On Friday, February 10th, the VFW Post 2006 in Nogales, Arizona hosted the Santa Cruz County Spelling Bee, where 26 contestants from Santa Cruz County Elementary and Middle Schools competed for the top prize. This year, 7th grader Miguel Valenzuela from Wade Carpenter Middle School won the competition, with 7th grader Alexis Simon from Santa Cruz Elementary School District (Little Red) taking the runner up spot. As the winner, Miguel Valenzuela will be representing Santa Cruz County in the State competition on March 18, 2023 at Madison Center for the Arts in Phoenix. The three judges of the event were Santa Cruz County Justice of the Peace Honorable Judge Emilio G. Velasquez, Ms. Jovanna Lopez from State Farm Insurance, and Santa Cruz County Treasurer Ms. Elizabeth Gutfahr. The event was hosted by Santa Cruz County School Superintendent Alfredo I. Velásquez and his office with the support of the Rio Rico Rotary Club, and the coordinators from the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office were Marisol Chiquete and Julie Ulrich. Finally, Mr. Larry Frederick from the Nogales Unified School District was the Spelling Bee pronouncer.
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Santa Cruz County Superintendent Alfredo Velasquez and his team are actively developing new programs with the $6 million Invest in Our Youth ESSER grant awarded to them last spring to expand education programs in Santa Cruz County. Funding comes from the Arizona Department of Education.
Most recently, Mr. Velasquez’s team has developed the Santa Cruzer Mobile Library, in collaboration with the Nogales-Santa Cruz County Public Library. Together with Library Director Danitza Lopez and her amazing team, they have made it possible for students to utilize library resources (including signing up for a library card) anywhere in the County.
The Santa Cruzer would not exist without the contributions of Maritza Lynn Higuera, a local bilingual children’s book author, whose passion is inspiring. She and her staff worked tirelessly to stock the bus with the most appropriate and engaging books available. They also collaborated with local artist, Gustavo Santana, and local middle and high school students to paint and decorate the Santa Cruzer.
Our new mobile library was debuted at the City of Nogales Christmas Lights Parade on December 3. It will be displayed in front of the Nogales Library throughout the month of January to commemorate the Nogales-Santa Cruz County Public Library Centennial. In the spring, the Santa Cruzer will begin traveling to different neighborhoods and events across the County—and you can request the Santa Cruzer at your neighborhood or community event!
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This summer, the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office received funding from ESSER III through the Arizona Department of Education. The invest In Our Youth Program has been extremely beneficial to all of the current grants in our office. Promoting Healthy Students, in particular, has been able to expand its efforts to further support county schools with their social emotional learning needs.
Expansions are being provided directly to schools with additional personnel, curriculum and materials. Three new Wellnesss Counselors were hired for the elementary schools in need of additional counseling services. They have been working at the schools since October. PHSI is proud to welcome Valeria Arballo, Charise Mongé and Lorena Tanori to the Wellness Team!
Edmentum BASE program was purchased and is available to all county schools. Training was completed in November and counselors are currently using the program with students. BASE is available to all county students from 1st though 12th grades.
Participating elementary schools will also be receiving Social Emotional Learning libraries. The package includes 30 key books with relevant social emotional learning issues. The books will be used by teachers, counselors and students. All schools are also currently ordering supplies for the creation of their own Mindfulness Corner. Every site will have a calming area somewhere on campus for students.
Calabasas School in the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District No. 35 is among the 406 schools nationwide to be named as America’s Healthiest Schools for the 2021-2022 school year. The recognition, awarded by Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a leading children’s health organization, celebrates schools’ dedication to supporting the health and well-being of students, staff, and families.
This year, schools were recognized in up to nine categories. Calabasas received recognition in the following four:
“Our campus has been working hard practicing healthy routines for some time,” said Calabasas Principal Bethany Patterson. “Though the pandemic made it challenging, we continued conveying health and fitness in diverse modes. Our Cougars met the challenge to implement healthy practices and we appreciate our community partners who helped make this a successful effort.
When asked what provided the impetus for her staff to do this work, Patterson stated, “Our initiative is to instill healthy habits and give a solid foundation to live a healthy and successful life for all our Cougars. This nationwide award recognition is impressive and we are thrilled to have received it.”
“As we enter what is predicted to be another challenging school year, we commend the awardees for their resourcefulness and dedication to addressing the acute health and well-being needs of students, staff, and families,” said Kathy Higgins, chief executive officer at Healthier Generation. “This cohort of schools exemplifies the fortitude required to serve current and future generations with empathy and care.”
Healthier Generation’s list of America’s Healthiest Schools remains one of the country’s longest-running, nationwide recognition programs honoring schools for achievements in supporting the whole health of students, teachers, and staff. Any school can connect with Healthier Generation to access trainings, resources, and technical assistance by visiting HealthierGeneration.org.
To view the complete list of awardees, visit HealthierGeneration.org/HealthiestSchools. Story by: Shannon Enciso/Communications Specialist
On Friday August 5, 2022, the 15th Annual Santa Cruz County Teacher of the Year Awards Dinner Ceremony was held at the VFW Ballroom. The soothing sounds of Hawaiian music in the background and the ballroom decorated to make you feel as if you were at a Hawaiian Luau was quite an experience. The twenty-one nominated teachers were greeted with colorful floral lei as they each made their way and took their seats in this tropical paradise. Each teacher was accompanied by their family, Principal and district superintendent. Over 250 guests, were in attendance to honor these amazing individuals. This countywide event is sponsored by the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent Alfredo I. Velásquez in partnership with South 32, the Santa Cruz Community Foundation, and Nogales Rotary Club.
Superintendent Alfredo I. Velásquez welcomed all guests and thanked all the nominees and every teacher in our county, for their extraordinary dedication and commitment to the students of Santa Cruz County. While the guests enjoyed a delicious Hawaiian dinner, 50 door prizes were being raffled out all donated by local businesses from throughout the county. All proceeds from the ticket sales that evening will be designated to the William I. Rothstein Memorial Scholarship for graduating seniors at Nogales High School, Rio Rico High School and Patagonia High School.
Mrs. Patricia Barraza-Preciado Santa Cruz County School Superintendent Accounting Specialist who has done a phenomenal job every year of coordinating this event extravaganza introduced each of the twenty-one Teacher of the Year nominees with a short video on their philosophy on teaching and education, as they took center stage and were awarded a trophy presented by County School Superintendent Alfredo I. Velasquez. They were also greeted by Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Ms. Kathy Hoffman, South 32 President Pat Risner, Santa Cruz Community Foundation President Mr. Daniel Arana and the District Governor of the Nogales Rotary Club Ms. Anita McDonald. Each nominee was presented with a Teacher of the Year Appreciation Platter consisting of $200 check and assorted gift cards.
Five incredible judges from throughout the County were given the difficult task of interviewing the twenty-one Teacher of the Year nominees and selecting the 2022 Santa Cruz County Teacher of the Year and the 2022 Santa Cruz County Teacher of the Year Runner Up.
Mr. Jeff Gudenkauf from Patagonia High School was the recipient of the 2022 Santa Cruz County Teacher of the Year Award. Mr. Gudenkauf, was awarded the Teacher of the Year Trophy, $2,000.00 check, Stainless Steel BBQ, 300 Walmart Gift Card, One night stay and golf day for two from Tubac Resort, $1000.00 for Professional Development and prizes and gift cards from local community members, valued close to $5,400.00.
We would also like to congratulate our 2022 Santa Cruz County Teacher of the Year Runner-up from Mountain View Elementary, Ms. Lorena Villa. Ms. Villa was presented the Runner-up trophy along with a $1000.00 check, Fire Pit, Samsung Galaxy Tablet, a one-night stay at the Americana Hotel, $500.00 for Professional Development along with prizes and gift cards from local community members, valued close to $2,500.00.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Sponsors and Donors that made this event possible and a great success. We appreciate your support.
Dear County Residents,
Once again, it is the honor of the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent Alfredo I. Velásquez, South 32,
Santa Cruz Community Foundation and the Nogales Rotary Club to introduce the 2022-2023 Santa Cruz
County Teacher of the Year Nominees.
Now more than ever, we are grateful for the dedicated educators we have here within our community. It is
said, that Education is the passport to our future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who plan for it today.
The tireless nominees for this year’s Teacher of the Year Award in Santa Cruz County exemplify the meaning of
Teachers from each of the schools represented selected their Teacher of the Year Nominee. Subsequently, a
selection committee of five volunteers, from different areas of Santa Cruz County, interviewed all the Nominees
and amongst them selected the 2022-2023 Santa Cruz County Teacher of the Year and runner-up. Certainly a
long and difficult undertaking for the selection committee. We thank you for volunteering your entire day to
them and undertaking this immense responsibility.
To the twenty-one Nominees, Thank you for your devotion and concern for the education of the children of
Santa Cruz County and congratulations from all of us.
Santa Cruz County
Alfredo I. Velásquez
On Wednesday, June 22nd, the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office and the Gear Up Program recognized 31 interns and 14 business and agencies that participated in the Gear UP 2 Work Internship Program. The Business Showcase granted the interns the opportunity to share their work with their parents, businesses, administrators, and community leaders. The Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Gear Up Program partnered with the Santa Cruz County Economic Development Department on a USDA Grant for digital marketing for small businesses. The grant funded interns in Santa Cruz County to create a digital project for a business or agencies in the county. The project recommendations ranged from updating a website and increasing social media presence, to internal data management. Robin Breault of LeadLocal designed the program to develop a project-based learning opportunity to help prepare high school students with work readiness experience, digital literacy, and skill development. “Together with our partners, our goal is to develop an “invest in your community spirit” by involving the business community and governmental agencies in school to work programs, internships, and job shadowing opportunities, “ said Kerri Muñoz, Gear Up Internship Coordinator. At the Business Showcase, Mr. Alfredo I. Velásquez, Santa Cruz County School Superintendent, spoke about the importance of our youth gaining skills and mentoring from our community business leaders. The keynote speaker of the evening was Mr. D.W. Ferrell of Localight, Inc. He focused on the significance of reciprocity and shopping local and how it effects our local economy. Plans to continue the program next school year for high school juniors and seniors in the county.
For information about the program please contact Kerri Muñoz, Gear Up Associate Director of Family and Community Engagement at (520)375-7961.
On May 2nd, Santa Cruz County Schools Superintendent Alfredo I. Velasquez hosted the 4th Annual TECHNOLOChicas Conference. TECHNOLOchicas is an afterschool club that encourages young Latinas to pursue careers in STEM-related fields (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
Over 80 students from across Santa Cruz County participated in this year’s conference, hosted by Pima Community College. Keynote speaker Teresa Noon, a Santa Cruz County native and PCC Grant Director, delivered a sensational presentation about her path into STEM. A panel of prominent Latinas in STEM- Melissa Delgado, a cybersecurity expert at Morgan Stanley; and Jaritza Verdin, a cloud support engineer with iManage- also offered participants advice on breaking into STEM-related spaces. PCC graciously provided students a hands-on tour of their Automotive Technology and Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Centers. Santa Cruz County Schools Superintendent Alfredo I. Velasquez and South32 Hermosa Project President Patrick Risner also attended the conference.
Most of all, the conference was a testament to the incredible work and dedication of this year’s TECHNOLOchicas instructors: Mrs. Betsy Hughes, Calabasas School; Ms. Ruchi Chhabra, Coatimundi Middle School; Ms. Martha Morgan, Desert Shadows Middle School; Mr. Daniel Codding, Patagonia Elementary School; and Mrs. Deborah Oaks, Wade Carpenter Middle School. The conference would not have been a success without the generosity of Pima Community College and their amazing team, especially Ms. Teresa Noon and Mr. Robert Ramirez.
In addition to the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office, TECHNOLOchicas in Santa Cruz County is made possible by the generous support of the South32 Hermosa Project, and the Televisa Foundation.
The Los Padres Home Visitation Program, funded by the First Things First Regional Partnership Council and operated through the Santa Cruz County Schools Superintendent’s Office and Alfredo I. Velasquez the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent celebrated the program’s 3rd graduation ceremony for its families. On May 11th, Los Padres celebrated with a group of 15 children and their families transitioning into Kindergarten. This was the first in-person celebration since the Covid-19 Pandemic. The event took place at the Santa Cruz County Complex with Chris Young, Chief Deputy, presenting the diplomas to the children along with special guest Francisco Padilla, the Regional Director of First Things First of Southern Arizona. The children received a Graduation Certificate, a backpack with school supplies and a goodies bag from Los Padres. The families enjoyed a light dinner, refreshments and cupcakes.
“Los Padres” Home Visitation Program provides a hands-on approach to learning through parent-child interaction and teaches the importance of learning through play. Los Padres Parent Educators will serve a minimum of 62 families in our community with various needs. All families with children ages 0-48 months are eligible to participate in the program in addition to teen parents, first time parents, grandparents raising grandchildren and court appointed legal guardians. It is important to note that the program is not income driven, which means that we enroll ALL families, regardless of income. Representing our office was the Santa Cruz County Chief Deputy Mr. Chris Young. The Los Padres Team is formed by the Director, Gina Parra, and the wonderful parent educators, Diana Villalobos, Melissa Gallegos, Ericka Mezquita, Ruth Plascencia and Zulema Lozano-Monreal.
“Los Padres” staff and the Santa Cruz County Schools Superintendent’s Office welcomes and encourages any enrollment inquiries or questions. Please contact Georgina Parra at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 520.375.7951 for additional information.
Students in Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District recently used their culinary skills to reimagine their favorite lunch meal by creating original recipes in the 2022 “Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge.” The national initiative, now in its eleventh year, was created to get students thinking about making healthy food choices while also encouraging them to be active and creative in the kitchen.
Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District students are joining over 2,500 other students representing more than 1,400 Sodexo-served school sites in 30 states nationally.
80 elementary school students submitted healthy recipes inspired by their favorite lunch meals.
During the competition held at Calabasas School on March 30, 2022, the young finalists were assessed on criteria including originality, taste, kid friendliness, the use of healthy ingredients, presentation and taste. Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District joined 253 other school districts across the country holding Future Chefs events throughout February and March.
Five students participated in the competition:
1st Place Sarah Miranda 5th grade Mountain View Crazy Cajun Pasta
2nd Place Gema Hernandez 3rd grade Calabasas School Wazowski Nachos
3rd Place Emily Rodriguez 4th grade San Cayetano Ratatouille
Runner Up Victoria Guerrero 3rd grade San Cayetano Vegetable Shrimp Sushi
Runner Up Janie West 3rd grade Mountain View French Ratatouille
The winning student from each participating district will be considered for 40 regional finalist awards, and the selected regional finalists will vie to become one of five national finalists competing for the public’s vote on SodexoUSA.com.
The Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge is just one of the many ways that the company shares its health and well-being expertise with the clients, customers and the communities it serves. Story by
Once again, the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office and School Superintendent Alfredo I. Velásquez, 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 February 28, 2022 through March 04, 2022.
With the coordination of Ms. Patricia Barraza-Preciado (Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office,) they had close to 70 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.
Ms. Lee Ann Richards (McDonald’s sponsor)
Mr. James Quinet (McDonald’s sponsor)
Ms. Andrea Dalessandro
Santa Cruz County
Ms. Jennifer St. John
Mr. Rudy Molera
Mr. Alfredo Velásquez
Mr. Juan Balderas
Judge Emilio Velásquez
Ms. Suzie Sainz
Ms. Sonia Jones
Mr. Juan Pablo Guzman
Sheriff David Hathaway
Chief Deputy Mario Morales
Lieutenant Gerry Castillo
Mr. Luis Preciado
Ms. Berenice Arellano
Mr. Victor Villalobos
Mrs. Diana Villalobos
Ms. Margaret Felix
Mr. Chris Young
Ms. Maya Donnelly
Ms. Kerri Munoz
Ms. Terri Sprigg
Mr. Adrian Chamberlain
Ms. Sandra Davila Ms. Ally Alvarez
Ms. Georgina Parra
Ms. Patricia Barraza-Preciado
Ms. Andrienne Villanez
Ms. Monique Magallanes
Ms. Cristina Pereda
Ms. Lizette Montoya Mr. Evan Kory
Mr. Robert Brubaker
Ms. Ruth Placencia
Ms. Sonia Sanchez
Ms. Ericka Vasquez
Ms. Renee Barber
Ms. Marisol Chiquete Ms. Grissel Bojorquez
City of Nogales
Mayor Arturo Garino
Ms. Vanessa Somoza
Ms. Danitza Lopez
Ms. Susan Faubion
Mr. Steve Schadler
Mr. John Fanning
Ms. Mayra Zuniga
Dr. Marcelino Varona
Ms. Cynthia Matus-Morriss
Ms. Georgina Tavera
Nogales Lions Club
Ms Claudia Wise
Ms. Dina Sanchez
Ms. Sandra Davila
Ms. Sonia Sanchez
Nogales Rotary Club
Ms. Alba Quijano
Mr. Nohe Garcia
Members of the Community
Rio Rico Firefighters
Ms. Adriana Romero
Ms. Barbara Mendoza
Ms. Karen Hathaway
Mr. Francisco Padilla (First Things First) Mr. Luis Arrieta
Colegio Petite is a tuition free K-5 Charter school managed by The Leona Group. Colegio Petite opened its doors to the Santa Cruz community in August 2016 to elementary students K-3 and has gradually added grade levels, now serving K-5 students. Colegio Petite carries a dual language program with a vision of helping all students regardless of background who need a smaller class size setting where each student’s needs are viewed and met. Colegio Petite serves all populations within our community, though the majority of our students Hispanic/ Latino.
Colegio Petite currently employs 31 employees with a mixture of teachers, paraprofessionals, Nation School Lunch Program coordinators, a Instructional Support Specialist, a School Social Worker and a Counselor, a PBIS Coach, and administrative staff. Colegio Petite is funded through the state and federal funds. The community members provide support to our school by actively participating in our school events and providing support to our students in need.
Colegio Petite provides opportunities for families to get involved in their child’s education by participating in several events throughout the year, including our annual Winter Festival, Family Dance, and our Family Fun Nights. Additionally, our parents have the opportunity to support their children’s academic growth by strengthening their own English language skills through our parent education program. Parents who have participated in our program found that it gave their children the opportunity to practice and strengthen the English language at home, helping to eliminate the insecurity of the language barrier.
Colegio Petite values parent involvement in their child’s education as it plays a significant role in the student's academic success. We don't just teach our students academic and social/emotional skills, we also teach our students respect, responsibility, and accountability, but these character traits are taught together with families as it starts at home. With this vision in mind, Colegio Petite has been able to provide students with a great learning experience where students can express themselves, feel safe, accepted, and belong.
As a result of the pandemic the last two years, contestants, parents, teachers, judges and school staff were unable to attend the Spelling Bee in person. The Santa Cruz County Superintendent's Office hosted this year's Spelling Bee in person at the VFW Hall in contrast to the previous two. At this year's Spelling Bee, there were 21 contestants and 3 official judges: Ms. Elizabeth Gutfahr, Santa Cruz County Treasurer, Ms. Jovanna Lopez, State Farm Insurance Agent & the Honorable Judge Emilio G. Velásquez, Santa Cruz Justice of the Peace. Santa Cruz County Superintendent Alfredo I. Velasquez welcomed everyone to the Spelling Bee during the opening ceremony. It was followed with the Pledge of Allegiance. The spelling bee was proctored by Mr. Larry Frederick of Lincoln Elementary School. After reading the rules, the contestants performed a practice round before the spelling bee officially started. Marisol Chiquete-Bolaina, Adrian Chamberlain, and Julie Ulrich served as the event coordinators.
Bright yellow, white, and polka dotted black balloons decorated the VFW Hall along with large bee balloons. To maintain social distance, contestants' white chairs were labeled with their numbers and were separated from each other in front of the judges. Contestants stood up one by one before the panel and their peers. Each student received a word to spell, as well as alternate pronunciations, definitions, and a sentence containing the word. A table was set up with the prizes that included a 7” inch Fire Tablet for the contestants, and winners of the Spelling Bee. This year’s 2022 Santa Cruz County Spelling Bee Champion was Angelina Coil – 5th grader from Sonshine Christian School. The runner-up was Miguel Valenzuela - 6th grader from Wade Carpenter Middle School - NUSD. Congratulations to all the outstanding contestants who participated in this year's Spelling Bee Contest.
Promoting Healthy Students is a grant-funded program sponsored by the United States Department of Justice under the “Stop The Violence” programs. The office of the Santa Cruz County Superintendent, Alfredo I. Velásquez was approved for funding early in the fall of 2020. The program partners with schools, agencies, and law enforcement leveraging resources to reduce incidents of violence in our county. The goal is to create safer learning environments by enhancing school safety through training and proactive measures.
The first phase of the grant began with the sponsorship of Red Ribbon Week. Many schools participated in conjunction with various law enforcement agencies. In November, PHSI held a local “Meet and Greet” event in the Santa Cruz County Complex Patio. Agencies and schools came together to network and share information. Approximately 100 participants attended the event. Over 20 agencies shared their resources and information. The event was broadcast live on Facebook through “We Love Nogales”. Additional activities include Trauma Informed Training for school staff and educators. To date, trainings have been held at 7 county schools either virtually or in-person.
As the project progresses, plans include the formation of a group of Social Emotional Health Coordinators recruited from all participating schools. The group will help disseminate information on Social Emotional Learning and will collaborate in the institution of an Anonymous Reporting System Pilot program. To learn more about PHSI, please contact Grant Director, Teresa A. Sprigg (email@example.com) or PHSI Coordinator, Lizette Montoya (firstname.lastname@example.org).
As part of Santa Cruz County Arts Month the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent Alfredo Velásquez and his Office had a momentous arts celebration at the 1904 Historic Courthouse in downtown Nogales on October 23rd, 2021. The County honored many local artists by giving recognition to muralists who have beautified our community and presented the Ambassador of the Arts Awards to 10 leaders in the arts. The Courthouse hosted two beautiful exhibits by local artists: painter Luis Preciado and photographer Kevin Zúñiga. There was also live music performed by the talented Rio Rico High School Jazz Band and the Sky Islands Piano Trio of the Santa Cruz Foundation for the Performing Arts. October Arts Month, proclaimed by Santa Cruz County and the City of Nogales, aimed to unify our artistic community and fantastic local arts organizations through events such as hosting the Nogales/Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce government affairs meeting, creating a monthly Master Arts and Culture Event Calendar for the county, establishing a county-wide arts committee, and sponsoring the Dia de Muertos Festival.
At the awards ceremony Mr. Velásquez and Arts Director Evan Kory presented many special awards that honor the great artistic talent that exists in Santa Cruz County. The inaugural Nils Urman Mural of the Year Award, in memory of Mr. Urman, who had a major impact in our community through his work as Executive Director of Nogales Community Development and countless projects, was awarded to artist Karla Osete for her mural “Torch Cactus Blooms.” Recipients of the Ambassador of the Arts Award were, Janice Johnson, Sandra Kory, Robert “Bob” Ochoa, Grecia Solorio, Antonio Lucero, Christina Wilhelm, Kevin Zúñiga, Luis Preciado, Mark Dittmar, and Carolina Lopez. The Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office will continue to promote the Arts in our community and looks forward to many more celebrations in the 1904 Historic Courthouse.
Mexicayotl was awarded in 2020 the National Blue Ribbon of Distinction. It is the highest award for excellence in education. Only five schools in Arizona have been awarded the National Blue Ribbon of Distinction. Mexicayotl is the only school in our county to have such a recognition. The award recognizes schools across the country based on their performance on student tests and graduation rates. There are two categories: Exemplary High Performing Schools and Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools.
The coveted blue ribbon acknowledges educators, families, and communities for their hard work in creating welcoming schools where students learn challenging, engaging material.Educators and teachers at these schools know how to help students succeed academically, regardless of their background and income level. In 1997-1998, the school opened its doors. Mexicayotl serves k-8 students in Santa Cruz County. Through its dual education program and unique intercultural curriculum, it distinguished itself from other schools.
“We founded this company because we felt that students in our predominantly Mexican community could benefit from the Nogales experience. We live with the Spanish language and culture every day. Charter schools are public schools and therefore open to all students age K-8. Families choose the school because they value literacy and want their children to be literate, not just bilingual in English and Spanish. After enrolling, they must demonstrate a willingness and work ethic that states, "I want to learn", in other words, Ganas,” said Baltazar Garcia, School Director.
There are 180 students in our charter school, but we can accommodate up to 245 students in grades K-8. It all depends on how many student openings there are based on space, which at this time is not 245.
Both my wife and I are founders; she is the principal and I am the director. She has been providing support and education efforts to the school since 2013, resulting in an 'A' rating.
Mexicayotl is not a private school that charges tuition, but a public school that receives financial support from the State Department of Education, like other public schools in Nogales. Our requirements and standards, therefore, are the same as those for every public school in this area. Additional funds come from state programs that value and support our academic accomplishments, where we are in the top 10% of the schools that serve low income students.
Whether you want your child to learn more at Mexicayotl even if they are doing well elsewhere, if you want your child to be challenged on a daily basis, or if you want your child to attend the top school in the region. By giving your school your state tax exemption when you file your taxes, you can help support the school's activities.
Our school is the only one with a dual language model that values and reflects the culture of the region. Because the school has achieved academic success, this opportunity for educational excellence is not available in any other school in the state. Through our educational program, our students learn to become involved in their community. The ability to value one's identity and culture allows one to value other cultures, which in turn enables us all to interact and work together for the common good. 'Tequio' or our way of observing the world and learning consists of these four words or ideas.
“Our success is based on our staff's commitment to providing the highest quality education available in the county. In our experience, our dual language integration model can educate our youth to a highest level that opens doors for their individual and collective success,”said Garcia.
It was “On with the Show” this past week as the 2021 Santa Cruz County Fair opened its doors once more in Sonoita. Once again, the Santa Cruz County School Superintendents Office was responsible for the coordination of this great annual event. The majority of the schools throughout our county highlighted the talent from their students and art teachers. These exhibits were all set up on Wednesday, September 15, by the remarkable fair coordinators that took time to drive out to Sonoita and set up the artwork and science projects that the students so carefully prepared for the Fair. On Thursday, September 16, thirty judges from across the county drove out to the fairgrounds and dedicated the entire morning to selecting winners in each Division and making sure that each exhibit received a ribbon.
We want to thank all the schools, teachers and fair coordinators that took the time to prepare the exhibits that these students sent out to present to the public. SCC School Superintendent Alfredo I. Veláquez, Mrs. Patricia Barraza-Preciado and SCC School Superintendent staff send a big thank you to our incredible judges and volunteers, who took time off from their daily responsibilities and drove out to Sonoita to be part of this wonderful event.
Trophy winners in each Division
Bracker Elementary Painting
Mexicayotl Charter School Space Science
Desert Shadows Middle School Physical Science
Patagonia Union High School Poems
Bracker Elementary Poem/Recycled Art
Best in show
Nogales High School Painting
Best in show
Lourdes Catholic Art
Best in show
Mexicayotl Charter School Space Science
Best in show
Bracker Elementary Recycled Art
Best in show
Bracker Elementary Recycled Art
Best in show
Coatimundi Middle School
Best in show
Juan Pablo C.
Mexicayotl Charter School Space Science
Best in show
Little Red Elementary Recycled Art
Best in show
Desert Shadows Middle School Physical Science
Best in show
San Cayetano Elementary Short Story
On Friday July 30, 2021, the 14th Annual Santa Cruz County Teacher of the Year Awards Dinner Ceremony took place at the Tubac Golf Resort and Spa Geronimo Ballroom. The splendid event was co-sponsored by the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent Alfredo I. Velásquez, the Nogales Rotary Club and coordinated by the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Accounting Specialist/Special Events Coordinator Patricia Barraza-Preciado.
The night started with the acting 2020 Teacher of the Year, Mrs. Michelle Sebert of Elgin School District leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance. Superintendent Alfredo I. Velásquez welcomed all guests and thanked all nominees and every teacher in our county, for their extraordinary dedication and commitment to the students of Santa Cruz County. While the guests enjoyed an exquisite dinner, over 30 door prizes donated by local businesses were raffled to those in attendance. All proceeds from the ticket sales for the raffles are to be designated to the William I. Rothstein Memorial Scholarship for graduating students in our county.
Mrs. Patricia Barraza-Preciado introduced each of the 20 Teacher of the Year Nominees with a short video on their philosophy on teaching, as they took center stage they were presented a trophy by Santa Cruz County School Superintendent Alfredo I. Velásquez. They also received a Teacher of the Year Appreciation Platter consisting of a cash reward and assorted gift cards.
Given the difficult task of selecting the 2021 Santa Cruz County Teacher of the Year, were five incredible judges chosen from across the county. We are proud to announce and congratulate Mr. Mark Dittmar from Mountain View Elementary, for being the recipient of the 2021 Santa Cruz County Teacher of the Year Award. Mr. Dittmar will now represent Santa Cruz County at the state competition in Phoenix, this fall.
Mr. Dittmar was awarded the Teacher of the Year Trophy, $2,000.00 check, BBQ Smoker Grill, Samsung Galaxy Tablet, a one-night stay and two rounds of golf for two from Tubac Golf Resort and Spa, $500.00 for Professional Development and prizes and gift cards from local community members, valued close to $4,000.00.
We also want to congratulate the 2021 Santa Cruz County Teacher of the Year Runner-up from Patagonia Union High School, Mrs. Ann Gortarez. Mrs. Gortarez received the Runner-up trophy along with a $1000.00 check, a fire pit donated from Home Depot, Samsung Galaxy Tablet, a one-night stay at Tubac Resort, $250.00 for Professional Development along with prizes and gift cards from local community members, valued close to $2,300.00.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Sponsors and Donors that made this event possible and a great success. We appreciate your support.
On May 11th, Santa Cruz County Schools Superintendent Alfredo I. Velasquez office hosted the 3rd Santa Cruz County South32 TECHNOLOchicas Conference. TECHNOLOchicas is an afterschool club that encourages young Latinas to pursue careers in STEM-related fields (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
Over 80 students from across Santa Cruz County participated in this year’s conference, which was held online due to the pandemic. A panel of three prominent Latinas in STEM- Professor Hau Moy Kwon, Salt Lake Community College; Melissa Delgado, a cybersecurity expert at Morgan Stanley; and Jaritza Verdin, a cloud support engineer with iManage- talked to students about how they started their careers, and offered them advice on breaking into STEM-related spaces. Students also participated in a series of workshops designed to hone their math and programming skills. Notable guests included Arizona State Senator Rosana Gabaldon, Arizona State Representative Andrea Dalessandro, Arizona State Representative Daniel J. Hernandez, Jr., and South32 Hermosa Project President Patrick Risner, among others.
Most of all, the conference was a testament to the incredible work and dedication of this year’s TECHNOLOchicas instructors: Mrs. Betsy Hughes, Calabasas School; Ms. Ruchi Chhabra and Mr. Ajay Parnache, Coatimundi Middle School; Ms. Martha Morgan, Desert Shadows Middle School; Ms. Elizabeth Lemons, Patagonia Elementary School; and Mrs. Deborah Oaks, Wade Carpenter Middle School. Their efforts made the program a success this year, in spite of very difficult circumstances.
In addition to the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office, TECHNOLOchicas in Santa Cruz County is made possible by the generous support of the South32 Hermosa Project, and the Televisa Foundation.
Freshmen Gear Up students at Nogales High School, Rio Rico High School, and Patagonia High School have thankfully had an extra support during the spring semester as they struggle to learn 9th grade math concepts virtually. The Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office C-CREO Gear Up Program launched the Math Mentorship Project in January, 2021, after freshmen and upperclassmen mentors who participated in the high school transition mentorship indicated they appreciated both the support, and the sense of helping others in their school community. With the help of math teachers, Mr. Ravi Dutt from NHS, Ms. Marinez Alvarez from RRHS, and Ms. Cynthia Quinonez from PUHS, along with Gear Up Success Coaches, freshmen math students who could benefit from after-school math tutoring and juniors and seniors who were confident in math, were grouped together in-person or in their Google classroom. The purpose of the program is to build a math identity in young students, learn resilience and the ability to overcome challenges in their math studies, and develop confidence and the motivation to succeed. The math mentorship looks a bit different on each campus as it was designed to fit the needs of each school and its students. One common factor between all projects is participants have found that asking for help when you’re struggling and giving back to those who need support give a sense of belonging and gratitude. The C-CREO Gear Up Program will continue the mentorship programs in the upcoming school year as well.
Rio Rico High School- Rio Rico High School freshmen were given the opportunity to receive math tutoring through a Math Mentorship Program provided by Gear Up. Freshmen students needing math tutoring were paired up with an upperclassman mentor that provides the student with individualized help in areas they are struggling with. “The mentors and mentees meet for approximately an hour a week. I am able and ready to provide guidance and assistance with concept help. The freshmen students are really thriving, said, Mrs. Martinez Alvarez.
According to Mrs. Shukla an Algebra 1 teacher, stated she has seen a significant change in her students. She has noticed the students are more confident and more interested in the concepts they are learning. The upperclassmen are doing an amazing job of not only reviewing the concepts with their mentees but also making a personal connection with them. When the freshmen students come to tutoring without any reminders and want to continue coming, we know the program is being successful!
Nogales High School-“I would like to thank our first batch of Math mentors who came forward to help and guide our freshmen students in these unprecedented times. They have shown great determination and leadership qualities to help our struggling freshmen. However, it was tough for them to reach out to students in this situation, but they tried their best to support them,” said Mr. Dutt Regarding the Math Mentorship Program, I think it will provide an opportunity for our juniors and seniors to see things from a broader perspective. They will be able to sharpen their knowledge and leadership skills, and as well as they will be contributing to support the academic achievements of struggling freshmen. I want to thank our principal, Mr.Colgate, for supporting the program and providing all the necessary help to the gear-up coaches and our mentors to impart the program successfully.
Patagonia Union High School-Ms. Cynthia Quiñones is the sponsor for the math mentoring program at Patagonia Union High School. During this school year, she outlined the following positive outcomes of the program: Students have overcome their fear of asking questions. Students have realized that math is not as hard as they once thought it was. She also had one student successfully exit the program due to his improved math skills.
The Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office and School Superintendent Alfredo I. Velásquez, celebrated, along with 15 Private, Charter and Public Elementary Schools within our county, National Read across America/Dr. Seuss Week from
March 01, 2021 – March 05, 2021.
With the coordination of Ms. Patricia Barraza-Preciado (Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office,) the schools throughout our county had over 78 volunteers conduct virtual visits and read to each classroom in our educational community. The main goal of this annual event is to encourage our children to read and to love reading at an early age. It’s one of
the most significant actions we can accomplish 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 each and every one 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.
A VERY SPECIAL THANKS TO THE FOLLOWING VOLUNTEERS and SPONSORS
Ms. Lee Ann Richards (McDonald’s sponsor) Mr. James Quinet (McDonald’s sponsor)
Representative Andrea Dalessandro Sheriff David Hathaway
Mrs. Karen Hathaway Chief Deputy Mario Morales
Chief Roy Bermudez Chief Carlos Jimenez
Mr. Rudy Molera (SCC Supervisor)
Mr. Alfredo Velasquez (SCC School Superintendent) Ms. Suzie Sainz (SCC Recorder)
Mr. Juan Pablo Guzman (SCC Clerk of Courts) Lieutenant Gerry Castillo
Lieutenant Raoul Rodriguez Corporal Oscar Mesta
Lt. Juan Bermudez Lt. Veronica Hernandez
Division Supervisor Steve Snead Sgt. Oscar Lechuga
Sgt. Basilio Angulo Officer Victor Hetherington
Officer Martin Quezada Mrs. Cynthia Matus-Morriss Dr. Stella Perez
Ms. Georgina Tavera Mr. Fernando Parra Mrs. Angel Canto Mrs. Mayra Zuniga Ms. Alba Quijano Ms. Claudia Wise Mr. Robert Astengo
Mr. Nohe Garcia Mrs. Cecilia Kory
Mr. Fernando Sandoval Mr. and Mrs. Manuel Coppola
Mrs. Adriana Romero Ms. Lourdes Jeong Mr. John Hays
Mrs. Susan Faubion Mrs. Christine Bachelier Mr. Peter Hooper
Mr. Francisco Padilla Mrs. Christina Pereda
Mrs. Romina Bermudez Mrs. Patty Azcue Mrs. Maria Martinez Mrs. Sonia Jones
Mrs. Alicia Valenzuela Mr. Luis Preciado
Ms. Berenice Arellano Mr. Chris Young
Mrs. Maya Donnelly Ms. Terri Sprigg
Ms. Christie Monreal Mrs. Maritza Cervantes Ms. Liz Tolano
Mr. Chris Bierle
Mr. Adrian Chamberlain Mrs. Marisol Chiquete Mrs. Melissa Gallegos
Mr. Evan Kory Mr. Robert Brubaker Ms. Paloma Barraza
Ms. Alma Feria Ms. Georgina Parra Mrs. Ruth Plascencia
Mrs. Patricia Barraza-Preciado Mrs. Sonia Sanchez
Ms. Grissel Tapia Ms. Ally Alvarez Mrs. Danna Rivera Mrs. Ely Alcantara Mrs. Sandra Davila
Tubac FF Marc Caschera Tubac FF Ricky Rodriguez Tubac FF Rudy Romero Mr. Luis Martinez
Mrs. Erika Mezquita Mr. Emmanuel Rodriguez
The 2021 Santa Cruz County Spelling Bee was held the morning of Wednesday, February 17th with a twist. Due to the pandemic, the annual competition, which consists of 20 Elementary and Middle School winners from across Santa Cruz County, was held 100% online. The Bee started off with a welcome message from Santa Cruz County School Superintendent Alfredo I. Velasquez and followed with an oath and an explanation of the Arizona State Spelling Bee Scripps template guidelines. The Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office Spelling Bee Coordinators, Marisol Chiquete-Bolaina, Julie Ulrich, and Adrian Chamberlain monitored the students as they went through the questions online. Once all contestants had finished, First Place went to 6thgrader Michael Pentland from Desert Shadows Middle School and Runner Up went to 5th grader Memphis Parks from San Cayetano.
On Friday, February 19th, there was a drive through ceremony at the 1904 Courthouse on Morley Avenue to honor all of the participants. With banners, balloons and a cheering section, students rode with their families to take pictures and receive their gifts. All contestants were given a tablet, and a backpack filled with school supplies. The drive-thru event was attended by students, parents, and staff who enjoyed a fun-filled day of suspense and surprises. Special thanks to our sponsors for their continued support: LeAnn Richards and James Quinet from McDonalds, Santa Cruz County Attorney George Silva, Treasurer Elizabeth Gutfahr, Jovanna Lopez a State Farm Insurance Agent, Rio Rico Rotary Club, and the Santa Cruz County Superintendent’s staff for their help.
The Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District No. 35 (SCV35) is pleased to announce Calabasas Preschool has earned accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)—the world's largest organization working on behalf of young children.
NAEYC Accreditation is a rigorous and transformative quality-improvement system that uses a set of 10 research-based standards to collaborate with early education programs to recognize and drive quality-improvement in high-quality early learning environments.
To earn NAEYC Accreditation, Calabasas Preschool went through an extensive self-study and quality-improvement process, followed by an on-site visit by NAEYC Assessors to verify and ensure that the program met each of the ten program standards, and hundreds of corresponding individual criteria. NAEYC-accredited programs are always prepared for unannounced quality-assurance visits during their accreditation term, which lasts for five years.
In the 30 years since NAEYC Accreditation was established, it has become a widely recognized sign of high-quality early childhood education. More than 7,000 programs are currently accredited by NAEYC—less than 10 percent of all child care centers, preschools, and kindergartens nationally achieve this recognition.
“NAEYC-Accredited programs bring our definitions of excellence for early childhood education to life each day,” said Kristen Johnson, senior director of Early Learning Program Accreditation at NAEYC. “Earning NAEYC Accreditation make Calabasas Preschool an exemplar of good practice for families and the entire community.”
“Our District has always been committed to providing quality early childhood education to the children and families of our community,” said Assistant Superintendent of Student Services, Melisa Lunderville. “It is a great honor to receive accreditation from this organization.”
For more information about NAEYC Accreditation, visit the NAEYC website.
The Los Padres Home Visitation Program, funded by First Things First, and operated by the Santa Cruz County Schools Superintendent’s Office of Alfredo I. Velasquez, celebrated their first graduation on November 13th. A class of eleven children completed the program and will be transitioning to Kindergarten next year. Collaborating agency representatives, including Jennifer Argyros, Director of the Family Resource Centers, Yara Castro, Director of Mariposa Community Health Center Visitation Program and Laura Monarquez, representing Wade Carpenter Middle School, helped congratulate the children and their families during the ceremony. The drive thru celebration took place in the parking lot of the Santa Cruz County Complex with County School Superintendent Mr. Velasquez presenting the diplomas to the children. The children also received gifts from their Parent Educators.
The “Los Padres” Home Visitation Program provides a hands-on approach to learning through parent-child interaction and teaches the importance of learning through play. Los Padres Parent Educators serve a minimum of 62 families in our community with various needs. All families with children ages 0-48 months are eligible to participate in the program in addition to teen parents, first time parents, grandparents raising grandchildren and court appointed legal guardians. It is important to note that the program is not income driven, which means that we enroll ALL families, regardless of income. Also, in attendance and representing the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office was Chief Deputy Chris Young and Accounting Specialist Pat Barraza. From the Los Padres Team Director, Gina Parra, and parent educators, Melissa Gallegos, Alma Feria, Ericka Mezquita, Ruth Plascencia and Paloma Barraza attended.
“Los Padres” staff and the Santa Cruz County Schools Superintendent’s Office welcome and encourage any enrollment inquiries or questions. Please contact Georgina Parra at email@example.com or at 520.375.7951 for additional information
Alfredo I. Velásquez, Santa Cruz County Superintendent, is proud to announce a new grant funding recently awarded to his office. The proposal entitled “Promoting Healthy Students Initiative” was approved by the United States Department of Justice under the Bureau of Justice Affairs: STOP School Violence Program. The project will receive approximately $670,000 over the next three years.
The grant will provide school- based resources to support families and students in the county. This three-year initiative seeks to prevent violence in the community by implementing school- wide programs that will raise awareness through training and proactive measures. In addition, PHSI seeks to institute positive learning environments, while providing small group and individualized services. The project will also create partnerships with community-based agencies and local law enforcement in a coordinated effort to reduce incidences of violence in the county.
With the unique challenges created by the pandemic and distance learning, Promoting Healthy Students will work diligently to address the needs of our county students. Their overall health and well-being will be of upmost importance as the program moves forward. For more information on the program, contact Teresa A. Sprigg at firstname.lastname@example.org at (520) 375-7952.
RRHS teacher and Hawk Theatre Director Joseph Ellison has been awarded the Arizona Thespians Teacher of the Year Award for the south region, which includes Tucson all the way south to Nogales.
Ellison was notified via email by Steve Abaroa of the Arizona Thespians Executive Board. “This award is given annually to a teacher that demonstrates exceptional courage and devotion to the Performing Arts Program at a school. It is a prestigious honor that recognizes the best of the best within our ranks.”
The award is typically presented at the annual State Thespian Festival, which was canceled for 2020. Although disappointed he would not be able to accept the award in person, Ellison expressed his gratitude for being recognized. "Words cannot express the pride I feel for receiving this award. I owe so much to my students and this award is a reflection on their hard work just as much as mine. Theatre is a collaboration of heart and soul and my students show that with trust and hard work you can truly bring out creation in any circumstance.”
Ellison has directed the Hawk Theatre Company for the past four years, his second year under principal Hector Estrada. Estrada spoke highly of Ellison’s achievement, “What a tremendous accomplishment and recognition. Both you and your students deserve this as you all epitomize the district mantra, #SCV35AbovetheBar with the attitude of "The Show Must Go On!"
Mr. Ellison was recently interviewed and can be viewed on #SCV35AboveTheBar on the SCV35 Communications YouTube channel. https://youtu.be/NqkGR6iVs8
Congratulations to my Little Red 8th grade Class of 2021, I celebrate you as you remember the challenges you have had to overcome this past year, and I challenge you to rise to the top and succeed in everything you do. Your only competition is yourself and no one else, believe in who you are and know there are no limits to success. Wishing you all the best, Principal Kathy Romero
It is during these challenging times that we realize more than ever just how much our County educators do for our children. These exceptional teachers are there for our communities in so many ways. Residents of our county have come to realize
how these educators convert into members of our family unit and are so significant in the lives of our children and homes. This year we had twenty-one 2020 Santa Cruz County Teacher of the Year nominees selected by their educational peers from
their schools. Left to the task of electing amongst these incredible nominees, were five judges from across our County.
In early June the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office held a virtual Zoom interview process with each of the twenty-one nominees. Also present at this interview were two representatives from the SCC School Superintendents Office
and our five judges. After a long day of inspirational and heartening interviews with the twenty-one nominees, our judges chose Mrs. Michelle Sebert from Elgin
School as 2020 Santa Cruz County Teacher of the Year and Mr. Nate Porter from Patagonia Union High School as Runner-up.
The virtual Teacher of the Year Awards Ceremony was held on Friday, October 30, 2020. All Nominees, Principals, Superintendent, Judges, and some members of the community were present during the event. Once the announcement of the
winner and runner-up was made, all nominees were invited to drive up to the Santa Cruz County Complex parking lot (which was set up in a festive Super Hero motif) and pick up their prize platters. These platters consisted of trophies, cash, Chrome
Book, BBQ Grill and certificates of over $3800.00 for the winner and cash, Chrome Book, BBQ, and certificates of over $1800.00 for the runner-up. The nominees all received platters as well with trophies, cash, prizes, and certificates of over
475.00 each. The SCC School Superintendent’s Office and the Nogales Rotary Club would like to congratulate each of the twenty-one nominees and the two winners. We would also like to thank our judges, Home Depot, and Walmart for their dedication to our community. We leave you with this quote from an unknown author: A teacher is like a candle…it consumes itself to light the way for others.
Our Santa Cruz County Superintendent Alfredo I. Velásquez has a passion to provide every student the opportunity to succeed academically, while preparing them for the challenges and opportunities life brings. He is a pioneer of education and brings a passion and dedication to everything he has done throughout his career. It is no surprise he was recently awarded by Southern Arizona Association for the Educator of Young Children Award (SAZAEYC) for his work in strengthening connections between families, educators, and community.
On September 4th at 11:00 a.m. at the old courthouse SAZAEYC presented him with the award in recognition for his service, advocacy, and commitment to young children, students, families, teachers and the community. Recipients of the award are individuals who go above and beyond their call of duty. Alfredo I. Velásquez has been a visionary leader who is clear about what he believes our students need to be successful. He is dedicated to enhancing educational programs across Santa Cruz County. His efforts provide a good picture of his vision for Santa Cruz County Schools. His passion for education, humility, love of kids,and willingness to work collaboratively are what makes him uniquely qualified.
“I am truly honored and humbled to be the recipient of the Southern Arizona Association for Education of Young Children Award. I would like to thank the Board of Directors and the U of A Cooperative Extension Program Director for the Family Resource Centers in Santa Cruz County, Ms. Jennifer Argyos. I also would like to thank First Things First Regional Director Mr. Francisco Padilla, Santa Cruz County School Superintendent Chief Deputy Mr. Chris Young and the Los Padres Staff for embracing the Early Childhood Education initiative through our office. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to work with our Pre-School Educational Community and recognize the great work they are doing in preparing our young children with the essential tools and life skills to become successful lifelong learners. Our Early Childhood Education continues to prosper in our County because of the commitment and dedication of our educational leaders, staff, and home educators that have undertaken this responsibility to make sure even through this difficult time that educational opportunities for our young population is available to all families in Santa Cruz County. I look forward to our continued partnership with our Pre-School Educational Community and providing the necessary resources and awareness for Early Childhood Education in Santa Cruz County,” said Velásquez.
According to the 2020 SAZAEYC Board, “Mr. Velásquez played a critical role in supporting the creation of safe and supportive learning environments for all students. He 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.
It is with great honor that we continue to celebrate Alfredo I. Velásquez for his dedication and commitment to young children. Those that know him, know that Mr. Velasquez is more than deserving of our most honorable award.”
Dear County Residents,
It is an honor for the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent Mr. Alfredo I. Velasquez and the Nogales Rotary Club President Mr. Gene Waken, to introduce the 2020 Santa Cruz County Teacher of the Year nominees.
Now more than ever, we are grateful for the dedicated educators we have here within our community. It has been said, that Education is the passport to our future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who plan for it today. The tireless nominees for this years’ Teacher of the Year Award here in Santa Cruz County exemplify the meaning of a true hero.
Their peers at their respective schools have selected the nominees. All nominees will be interviewed by a panel of five judges, which come from different areas of the county. These judges will have the responsibility of selecting the 2020 Santa Cruz County Teacher of the Year.
Congratulations to all the nominees and thank you for your commitment and dedication to educating
the children of Santa Cruz County.
Alfredo I. Velásquez
Santa Cruz County School Superintendent
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
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