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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com
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