Rico students”, said Potter. -Story by Shanon Enciso
On Monday, March 2nd, Santa Cruz County celebrated the second Technolochicas Lift South 32 Santa Cruz County Conference at the Santa Cruz Center in Nogales. Approximately 200 students, teachers, school governing board members and dignitaries interacted with a panel of Technolochicas moderated by Sonia Sanchez from the Circles of Peace. The Technolochicas, six Latinas from different areas of the world and prominent in STEM related fields: (Adrea Chaves Acelia Castaneda, Claudia Varela, and Eliana Calderon) shared their experiences studying and achieving a career in STEM related fields as Latina Women. Along with the hour-long panel discussion, the Technolochicas facilitated two, one-hour long workshops to the middle school girls.
During the conference, Pat Risner, President for the Hermosa Project at South32, spoke about the employment opportunities for young women in the mining industry. South 32 is a global metals and mining company that spans the globe including the Hermosa Project in Patagonia. Alfredo I. Velásquez, Santa Cruz County School Superintendent, also spoke and thanked everyone for their hard work and encouraged the young women to follow their dreams.
In collaboration with the Televisa Foundation and the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office, South 32 is sponsoring the TECHNOLOchicas LiFT program in seven of Santa Cruz County middle schools: Desert Shadows Middle School, Wade Carpenter Middle School, Calabasas School, Coatimundi Middle School, Lourdes Catholic School, Patagonia Elementary, and Santa Cruz Elementary.
TECHNOLOchicas LiFT was developed by the Televisa Foundation to increase the number of girls in Hispanic communities pursuing technology-related studies by the time they reach high school. A curriculum designed to empower, excite, encourage, and engage girls in computer programming, coding, and robotics is being implemented by site facilitators and assistants on each campus for 2-3 hours a week. The program was facilitated by Chris Young from the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office.
Once again, the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent's Office and School Superintendent Alfredo I. Velasquez,
celebrated, along with 30 Private Schools, Charter Schools and Public Elementary Schools within our county, National
Read across America/Read on Santa Cruz County Week from March 2, 2020 through March 06, 2020.
With the coordination of Ms. Patricia Barraza-Preciado (Santa Cruz County School Superintendent's Office,) they
had close to 100 volunteers from all across Santa Cruz County, read to every classroom in our educational community.
The main goal of this event is to encourage our children to read and to love reading at an early age. It's one of the most
important things we can do as parents and as a community.
It sets the foundation for a lifetime of success.
The Santa Cruz County School Superintendent's Office, would like to thank everyone who volunteered a couple of
hours of their busy day to participate in this wonderful event.
The children of Santa Cruz County, THANK YOU as well.
The Santa Cruz County Superintendent’s Office hosted the 2020 Spelling Bee. The event was held on Friday, February 7, 2020. The event coordinators were Marisol Chiquete-Bolaina, and Adrian Chamberlain. It was held at the Santa Cruz County Complex. The entrance of the courtroom had a large decorative bouquet of yellow and black balloons with styrofoam bees. The inside of the courtroom was beautifully decorated with big colorful paper flowers and paper bees. The Spelling Bee began with a pledge of allegiance followed with a warm welcome by the Santa Cruz County Superintendent Alfredo I. Velasquez. The event was well attended by students, parents, teachers, and judges who enjoyed a fun filled day of suspense, and surprises. Larry Frederick from Lincoln Elementary School was the pronouncer of the Spelling Bee. This year the Spelling Bee judges included State Representative Rosanna Gabaldon, Santa Cruz County Attorney George Silva, Treasurer Elizabeth Gutfahr, and Jovanna Lopez a State Farm Insurance Agent. Special thanks to the Rio Rico Rotary Club for their support on registering the contestants the day of the event. The Spelling Bee had approximately 26 students participate in the Spelling Bee. This year’s 2020 Santa Cruz County Spelling Bee Champion was, 6th grader Daniel Woodburn from Fco. Vasquez de Coronado Elementary School. The runner-up was 8th grader Liam Morgan from Elgin Middle School.
On November 8th, the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office in conjunction with Gear Up and the Borderland Film Festival hosted a student film festival at Oasis Theater. The group of 8th graders created 1-minute films all centered around the theme of life on the border. All 8th graders had been given workshops about the different aspects of filmmaking by Arts Coordinator, Nick Mansfield.
Fifty kids from Desert Shadows, Wade Carpenter, Coatimundi, Calabasas, Lourdes, and Little Red took part in the film festival. At the event, there was a red carpet, photo booth, interviews from various journalists and all the fanfare expected at any movie premiere. Approximately 100 people attended the event. Along with students, principals, parents and other spectators were in attendance.
The goal of this event was to give students an opportunity to creatively express how they feel about their community, culture, and lives in a creative and introspective way. Following the success of this event, the Superintendent’s Office would love to continue with the possibility of more workshops or summer camps centered on film making and storytelling.
Thank you Santa Cruz County, for celebrating National Gear Up Week!
Mr. Alfredo I. Velásquez and the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office would like to thank all who participated in the festivities during National Gear Up Week~ September 23-27, 2019. 8th grade Gear Up students engaged in college and career readiness activities, and pledged to “Believe in the Power of YET” and incorporate a Growth Mindset into their post-secondary plan.
Gear Up, Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Under-graduate Programs, is a federally funded grant program in place since 1999. The Superintendent’s Office was awarded the grant in October of 2018, and will continue supporting students until 2025.
The Santa Cruz County C-CREO Gear Up Program provides services centered around career exploration, academic preparation, building perseverance, and developing a post-secondary plan on all middle school campuses through the work of success coaches. A college and career Liaison at the C-CREO Hub and Arts Coordinator at the Imagination Center, both located in the Santa Cruz Center, are available to work with the community in conjunction with Gear Up and the Santa Cruz County Arts for Learning Initiative in partnership with Young Audiences.
For more information about the C-CREO Gear Up Program, please contact Program Director Maya Donnelly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to our Partners
NUSD #1: Wade Carpenter Middle School,
Desert Shadows Middle School
SCVUSD #35: Calabasas School, Coatimundi Middle School
Patagonia Elementary School
Little Red School
Mexicayotl Charter School
Lourdes Catholic School
Sacred Heart of Jesus School
Santa Cruz Center Dandy’s Creative Graphics Lead Local
Bordergráfico Vib’n Certified Borderlands Film Festival
On Wednesday, August 28th, the Santa Cruz County Superintendent’s Office held its first consortium meeting of the school year at the Santa Cruz County Complex at 10:00 a.m. The theme of the consortium is Career Technical Training with presentations from NUSD #1, SCVUSD #35, PUHS #20, Santa Cruz County Provisional Community College, Pima Community College, JTED, and Cochise Technical Educational District. It was a great forum to learn about what local school districts and community colleges are doing to prepare our students for the workforce.
The meeting initiated with a welcome from the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent, Mr. Alfredo I. Velásquez. The goal of this consortium is to create and support learning environments for all students in Santa Cruz County. Several educators from different educational sectors were in attendance.
Mr. Velásquez plays a critical role in supporting the creation of safe and supportive learning environments for all students. He has achieved this by working closely with school district superintendents, universities, Arizona@Work, training programs, and college educators to set the overarching academic goals for the county’s K-12 public education system while supporting specific efforts to help students achieve those aims. Alfredo I. Velásquez is committed to partnering with districts and other organizations to create a network of support that propel our students to achieve and thrive. For more information please contact the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office at: (520) 375-7952