As part of our spotlight series this month, we are thrilled to feature Erica Teller, a star in the field of performing arts.
Erica Teller an esteemed figure in the realm of performance art within Santa Cruz County. She is the owner, director, and teacher of A Step Above. Teller is a pioneer in the field of artistic expression, challenging conventional notions of what it means to be creative.
A Step Above School of Performing Arts is a private business that actively engages with the local community through participation in local events and sharing their programs. Their primary goal is to create a nurturing and inclusive learning environment for students of all ages.
After graduating from the same high school as her husband, Eric Teller moved to Santa Cruz County in 2005. They have 3 teenagers (2 sons and a daughter). As soon as she was allowed to work with children, Mrs. Teller began babysitting. She obtained her Red Cross Babysitting Certificate in 2000. She is originally from Franklin, Wisconsin (a suburb of Milwaukee County).
“I always knew I wanted to work with children in some capacity. My plan was to complete my education and become a kindergarten teacher, but God had other plans for me! When I’m not at the dance studio I enjoy cooking and baking, camping with my family, and knitting when I get the chance.”
“I believe that every individual has unique talents and potential, and it is my goal to help them discover and develop their skills to the fullest. Since our humble beginnings in 2014, we have witnessed tremendous growth and success. The demand for quality performing arts education in the area has been overwhelming, and we are proud to have expanded our class offerings to meet this need,” said Erica.
At A Step Above School of Performing Arts, our mission is not just a mere statement, but a heartfelt commitment to creating an extraordinary environment that nurtures and embraces the diverse talents of students of all ages. Since our inception in the year 2014, we have embarked on an incredible journey of growth and success, driven by an overwhelming demand for exceptional performing arts education in our local community.
Students are encouraged to explore their passion for the performing arts in a safe and inclusive space. We firmly believe that every individual possesses unique talents and untapped potential. It is our unwavering goal to help them unearth and cultivate these gifts to their fullest extent, according to Erica.
To ensure that my students receive nothing short of the finest training available, I bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and expertise to each and every class. Besides being passionate about my craft, I am also deeply committed to the development and growth of my students. Our students learn a variety of disciplines, such as jazz, ballet, tap, contemporary music, and much more, under my guidance.
At A Step Above, we understand that a well-rounded education goes beyond acquiring technical skills. In addition to teaching discipline, confidence, teamwork, and creativity, we believe these are essential qualities for success in the performing arts and in life as a whole. Our goal is to create a learning environment where students can grow personally and become well-rounded individuals through engaging lessons and collaborative projects.
I am here to support and guide all of our students, whether they aspire to pursue a career in the arts or just want to explore their creative side. They are a testament to the transformative power of the performing arts and our institution's unwavering commitment.
As the director of A Step Above School of Performing Arts, I am more than just an educational institution; I am a dedicated individual who believes the performing arts have transformative powers. Join us on this incredible journey to discover yourself, grow, and excel artistically. Together, let us discover ourselves and our potential.
This month, we are privileged to spotlight a remarkable individual who has been a beacon of leadership in our community. Anita Moreno, not just a community activist but also a diligent public servant, continuously strives to uphold social justice and inclusivity.
A true advocate for integrity, she is unwavering in her commitment to the well-being of our community. For over two decades, Anita's voice has resonated powerfully across our community, embodying a deep sense of commitment and care.
In her new role as county recorder, Anita Moreno stands out for her meticulous documentation, discussions, and decisions. Our community's history and progress are preserved and accessible through this often-overlooked responsibility. She adds a valuable layer of transparency to the community's living environment through her work in this role.
It is clear that Anita is dedicated to our community through her work as a recorder. Using her meticulous documentation, she ensures that no voice is left unheard, no event is forgotten, making her an invaluable asset to us all. Thanks to her contributions, our community's narrative and future have been enriched.
“Taking on the duties of the Recorder's office with professionalism and diligence is my commitment as County Recorder,” said Anita Moreno. The integrity of our public records is my top priority.
"With 35 years of experience in the title and escrow industry under my belt, I've gained a profound understanding of the significance of public records. This wealth of experience has equipped me with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively manage this office while maintaining public trust. I am confident in my ability to enhance the efficiency and efficacy of this office. I am committed to ensuring the accuracy and accessibility of public records."
In my role as County Recorder, it is my responsibility to fulfill the office's responsibilities professionally and diligently. My top priority is to maintain the integrity of our public records. Consequently, I will ensure that records are accessible in the proper manner in order to fulfill my commitment. I plan to use innovative technologies to improve accessibility to records. Furthermore, I will make sure that our records are accurate and consistent with those of other government agencies."
As her words demonstrate, she is not only dedicated to preserving public records but also to making them more accessible to the community.
For the month of March, Border Eco Magazine selected Alejandra Martinez, Executive Director of Crossroads Nogales Mission, for their people who "echo" section in Santa Cruz County. Alejandra first started with the organization as a volunteer, and has since shown how dedication and an interest to help the homeless can pay off. Her hard work and dedication to the organization has earned her the position of Executive Director, and she is a great example of how dedication and passion can turn into success.
Alejandra Martinez is a highly qualified individual. She has earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Arizona. I majored in psychology and minored in Spanish at the University of Arizona. In addition, I got a medical assistant certification and a real estate appraiser license at Pima Medical and Hogan.
I have been living in Santa Cruz County for my entire life, except for the four years I spent as an undergraduate. During that time, I was attending college in a different city. However, I am now back in Santa Cruz County and have been here ever since. I am the youngest of three siblings, including two sisters and a brother, and both of my parents are retired.
Since 2015, she has been with Crossroads Nogales Mission, serving as the Executive Director for the past six months. Besides volunteering for the summer program, she has also helped with Thanksgiving and Christmas events at Crossroad Nogales Mission.
In 1995, Ben and Bert Wenke founded Crossroads Nogales Mission. “We strive to help the homeless and hurting individuals transition from unstable and dangerous situations to productive and secure lives through the power of the Gospel.”
“We hope to create and maintain successful partnerships between government organizations and local organizations, which will lead to increased community involvement and collaboration. This will make services more accessible and tailored to the specific needs and goals of our clients,” said Alejandra.
According to the executive director Alejandra Martinez, Crossroads Nogales Mission has a goal of becoming a one-stop shelter for all of their clients' needs. The mission is thankful for the support of the staff, donors, partners, and clients, as without them, it would be impossible to carry out the operations.
There are six employees in our organization, including the executive director.
Alma Jackson is a part-time office assistant
Part-time House Manager, Raul Almanza
Director of operations, Jason Gonzales
Part-time host, Lupita Valencia
Part-time thrift shop worker Guadalupe Martinez
Part-time cook Sara Mayorga
Jason is the director of operations and handles the men's shelter and all other aspects of the mission. Sara is the cook, Lupita Valencia is the hostess, Raul Almanza is the house manager, and Guadalupe Martinez is in charge of the thrift store. Through community involvement, Crossroads Nogales Mission hopes to facilitate meaningful life changes for those in need.
Ms. Martinez credits her mother as a source of inspiration in both her personal and professional life. Her mother has always been a hard worker, dedicating her life to helping those who are less fortunate. This has motivated Alejandra to strive for the same level of accomplishment, and to make a positive difference to her local community. Through her involvement with the community, Alejandra has gained knowledge of the real issues that need to be addressed, and she is determined to make a difference.
Featured this month is a young woman whose vision and passion are making waves across our community. Stephanie Bermudez is the CEO and founder of Startup Unidos. Ambos Nogales native Ms. Bermudez is a latinx innovator who has invested over 15 years in understanding the local culture, building relationships, and earning the respect and loyalty of people and organizations at all levels. Using innovative ideas, she creates cross-border communities that promote collaboration and co-inspiration across national boundaries. In addition to organizing events, training, consulting, and research within the Southern Arizona area, she establishes entrepreneurial communities and networks.
A single mother with a 21-year-old son. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking with friends, building health and healing. She is an honored community leader and has been recognized extensively throughout her career, most recently; February 2020, Top 20 Woman of Impact by Tucson Lifestyle Magazine; March 2019, Minority Business Owner of the Year, Inside Tucson Business Women of Impact; October 2018 TENWEST Idea Funding, Larry Hecker and Sherry Hoskinson Bright Futures Award; December 2016 Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 40 under 40 Woman of the Year.
In addition to her unwavering dedication to making an impact, Stephanie is passionate about creating binational business opportunities with Mexico and the United States. Through Startup Unidos, she provides entrepreneurial and workforce education, capacity building, and intergenerational programs, such as Waste.Binn, Emprende Amigo, and Borderoots to startups and aspiring youth throughout Arizona-Sonora.
“I am passionate about the communities we serve. I am intentional about developing a unique approach to innovation and celebrating the binational, bilingual culture of the Arizona USA and Sonora Mexico region. I have a passion for service work and have volunteered for many years. As an entrepreneur, I was able to create my own career doing what I love instead of waiting for a company to hire me and wishing to fit in," said Stephanie Bermudez.
She is deeply committed to making an impact and is passionate about taking my experiences and continuing to shape binational business opportunities with Mexico and the United States. Startup Unidos is currently serving Santa Cruz, Cochise and Yuma counties. In the long term, Startup Unidos, will serve borderlanders across all USA-MEX shared borders to include CA, AZ, NM, TX.
The grandparents of Ms. Bermudez had a significant influence on her. Her grandmother started a food truck, Ma Chepas, and home catering in Nogales and Rio Rico. Besides supporting the family micro catering business, her grandfather was an entrepreneur in the produce industry where he earned and established capital, as well as a well-known transborder professional. She learned about business, community, philanthropy, but a foundation for family, finances, unconditional love, and so much more from them.
She provides one-on-one technical help to small businesses in three border counties, from startups to established businesses. As part of Startup Unidos, she continues to work with startups and aspiring youth across the Arizona-Sonora region, both sides, by developing and implementing entrepreneurial, workforce development, capacity building, and youth programs, including Waste.Binn, Emprende Amigo, and Borderoots.
"I can't imagine doing anything else. It is in my nature to serve others. My grandparents taught this to my father, who then passed it on to me. I receptively embraced it and nurtured my own interests and growth in this way. I am now a proud community monster. Although not all monsters are scary, they can describe me as destructive in a good way. I am not afraid to demolish outdated structures in order to prepare the ground for new ones. Community has always been at the core of my interests,” says Bermudez.
This month Border Eco recognizes a woman who "echoes in our community." Michelle Jacquez is the Executive Assistant to the Mayor. There are many hats she wears. Her efforts to resolve community concerns have helped her push through a number of constituent needs. In keeping an open door policy for staff and constituents, she conducts herself in a manner that leads by example. No one is ever turned away.
Along with working for the City of Nogales, she has a non-profit under the Southern Arizona Autism Association where she gained knowledge and experience working with government officials. Today, she is a member of the Binational Network of Neurodiversity Disabilities with Sonora Mexico. There are over 100 members in this network, including government officials, agencies, and medical teams to name a few, who cooperate to improve the quality of life for the Disability Population and their families.
“The city of Nogales is unique, a border town with opportunities for growth. Since I was born and raised here, I have grown to love the city and see its future economic potential and safe living environment,” she said.
Like in any city there is a need to keep evolving. A community that is flexible and accepts development and diversity will grow by supporting each other. I do not see a need for change however I welcome the flourishing of our community connections.
Nogales' Mayor has revitalized both sisterhood agreements that were originally established in 2011. Creating a proactive and united effort with our Nogales Sonora counterparts, we will host events for children and newly added children with disabilities, as well as for economic development, sportsmanship, and other community elements.
Getting involved is about having a voice for oneself and others who need to be represented in our community on any scale. To be able to say I helped, I participated in that, or I did that for my community is satisfying. I support many local organizations through the mayor's office, and I'm pleased to be involved with all they do.
“Over the years, I have been involved in various platforms in my community. Over this period of time, I have realized that by assisting any group, individual, or cause, they are able to overcome obstacles and are positively impacted. Life-changing outcomes may result from these interventions.”
“I would like to thank Mayor Arturo Garino and First Lady Cathy Garino, City administrators, and Executive Assistant to the City Manager Judith Gerardo for helping me grow in knowledge of municipal and constituent matters. In the future, I plan to use and share this knowledge in my endeavors,” said Executive Assistant Mrs. Jacquez.
Border Eco is pleased to spotlight an individual in our community who has dedicated herself to connecting trauma victims and families with the services they need to recover. Noemi Elizalde was born and raised in Nogales, Arizona. Santa Cruz County is where she has lived all her life.
In 2021, she accepted a position with the Children's Advocacy Center as Coordinator of the Mobile Advocacy Program. She continued the collaboration with Santa Cruz County and brought the services down to rural communities through this position. The experience provided her with the opportunity to grow and serve the community at the same time. In her role, she builds capacity in each community to provide services for victims and witnesses, and identifies and shares funding opportunities and training opportunities.
Mrs. Elizalde is a full-time mother to three beautiful children. Currently residing in Rio Rico, Arizona, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Public Policy and Management from the University of Arizona in 2013. She commuted to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona. Painting and crafting with her kids are two of her favorite things to do. She enjoys eating at local restaurants and trying new ones.
Elizade is passionate about helping her community, especially when it comes to victim advocacy. Her goal has always been to find creative ways to support community partners in bringing services to Santa Cruz County. Networking has always been one of her strengths. She enjoys collaborating and partnering with different agencies that can fill in any gaps in our community.
“Since High School, I have raised money for charities and fundraisers. Serving my community by volunteering at the humane society and the local hospital only made me realize how much I enjoyed helping. Noemi said that after attending college and being a full-time mom while in college, she was unable to do anything else but focus on her children.”
As a result of her internship with the City of Nogales, she was inspired to stay in Santa Cruz County. Her service to the community helped open her heart and guide her towards her life's purpose. “I would have never thought that I would be assisting our community in building the first family safety center and only thinking of giving other rural communities the same opportunity,”said Elizalde.
For over 25 years, the SC County Attorney's office has collaborated with the Children's Advocacy Center to investigate abuse and neglect of children. However, since services were only available in Tucson, community members and the County Attorney's office started a coalition in 2007 (15 years ago) to develop services in Santa Cruz County.
The SC Sheriff's department, Nogales Police Department, and the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence were all involved from the beginning.
About 12 years ago, Mariposa Community Health Center, Holy Cross Hospital, Community Health Associates, and Intermountain Centers-Pinal Hispanic Council joined the conversation. In 2018, the Children's Advocacy Center became actively involved in the Nogales Safety Center. At the same time, the University of Arizona College of Nursing, Rio Rico Fire Department, Department of Child Safety, Circles of Peace, and the General Consulate of Mexico-Nogales joined the effort.
In recent years, we have experienced increased speed and effectiveness, as MercyCare, the Santa Cruz County Justice Court, and San Cayetano Elementary School (all joined last year) have joined us. This year, we welcomed Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District and the City of Nogales to our partnerships.
For this initial phase, Children's Advocacy Center only has three staff members (forensic interviewers, medical providers, satellite site directors). Additionally, the Family Safety Center hosts local advocates from Santa Cruz County (Mariposa Community Health Center and Santa Cruz County Victim Services) to assist families. For families that require immediate crisis counseling, Community Health Associates is also on standby.
While we are in the early stages of the Nogales Family Safety Center within the Sheriff's Office, we are working toward having a stand-alone larger center to provide more space and services to our community partners.
“It has been an incredible experience working with the community and especially our partners. Each partner has contributed to making the Family Safety center possible. Thank you Mariposa Community Health Center for giving me the opportunity to begin this advocacy journey in 2013. It would not have been possible for me to grow in this field without their constant support throughout the years,” said Noemi Elizalde coordinator for the Children's Advocacy Center.
This month Border Eco is featuring an individual in our community that has made a difference in the field of education. Georgina Parra comes from a family who has dedicated itself to public service. In addition to her mother being a schoolteacher, her father was involved in politics his entire life. “My parents inspired me to pursue my calling of public service. They taught me to care about my community,” said Program Director Georgina Parra.
Her youngest sister, Regina Romero, is the mayor of Tucson, and her older sister Maricruz Ruiz is a program coordinator at Pima Community College. The idea of making a difference by getting involved in the community has always been instilled in me by my parents. Throughout our lives, they have encouraged us to care about our community by doing something that will help make it a better place.
Originally from San Luis Colorado Sonora Mexico, Georgina Parra moved to Arizona at a young age. When she was four years old, her family immigrated to Yuma. Yuma is where she grew up and graduated from high school. To pursue a college education, she moved to Tucson, Arizona.
“I was very shy for a long time, so this helped me break out of my shell,” said Parra. While attending college in Tucson, she met her husband Felipe Parra. Born in Nogales, Felipe Parra comes from a long line of Nogalenses. He has worked for Unisource for 32 years. She has a 21-year-old son, Luis Felipe Parra. At the moment, he is attending Mesa Community College. In order to further his education, he hopes to transfer to Arizona State University.
The most important accomplishment of my career has been the opportunity to grow professionally. At Child & Family Resource Center, I began my career as a family child support specialist. Over the past 20 years, I've advanced my career and now hold the position of director. It is impossible to overstate the importance of going to school and completing school. I recently earned an associate's degree in my field of study, which is very important to me.
Working with children and families in the community has always been my passion. I've been doing this for 20 years. My current employer is the Superintendent's office. I work with an organization that helps the community in a number of ways. Our next step for us is to form a father-parent support group.
Los Padres plays an important role in our community. The purpose of our program is to educate parents, especially young parents, about how their child develops.Los Padres son los primeros maestros that is the full name of our program. This encapsulates the main purpose of this program is to help parents learn how to be their child’s first teachers by teaching them from the womb and later on learning about all the areas of growth and development helping the child obtain their best potential so they can be ready for the world.
The program aims to teach parents the importance of being involved in their child’s development. Families are encouraged to participate in a new home visitation program that focuses on parent-child interaction. Providing parents with resources and strategies for teaching their children through play. Families with newborns to four-year-olds can participate in our program. According to the program director, teens, first-time parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, and court-appointed guardians can benefit from the program.
Los Padres was designed by Parents As Teachers-trained educators to meet the developmental needs of the child and the family. As part of the service, the parent educators will visit the families in their homes.
This month Border Eco honors
Rosa E. Lopez-Merino the site director for HOPE. Rosa began working for SEABHS 13 years ago as a driver and a Family Support Specialist. For two years, she worked as the area coordinator for MIKID in Nogales, Arizona.d for Corazon Behavioral Health for 5 years as an adult case manager and provided peer support and family support services. Rosa went on to work as a program manager at Wellness Connections for 4 years which allowed them to eventually merge with HOPE, Incorporated on March 2nd , 2020. Rosa has been the site director at the HOPE Nogales site for the past 2 years and is certified as a Recovery Support Specialist, a Forensic Peer Support Specialist, and a Family Support Specialist.
Being a part of the community's growth and change is what Rosa enjoys most about being a site director at HOPE, Inc. She enjoys providing a safe place for individuals to share their experiences and work towards meaningful goals. Her goal is to empower members to navigate the system on their own and improve their quality of life. Rosa believes that developing a supportive environment for her staff is also important, since it promotes a collaborative atmosphere where every member of HOPE can do his or her best.
This month Border Eco honors Claudia Alvarez from Colegio Petite who is an educator who resonates in our community. She is originally from Nogales, Sonora Mexico and grew up in Nogales, Arizona. She lived in Santa Cruz county all her life. She has six siblings and the youngest of the girls. She is the mother of two daughters. She has a Bachelor Degree in Human services and Master Degree in Business Administration. Before coming to Colegio Petite, her main background was in behavioral health. She was a counselor for children’s services helping to strengthen children and families communication skills and understanding. She has always been passionate about helping in any way possible and serving in her community.
“Giving back to the community by serving our children and families has always been very rewarding and now I am serving in an educational setting in which I am very happy and find it very rewarding too.Having the opportunity to serve our community has been important to my own personal and professional growth. Our community is filled with so many talented citizens and having the opportunity to create or even discover new talents within Colegio Petite students and families is a blessing.,” said Claudia.
Claudia Alvarez has been at Colegio Petite since it opened its doors to the community in 2016. Mrs. Alvarez had the opportunity to serve our community as the School Leader for the past three years. Since the start of their educational journey, Colegio Petite has grown from having 72 enrolled students to currently having 256. They have provided social emotional skill sets to their students and families. Colegio Petite has provided family support workshops enhancing parent knowledge and understanding of students' social/emotional and academic needs.
Colegio Petite has built strong relationships with their families and community partners. During our year of online learning, we were faced with an educational challenging time for all Colegio Petite; yet, we worked together and we were able to overcome the educational barrier and everyone at Colegio Petite did anything possible to provide help and support to our students, families, and our community.
“When our staff builds strong rapport with our students they become unstoppable in meeting their educational and social/emotional goals. Every student in our county has a history and a story to be told and we are honored that our students and families make Colegio Petite their school of choice.Working in the educational field is such a rewarding experience. We get the opportunity to teach, educate, and build relationships with our students,” Claudia said.
Our educational platform has also given us the chance to develop future educators, medical staff, community first responders, engineers, artists, and the list can go on and on. Our goal is to teach students to believe in themselves and their potential as citizens, and what better time than when they are in primary school to teach students this. We hope to provide continuing education to all of our Santa Cruz County students. We look forward to continuing the development of English acquisition for those students who are learning English as a second language and to strengthen their Spanish language as well as to teach Spanish to those students learning Spanish as a second language. We also hope to build after school programs such as clubs and student activities. We also hope to one day open our doors to our preschoolers and expand our grade levels into middle school students, said Mrs. Alvarez I want to recognize all of our students and parents for trusting Colegio Petite with their education. Collaboration and student commitment to education are significant qualities. I also want to recognize all of our school faculty and staff for their dedication and commitment to our students. They have made a huge difference in the lives of our students by being loyal to both our school vision and mission. Finally, I want to thank The Leona Group for giving Colegio Petite the opportunity to have another Charter School in our Santa Cruz County and for allowing our community to grow with us. Students at Colegio Petite have served as inspiration for the mission of our school. Colegio Petite is motivated by students' aspirations and success. Serving our students is our biggest pride; we do not aim to build a simple rapport with them, but to build a long-lasting relationship with each one of them. Regardless of background, all students are served. Our school and parent organization, The Leona Group, hold this belief in high regard. Our core belief is that all children deserve a quality education, and we work daily to fulfill this belief. Within our school we focus on developing love, language, learning, and environment within our students. Environment extends to our community and we believe our students leave us on the path to success in earning a high school diploma that will help them to be successful citizens. We also recognize that our community extends beyond just our students’ learning and make a point to ensure that the basic needs are met by not just our students, but also their entire families. It’s important to us that our families are in a place where their students can thrive academically.
Border Eco the month of March recognizes a Nogales native who has dedicated much of her career to providing excellent customer service. Rene Rojas was born and raised in Nogales. She attended elementary, middle and high school in Nogales.
After graduating high school, she moved to Tucson where she later earned a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from ITT Tech. She also completed a certification as a paralegal. She worked as a paralegal for 10 years for a criminal, divorce and bankruptcy attorney in Tucson, Arizona. She worked for one of Tucson's top attorneys.
She later moved back to Nogales with her children. Her children are Renee Alejandra, Rodrigo, Ryan, Reanne Garcia, and David Mateo Aguirre. Mrs. Rojas has been working as a tax professional for over 22 years. She prepared tax returns for several companies over the years. Her office is not only a tax preparation firm, but she is also a notary.
“I enjoy helping people. We are attempting to implement more services that are lacking in our community," said Rojas.
Rene Rojas founded her tax preparation and notary firm in 2014. She is the owner and one of the tax preparers of the firm.The firm has two tax preparers. She has been doing taxes since 1998, she worked for H&R Block for 18 yrs. She was sent to New York to teach individuals how to process and file foreign taxes. Mrs. Rojas has a Bachelor in Criminal Justice from ITT tech. She worked for a criminal attorney in Tucson for 10 years. She also has experience working as a bookkeeper for several businesses here around town.R&R offers notary services, tax preparation, and fingerprinting. Staff are highly trained in all the services they offer. "We have an open door policy and welcome all types of business and strive to be involved in the community. If we can't help we will refer them to the appropriate organization," Rojas said. In contrast to other organizations, this one brings community service back to Nogales and we are committed to being a friendly business with great customer service. When I was growing up in Nogales, we used to have these kinds of businesses.
In February, Border Eco selected Christine Courtland as a person who echoes in Santa Cruz County. She was elected President of Pimeria Alta Historical Museum in July 2021. Courtland oversees the daily operations of the museum. She was a librarian/archivist who reported to the Board of Trustees and was invited to join as a board member. She assisted with event and exhibition planning. She currently writes the quarterly newsletter “Pimeria Post,” which is mailed to its members. Many lifetime experiences led her to the position she currently holds at the museum.
Christine was born in Davenport, Iowa. She was raised in Pleasant Valley near Bettendorf until she was nine years old when her family moved to Moline, Illinois until 1967 after graduating from Moline High School. She attended and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Arizona in 1971. She married in 1971 David Courtland in Tucson.
Since her family relocated to Nogales from Sells, AZ in 1979, she has been an active member for PAHS. Our children attended summer camps there and we enjoyed getting involved in local happenings. In 1982 a huge Nogales Centennial celebration was held honoring Pioneer families, in which her husband’s family belonged.
The Rochlin family from Russia settled in Nogales in 1917. The Courtland’s have lived in Santa Cruz County for 43 years. They have 3 children Samuel born 1974 in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico, Lily born 1978 in Tucson, and Nathan born 1983 in Nogales, Arizona.
She was introduced to PastPerfect software in 2006, which she used to catalog scattered books in the library. Volunteering twice a week for six years, she entered over 1200 volumes, repaired some, and reshelved them found in Pimera Alta Museum's collection using PastPerfect software.
Since then, she has been reporting to the Board and has been invited to join.
From 2015 to 2016, she planned and organized a time capsule to replace the 1915 one, which had been placed inside the cornerstone of the building by the Nogales Volunteer Fire Department. She has been collecting items from local businesses, government agencies, schools, railroads, and service clubs in order to display them at the museum.
Cortland made library book records available online in 2018.
Her hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, foreign film, arts and crafts, staying fit and eating healthy food. Passions include non violent action against oppressors, reusing repurposing things, supporting good acts, the great outdoors.
“Pimería Alta Historical Society collects, maintains and provides access to its historical collection to the public. We have research materials and interviews available in English and Spanish. We organize special events, exhibits and guided tours. We have our annual children’s summer camp that is offered free of charge for elementary age kids from both Santa Cruz County and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.
The museum would not have survived all these years without a group of industrious people. Economic and pandemic challenges make it more difficult to carry on traditions, but I have no doubt that Pimeria Alta Historical Society & Museum will stand the test of time,” said Christine Courtland.
We are grateful to the organizations and people who contributed to the museum. Members of our board John Blake, Kathleen Escalada, José Ramón Garc*a, Renée Baffert Guevara, Evan Kory, and Lois Morris are dedicated to providing ongoing advice and expertise.
I would like to acknowledge Board member Sigrid Maitrejean for sharing her distinguished international skills and knowledge. Faith Posey for her meticulous designs and a wide range of creative expertise displayed in many displays; Kiki for handling our financial needs over the years.
Our volunteers, especially Bernie McCullough on Tuesdays, ensure that we are open five days a week and come when needed. Furthermore, we want to thank the City of Nogales, especially the Public Works Department, the Nogales Fire Department, and the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent's Office for their continued support.
We're featuring this month Brenda Olivas Sanchez Program Manager from SEACHEC. SEACHEC has been in Santa Cruz County since 1985. Brenda Olivas Sanchez is a community member who is making “echoes” across Santa Cruz County promoting health equity.
Ms. Sanchez is a first generation Mexican American. Her parents are originally from Mexico, and she has a younger sister. She was born, raised and lives in Tucson, AZ. She is passionate about health equity, language justice and providing a space for other first-generation students to succeed in higher education. She enjoys dancing Folklorico and exploring local coffee shops.
Brenda has been working for SEAHEC for almost three years as the Border Binational Program Manager overseeing various health initiatives in the border region and rural Arizona.
In 2018, she completed her undergraduate public health internship with SEAHEC and was later hired to be part of the team in 2019. Ms. Sanchez received her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Translation and Interpretation and Bachelor of Science in Public Health, as well as a Certified Health Education Specialist-certification. She is currently working on pursuing a master’s in public with the University of Arizona.
“As an intern I learned from the SEAHEC team everything that I now know about working in rural, underserved and border communities. The SEAHEC team has always been there to help guide me in all the programs and projects that I have participated in,” replied Brenda.
SEAHEC serves as the focal point for binational collaboration and initiatives in Arizona and Sonora. COVID-19 is the focus of SEAHEC's health education activities in Santa Cruz County, with their Community Health Workers. Currently, 9 employees work for SEAHEC. They also conduct outreach in Cochise, Gila, Graham, Greenlee and Pinal counties and offer an education program to migrants in their destination communities.
At the present time, SEAHEC is working on plans for coordinated care efforts for the growing migrant population in Nogales, Sonora as well as coordinated care at the national level. The organization’s plan is to grow in the area of advocacy for vulnerable populations through use of social media and other forms.
“Throughout my career and education Jill Guernsey De Zapien has been someone who has inspired me to pursue border health and work on addressing the various health disparities that exist in our border and rural underserved communities. Jill has been an amazing educator and mentor who has shared her knowledge and love for the work that we do. We all need Jill in our lives,”said Brenda Olivas Sanchez, program manager.
This month Border Eco is honored by featuring a woman in our community who echoes in the field of arts. Elizabeth Weatherbie is the Executive Vice President/Treasurer for Patrons of the Arts, Inc. also known as the Hilltop Gallery. She holds a very diverse role in the organization from accounting to coordinating events, and maintaining the organization's social media. “There is so much behind the scenes duties that get tackled on a daily basis, it’s hard to really pinpoint a main role in the organization. Mostly my role is to ensure everything gets done and on time,” said Weatherbie.
Elizabeth was born in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1968. At the age of 6 months, her family moved to Mexico where she spent the first three years of her life. Her family later moved to Nogales, Arizona in 1971 and maintained a residence in Nogales, Sonora, as well. Elizabeth was raised in Ambos Nogales and attended Sacred Heart School with her siblings. Her father was an architect who worked for the City of Nogales for many years in the Planning and Zoning Department. Her father was also a musician and artist. Her mother was a housewife/artist and also a substitute teacher. Her mother taught Catechism at Sacred Heart School in the 70s. Elizabeth attended Nogales High School, but decided to get her GED. She later moved to Silver City, New Mexico in 1997, with her two children, and earned a degree in business from Western New Mexico University in 2001. She began working for Patrons of the Arts, Inc. in 2011, then took a sabbatical for a few years until she was invited back as a board member in 2020.
“It’s good to be back. My passion for the arts is helping the community come together in many ways whether it’s through painting, music or just art appreciation. I would like to continue to help unite our community in these artistic endeavors. Hilltop Gallery is the only nonprofit art venue in our community. We encourage the arts on all levels and with all ages. We have branched out to not just be visual arts, but to include the performing arts, as well. We also offer art classes to all ages,” said the Executive Vice President.
The Hilltop Gallery has revamped their approach to attract young people in Santa Cruz County. We have a variety of shows that have branched out to include children, youth, and adults. Our Women Breaking the Silence show features all female artists of all ages from 9 to 90. This art exhibit is from local women artists who use their talent and creativity to express their thoughts and feelings. The art exhibit was curated by Alma Rodriguez.
We have a variety of art programs at the Hilltop Gallery. Our “Open Talent Nite” brings community members to share their many hidden talents such as music, poetry, singing and other performing arts, as well as the visual arts. The Trip Around the World is where young artists use their imagination to visit every continent, while the staff works to emphasize creativity and encourages them to have fun. The Summer Art Program was in part thanks to the City of Nogales Parks & Rec Dept., the Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools Alfredo I. Velásquez and Pizza Hut for their continued support.
Art is therapeutic. It is an outlet for emotions. It quiets the mind. It helps with anxieties. I especially enjoy sharing my work with others who enjoy art. I have dabbled in the arts most of my life, but it hasn’t really been until the past few years that I realized my true passion for the arts. I used to work mostly with acrylics, but for the past year I have found oils more appealing. I work with a variety of arts media from textiles to paints. I am a painter, seamstress and musician. Lately, I find myself working mostly with oil paints. I’ve grown more patient with my art, and it’s very relaxing “waiting for the paint to dry.”
My artwork helps me express myself in many ways that I can’t verbally do. It is a language of its own. The more I paint; the better I feel. It made me realize my true passion and love is art. My future plans are to be a full-time artist. I want to be able to make a living creating art. I want to continue to be a part of the artistic community and help others learn the value of being an artist, as well.
“I enjoy being able to encourage the arts on every level. I love being able to share art with the community. I thrive on seeing people’s faces light up when they see a work of art they love. I mostly love seeing children excited about and doing art. To me, children’s art is the best art. It is pure and beautiful with so much meaning,” said Weatherbie.
A pioneer of public health-Casslyn David
Border Eco this month honors the service of all health care workers. One public healthcare worker in particular Casslyn David. She is a pioneer of public health. She has been working in the field of public health for over 11 years in a variety of roles.
Women in health care continue to make an impact in our healthcare system and on the delivery of services in our community. Individuals like Cassalyn who work in public health do not diagnose or treat patients. Instead, their focus is to research and track health trends including biological, environmental factors, and behavioral. She uses research to help predict and prevent future health events or problems that could impact the health of the general population. Her work is focused on educating the public on ways to protect, and prevent against health risks.
Cassalyn David has been working for Mariposa Community Health Center for 9 years as one of the managers in the Community Health Services Department, and Platicamos Salud. The grants and programs she works under fall into community-based partnerships, food systems, and youth. She is the program director for the Santa Cruz County Adolescent Wellness Network.
The Santa Cruz County Adolescent Wellness Network is one of the longest-running projects. It combines primary care, behavioral health, nonprofits, schools, and youth so it can improve the overall well-being of adolescents.
“Our teens told us we needed to focus on mental health and overall wellness, so we do that by offering training,improving coordination, and making referrals. Right now I’m helping coordinate the creation of a school based Telehealth. Dr. Williams wanted to bring telehealth to our schools and community because of the benefits it will have on our student wellness and academic success. We were fortunate that our schools have been partnering with the Adolescent Wellness Network for many years, so we already have a foundation and relationships to build from.”
“I was drawn to public health because it seemed like it had the best tools to understand and solve problems. I wanted to work on things like health disparities and with public health you think outside the clinic walls and have an opportunity to create a healthier environment. Mariposa does that in so many different ways, by offering education, the Nogales “Little” Mercado Farmer’s Market, and by partnering with schools and nonprofits. About half of my family members are educators, so they showed me the strengths and the challenges schools face,” said David.
She grew up in the Phoenix area and went to college in Tucson. She was interested in international relations and got to spend a semester in central Europe. This experience sparked her interest in public health. David received her Masters in Public Health from the University of Washington. She considers herself fortunate as it gave her the opportunity to live in a lot of beautiful places. She worked as an AmeriCorps Volunteer near the Olympic Mountains and backcountry ranger in Alaska.
Casslyn lives in Patagonia with her son and husband, Nate Porter, a teacher, coach, and Athletic Director at Patagonia High School. He was the 2020 SCC Teacher of the Year Runner Up.One of their favorite recreational activities is hiking.
"I love the variety of roles I have in my job. I am able to work on many, many different subject areas...Many different organizations and people are our partners, and it seems as though there is always something new every day...This specific role has allowed me to continue learning and I really feel as though I am able to provide a service to people and make a difference in our community. It is a very rewarding position,” said Cassalyn David, program director for the Santa Cruz County Adolescent Wellness Network.
For the month of August, Border Eco recognizes a woman in our community who is making a difference in the healthcare field. We are honored to have selected Linda Manjarrez. She has over 25 years of extensive experience working in the field of gerontology. Manjarrez is the regional program director for Luminaria Home Care Services. She has been working with Lutheran Social Services since 2011.
“Through this job I have been able to grow in a professional and personal manner. Ever since I had started out as care coordinator, I have found myself to be more confident and better able to connect with those around me. I take pride in improving myself and being able to lead my staff in a way that can help them and the people we serve. We are an inclusive organization dedicated to service regardless of background, creed, or ethnicity. It always brought me great joy in the ways we can improve the lives of others,” said Manjarrez.
Linda is an active community member who understands some of the challenges families with limited resources face when caring for their loved ones. The high cost of healthcare has made it difficult for local families to have access to the services their loved ones need to lead normal healthy lives. She has made it her lifetime career helping seniors and people with disabilities find the resources they need, so they are able to lead fulfilling lives.
“I know personally some of the challenges many caregivers face when caring for their loved ones. I am always looking for new venues to help the elderly and children with special needs in our community. I have been working with Lutheran Social Services/Luminaria Home Care for several years now. I am very passionate about the work we do in Southern Arizona. I am honored to work for an organization who is dedicated to serving those in need. Our caregivers have gone above and beyond to make sure they are there for their clients,” she said.
“This past year, during the pandemic we learned just how valuable caregivers are in our community. Our caregivers are superheroes! They worked tirelessly and never complained. I admire their bravery. They worked throughout the entire pandemic. Caregivers truly make a difference in many people’s lives. They are individuals that dedicate their time and energy to helping their clients or loved ones, during challenging times in their lives. They are selfless individuals who spend their days ensuring their clients or loved ones are comfortable, safe, and happy,” said Linda Manjarrez.
"I love working for Lutheran Social Services because there is such an incredible sense of morale. Our caregivers care so much about their jobs and what we do is very important. I take a tremendous sense of pride in feeling that what I am doing is helping to preserve and protect not just the health of our clients but also our caregivers. They really are such a tremendous resource and an unbelievable opportunity to work to preserve such a caring staff."
This month we recognize a woman in our county, who has made a difference in the field of education Cynthia Matus Morriss.
She started serving as a governing board member for the Patagonia Elementary School District #6 from 1988 through 2020. She was appointed to serve on the governing board of the Patagonia Union High School in 2020 to date.
Besides being inspired by her mother, Cythina’s husband Ron has always encouraged her to do what makes her happy, which is being of service to family, friends, and the community, no matter the time it takes.
She volunteered at the Patagonia schools by reading to elementary students, and attended school field trips. Cynthia has for 25 years helped bring arts education programs to schools in Santa Cruz County through Santa Cruz County Young Audiences.
Through the support of her colleagues in Santa Cruz County, she served on the Arizona School Boards Association’s Board of Directors (ASBA) for seven years. In 1995, she was awarded the “All Arizona School Board Member Award.”
Matus was elected and served in all the executive offices of the ASBA. She served as the first Latina President of ASBA in 2003. She was then elected to serve as President of the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Pacific Region in 2005.
In 2008-2010, Cynthia was elected as Chair of NSBA’s National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members and a year later elected to serve on the NSBA Board of Directors, from 2011 to 2014.
Cynthia Matus Morris was honored with the ASBA Barbara B. Robey Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding contributions and dedication in support of public education and ASBA’s mission through servant leadership in 2014. She was later named in 2019, AZ19 Most Influential People. As an elected Latina official was invited to serve on the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Board of Directors, NALEO.
“It is important for me to act as an advocate for the schools and the students. Listen to ideas and opinions from the students, staff, and citizens and strive to incorporate their views into the deliberations and decisions. The connections and relationships with the school community, students, and parents all play a key role when it comes to setting policy (that is not mandated by statute), hiring the best Superintendent for the district, and setting the budget,” said Matus Morriss.
As a board member, I am mindful of the decisions being made at the board table and the impact it has on staff, students, and families. Many tasks and decisions are delegated to the superintendent but ultimately the board is responsible for all district matters. We witnessed the impact COVID-19 had in our schools. It changed our traditional methods of teaching. As a result, school governance needs to change to meet safety requirements while helping our students achieve their potential.
The school board is currently working on community outreach. This is one of our major focuses, especially now, after the pandemic. We want to welcome people back to getting involved with the school and their children. After a year of having to close the campus down, we want to focus on reaching out to welcome the community back on campus as long as it is safe. Many of our other plans needed to be re-prioritized due to the pandemic.
In order to see progress in our community we need certain things to change in our area. We need more affordable housing. We have great teachers, but too many of them have to travel to work in Patagonia. Affordable housing would benefit our community. At a state level, we need a government that is willing to support public education for rural areas. Promoting school choice sure is a great campaign slogan, but in reality, it is hurting public schools.
Patagonia Public Schools are working towards increasing student achievement. Our goal is to have students embrace a growth mindset and understanding that with proper hard work they can achieve anything. We are in the process of increasing our CTE and Dual Enrollment programs at the school. We continue to prepare students for life after school no matter what path they choose. We also want students to know that attending a college is always an option and we are working towards increasing the rate at which students fill out FAFSA to 100%. We reached 83% this school year and won the most improved FAFSA completion rate for the Arizona FAFSA challenge.
Cynthia’s parents were born in Santa Cruz County. Her father, Guillermo, was born in Harshaw, and mother Carmen in Duquesne. Both her parents attended Patagonia Schools. Her sister, Emma, and her were both born in Nogales, AZ. She has lived in the Patagonia area for 68 years. Matus attended school in Harshaw, Patagonia Elementary School and Patagonia Union High School. She is married to Ronald R. Morriss. They have two daughters, Samantha and Rhonda, and her late sons, Charles and John Wm. They have four grandchildren, Emily, Johnny, Alexis, and Thomas with a great-grandchild due in late July!
Ron and Cynthia are former owners of Patagonia Cable TV, Big Foot Feed & Supply, and the Alamo Country Store. She has been a full-time volunteer for most of her life serving with the Patagonia Friends of the Library, 4-H, Patagonia Youth Enrichment Center, and other non-profit organizations. She is a member of the Patagonia United Methodist Church.
“Patagonia is special to me because of our many family ties and family friendships. The beauty of the mountains, high desert and closeness to the Mexican border continues to be pleasing to my soul,” said Cynthia Matus Morriss.
This month we recognize a woman in our county, who has made a difference in the field of education Maya Donnelly. She is driven by the field of education. Maya has been married 28 years to her high school sweetheart- Bill Donnelly. Together, they have three daughters who are hard-working and gracious. “We absolutely love calling Nogales our home. It is where our parents are and many family members and long-time friends. It really is a great little place to be,” said Donnelly.
Maya Donnelly grew up in Nogales and graduated from Nogales High School. She earned a degree in elementary bilingual education from the University of Arizona and began teaching at AJ Mitchell Elementary in 1993. She taught at NUSD for 19 years at Lincoln Elementary and Wade Carpenter Middle School in addition to AJM before making a move to the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office. She has been working for Mr. Velasquez for five years as the C-CREO Grant Programs Director and Gear Up director.
“I have such great respect for educators and the tireless work they do every day. I never learned more than I did working alongside some of the most inspirational teachers in the field. Then, there’s the students; when I run into a previous student it is an amazing experience. I am so proud to have touched a student’s life in a positive way. I am happiest when I am in a school with kids,”said Donnelly.
The Santa Cruz County Superintendent’s Office was awarded the Gear up Grant in October of 2018. They were the only partnership grant in southern Arizona and the county was awarded $4.2 million to raise awareness for post-secondary education. They are following the cohort of the Class of 2024 from NHS, RRHS, PUHS, Pierson, and Lourdes Catholic High School. When the pandemic sent 8th graders home last year, Gear up went virtual to reach students and families. They launched the website, www.c-creo.org, established their social media presence, and developed a peer-mentoring program that paired students with upperclassmen when they began high school online.
“The pandemic definitely affected the Gear Up Program and our other grants programs as well. We had to take our services online and try our best to reach our families and students and engage them in our services. We rely on our website and social media outlets to get our message out to the community,” stated Donnelly.
Currently, we are working on the C-CREO Summer Camps, supporting our cohort in summer school for credit recovery. We are applying for arts funding to support our Santa Cruz county Arts for Learning initiative in partnership with Young Audiences, launching the Promoting Healthy Students Program, and applying for a new Gear Up Grant to provide services to a new cohort of students. We want to help our county students earn a certification or degree after high school that will lead to a higher paying job in a career they have a passion for.
Working for the county is important to me because Mr. Velasquez seeks out grant programs that will enhance our educational communities and I get to be a part of the process from contributing to the grant writing, to implementing these programs in our county schools. Anything that contributes to building a better future for our students and community is important to me.
“I would like to thank Mr. Velasquez and Chris Young for supporting our C-CREO Grants Team and Santa Cruz County schools for their partnerships. Without their guidance and leadership, our grants team would not be able to provide services in our educational communities. We have formed collaborative relationships with our district schools and their support of our programs keeps our innovative team working hard to secure grant funding,said Maya Donnelly, Grants Program Director.”
This month we recognize a woman from our county, who makes a difference in our community. This month Border Eco is honored to feature Shannon Enciso. She is an individual who echoes across Santa Cruz County. Her dedication to our schools and community through her work in communications has made a difference in our community. She began as a communications specialist in July of 2019. Shannon’s main responsibility is to provide communications to the community. In doing that, she helps to connect families, organizations, and community groups to information, services and opportunities. She manages the website, social media, live streaming, and printed communications. Shannon also serves as the contact point for the community, outside organizations and news media.She has worked on several projects and committees over the past couple of years. She is part of the SCV35 Hall of Fame Committee, which honors athletes, staff and community members who have made lasting and memorable contributions to our schools. Shannon also worked with a great group of ladies from the City and County during the census on the SCC Complete Count Committee. There are others, but the most important and the most taxing responsibility she has had over the past couple of years has definitely been relaying information regarding COVID-19 to the community. Before working for the school district, she managed a small company which consumed a lot of her time, and although she enjoyed the work, she wanted to do something that would have a positive impact on her family and community. “I am learning how to use digital platforms to help connect us in an age and time when technology tends to try and divide us. I have learned how humbling a typo can be and how hard it is to “undo” or correct a miscommunication. I love telling people’s stories and connecting our community. There are so many local people making a difference in the lives of others every single day and I get to capture and share it with others! It’s absolutely the best part of my job,” said Enciso.Shannon Enciso was born and raised in Frankfort Kentucky. She graduated high school in Frankfort, and attended Eastern Kentucky University briefly. In 1997, she moved to Nogales shortly after moving her mom here. She worked for a couple manufacturing companies, Alpha ProTech & Xerox, up until 2005 when she gave birth to her triplet daughters. She took maternity leave when her girls were born, and when she returned to work, Xerox had moved operations further south into Mexico leaving her without a job. She then took a job working for Paul Bond at the Paul Bond Boot Company as the general manager. She learned how to measure customers, make a boot last, and sales as part of the position. She was very fortunate to spend several years working with Mr. Bond up until his death in 2011. She cherishes the conversations and life lessons she learned from him while working there.In 2012, she began working for the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District No.35 (SCV35). Shannon worked as an office clerk, technology integration aide, school secretary, and at her current position as communications specialist. As part of the SCV35 communications position, she also serves Santa Cruz County as a communications specialist. She has worked on special projects and provided communications support to the County.She married her current husband Mark in 2011. He recently retired after serving as state trooper for over 20 years. He is a wonderful bonus dad to her adult son and teenage triplet daughters, grandad to their brand-new grandson, and a dad to their fur babies. They are long standing members of The First Baptist Church of Nogales, which they both love and serve. Shannon recently became a member of the Rio Rico Rotary Club, a wonderful group of people serving our local community.She plans to continue growing in this position and to continue connecting people through our schools, services, civic organizations, churches, and community events. She has spent a lot of time online over the years pursuing a degree and just a few hours short. Hopefully, she will have the opportunity to finish her education once her last children have graduated.
This month we recognize women across our county, who make a difference in our community. This month we have a woman who works for the Santa Cruz County Superintendent's Office. A woman who works directly in public service. It is our honor to feature Patricia Barraza in our issue this month.
She is a woman who “echoes” in the field of education. She will be celebrating 10 years with the SCC School Superintendent’s Office. Border Eco is proud to feature this month Patricia Barraza. She was born and raised in Nogales Arizona. She graduated from Nogales High School and attended the University of Arizona for one year.
Patricia worked in the produce industry for two years, got licensed in real estate for the State of Arizona and married her late husband Manuel (Guerro) Barraza that same year. Together they brought up three children Giovana, Andres and Paloma. She moved to Hermosillo, San Diego and then moved back home to Nogales in 2011 after becoming an empty nester.
After moving to Nogales in 2011, she met her present husband, Luis Preciado, a man who shares the same enthusiasm as she does for serving his community and an artist. He is well known for his remarkable talent.Patricia Barraza is known as “Nana Pooh” to her four beautiful granddaughters and “hopefully more” in the future. She is the proud daughter of the late Ignacio (Nachito) Acuna and Anna Acuna. Her mom was very much involved with the community and dedicated to helping the less fortunate. She learned from her mother the importance of volunteering, getting involved in politics, and serving the community you live in. Her mother retired as one of the most beloved children librarians and still misses her story hours.
Barraza is a fiscal agent for the school districts. She is responsible for two districts and performs those fiscal duties. She processes payrolls, expenses, reconciliations, journal entries, deposits of warrant vouchers and keeps the homeschooled student records for the superintendents’ office. She also has the tasks of organizing several events during the year.
Patricia organizes the Annual Santa Cruz County Teacher of the Year Awards and Dinner event. It takes seven months to plan it from day one to the day of the event. She first starts with the Kick-off Breakfast, which is mostly a notice to sponsors, donors and school administrators they are starting with the process of honoring our educators. Barraza is also responsible for seeking out sponsors and donors for the event.
“These wonderful folks make it possible to be able to provide prizes, trophies, cash rewards and a wonderful reception for our nominees. I am also in charge of hosting the day in, which we select our Teacher of the Year. It’s a tedious challenging event and definitely one of the largest ones in the County but it’s so rewarding to see how happy our incredible educators are at the end of the night,” said Barraza.
Barraza also organizes the Read across America Annual event, which entails inviting over 70 to 90 volunteers to visit every public, private and charter elementary classroom in the county and read a story to them. “The importance of student and adult interaction during these reading sessions is incredible to see. This year was a little tricky to coordinate because of Covid, we had to conduct the readings to the classrooms virtually. It was so nice to see that even though we were faced with a pandemic and challenges, we still had over 75 volunteers for our event and the students were so pleased to have the guests in their virtual classrooms.”
Another event Patricia organizes is the Santa Cruz County Fair Student Art presentation. “Every year, we meet with the folks in charge of organizing the Santa Cruz County Fair and I am given one of the largest halls to be able to feature the artwork from our county students. All schools in the county are given the fair’s theme and they in turn produce the most fascinating works of art. It takes four days to clean up, set up, judge, and reward the students.
“For this event, we invite between 25 and 35 judges from different areas of our county and ask them to come and spend the morning out in Sonoita and judge the student’s artwork. On the last weekday of the fair, the SCC School Superintendent Alfredo I. Velasquez provides transportation to the fair to students. The students spend the morning with the animals and visit the different halls and exhibitions. It is a pleasure to witness the joy they experience when they see the ribbons on their artwork and get to spend a day at the fair. It is so rewarding our hard work has truly paid off.”
The last major event that she organizes is the Annual Student Council Field trip. The student council members from every elementary public, private and charter school are invited to meet elected officials. Students interview each of the elected officials, they ask them about their duties, how elections function, and what inspired them to run for office. They are then provided a tour of the county offices and get to see how each office operates. Student council members get to enjoy luncheon with county elected officials.
“My position as an accounting specialist has two roles. The first is the everyday fiscal operations of our office with the different school districts in Santa Cruz County. Though it is challenging, it is the second part of my position that I enjoy the most. I am fortunate enough to be able to step out of the fiscal capacity of the position and interact with the community, schools, and students. In a way, each of us in the office at some point during the year, get to network with the community,” said Patricia.
This month we recognize women across our county, who make a difference in our community. This month we have two women working in public service who directly work the front-lines. It is our honor to have them featured in our issue this month.
Making a difference in public service
This month Border Eco is pleased to introduce two women who have made a difference in our community. Their work at the community foodbank has made a difference for many families. The pandemic affected many families, which increased the number of people needing assistance. Monica Gonzalez and Griselda Navarro both work in the Nogales Resource Center with clients and volunteers.
Monica Gonzalez is the Client & Volunteer Services Co-Manager of Nogales Resource Center
She is originally from a small town in Orosi, California known primarily for agriculture. She moved to Nogales, Arizona in 1996. Monica has a 24 year-old daughter, 11 year-old son, and 4 year-old grandson.
Ms. Gonzalez began working as a client services assistant in 2015. In 2019, she was transferred as client services/volunteer coordinator. Recently, she was promoted to client services/volunteer services manager, co-manager of Nogales Resource Center. Her accomplishments are developing connections with agencies to provide services to Santa Cruz County residents, assisting in developing online registration through “get connected” to volunteer, while helping in developing the community garden.
“We are able to provide healthy foods to families the same day they apply, all services are free. We also provide services in case of an emergency situation. We also offer SNAP assistance. I think it is important to help our neighbors in need and to give back to the community you live in is very fulfilling,” said Gonzalez.
Since COVID-19 the community food bank has become a low-touch distribution center relying on help from the National Guard Service and just a few volunteers. Clients are not allowed to come into the building and they can renew their applications by phone. SNAP applications are by appointment only or via phone. Staff and volunteers are required to have daily temperature check-ins.
“Our future plans are to bring in more programs and resources to our clients at a one-stop shop at our Nogales Resource Center. The goal is to help build and maintain a community garden going by empowering our garden leaders. We also hope to grow our volunteer base as soon as it is safe. We are extremely grateful for the support we received from the National Guard Service, local produce warehouses who donate produce, donors who donate monetary donations, and our co-workers who help in the warehouse and office to keep our operation going during the pandemic,” said Gonzalez.
Griselda Navarro is the Nogales Resource Center Co-Manager. She started as a volunteer at the community food bank 4 years ago. Griselda started as a volunteer working for the Kids Farmer's Market where they took vegetables to the schools. She was later hired as a full-time employee working in the warehouse responsible for sending and receiving products. She was later promoted to work as a logistics manager and is now a co-Manager of Nogales Community Food Bank. Griselda is originally from Nogales, Sonora Mexico. She is married and mother of 4 children, as well as the proud grandmother of a little girl.
“I am really happy working as a co-manager and having the opportunity to work in this position. I enjoy helping people and working with the food bank. Senior citizens have been impacted the most, since the pandemic began as the Nogales Rides stopped transporting them. Seniors have been left without a ride to pick up their food, as most of the seniors relied on Nogales Rides to pick up their food here at the Community Food Bank Nogales Resource Center. Some senior citizens are still scared of the virus since they are the most vulnerable population but as an organization we have worked very hard to follow all COVID-19 standards as CDC has recommended,” said Navarro.
This month we recognize women across our county, who make a difference in our community. Jennifer St.John is the first female County Manager in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz County was formed in 1899. For several decades, it has provided an array of services and functions across the county. Santa Cruz County employs approximately 400 individuals.
Jennifer St. John started working with the county in August 2000 as a Finance Director. In 2002, she was promoted to the Administrative Services Director. She was responsible for overseeing several departments that include: the finance department, information technology, the geographic information system, emergency management, building grounds & maintenance, and parks. In September 2015, she was promoted to Deputy County Manager and then on February 29, 2016, promoted to County Manager. Jennifer obtained her accounting degree at ASU in May 1994. She worked for the Auditor General’s Office, State of Arizona before moving to Santa Cruz County. St. John was born in Douglas, Georgia but was raised in Memphis, Arkansas, Tennessee and Germantown, Maryland. She has lived in Santa Cruz County since August of 2000.
“Our community has molded me into the person I am today. I am so proud of our community and our county. COVID-19 has been a struggle throughout the world but our community has come together to help each other during this pandemic. The partnerships it has taken to put on the testing blitz and now the vaccination clinics have been tremendous but everyone has jumped in and helped, going above and beyond to save lives,”said Jennifer.
Jeniffer’s accomplishments include the construction of the $56 million dollar Adult and Juvenile Detention Center as well as the new court building while serving her role as Administrative Services Director. Her recent accomplishments while serving in her current role as county manager are the county entering into joint agreements with the Town of Patagonia, NUSD, and District #35 to share resources.
She recently helped to coordinate an intergovernmental agreement with Cochise County to house their juveniles detainees, while saving each county approximately $650,000 annually. Ms. St. John has successfully run testing sites in Nogales, Rio Rico, and Patagonia to test residents for COVID-19.
“Santa Cruz County has recently partnered with Mariposa Community Health Center as well as the City of Nogales, District #35 and NUSD to provide vaccination “clinics” in Nogales for our residents. We plan to offer the clinics in other areas of the county once we have a larger allotment of vaccines.”
“There are so many people and organizations to thank. I’d like to start first with the community and residents. I came here when I was 28 and didn’t know many people but the community and my County co-workers welcomed me. Throughout my career, I have made friends and established relationships. The County Elected Officials and Department Heads continue to support me and because of that, I think we have been able to provide more services for our residents given our limited resources. All of my County co-workers, they are dedicated to public service and do an amazing job for the community. My counterparts at the City of Nogales, Town of Patagonia, the School Districts throughout the County, my fellow County Managers throughout the State of Arizona all have been part of my success. I also want to thank the County Board of Supervisors for giving me the opportunity and privilege to serve as the County Manager for Santa Cruz County. I work every day for what I feel is in the best interest of the community and I strive to make a positive difference to the County and residents every day,” replied Jeniffer St. John.
This month we recognize those women across our county, who make a difference in our community. Judith Mendoza Student Service Director for Nogales Unified School District. Judith is a woman who is making a difference in our schools and students. Ms. Mendoza taught Special Education for 9 years at Nogales High School 2000-2009, she was assistant principal at NHS for a year and a half 2009-2011. She served as a principal at NHS for four years and a half (2011-2015) before she transitioned into her current position. She is going into her sixth year as Student Service Director.
During her tenure as Student Service Director, she has been able to update technology for all students receiving Special Education. Mendoza has been able to purchase two vans and one SUV to provide transportation services for students with severe disabilities, working to transition into adulthood. She helped to establish partnerships with the Santa Cruz Training Program and other organizations within the community. We have been able to provide a uniform to each of our student-athletes participating in Special Olympics, representing NUSD.
Ms. Mendoza said, “I have been able to allocate funds for classroom supplies, software and professional development for all staff working with our students. In the area of registration, we have been able to successfully provide all services online. Parents can now register online, process change of address, and fill out a new open enrollment form from the convenience of their homes.”
“COVID-19 has definitely changed all of our lives and the way schools operate. I believe that COVID-19 has also taught us a lot of valuable lessons. School districts were forced to be more creative and find ways to be able to provide services. Our community has been very supportive of our efforts throughout the pandemic, one thing that I would ask the community is to wear a mask and help stop the spread of the virus.”
Voters approved Proposition 208 last November, 2020 during the General Election. This proposition will definitely benefit our schools as the money must be used to hire and increase the base compensation for teachers, support personnel, support services and for mentoring and retention programs. Allowing for additional compensation will attract qualified employees and it will help retain the ones we have. The proposition is currently being challenged by two separate lawsuits challenging the validity of the surtax, which claims that the surtax is a new tax requiring supermajority approval by the state legislature. We will not know how much revenue Proposition 208 will bring or the fiscal impact it will have until the courts sort out the challenges.
“My goal is to attract and retain the most qualified special education teachers and staff as well as be able to provide the most current professional development. It is my goal to be able to provide the best special education services and resources to our students. I’m a firm believer that we can all be the change in our students' lives. Teachers and paraprofessionals have the power to make a difference in our students' lives. If they come to work and treat each student with compassion, love and care—they will be that positive influence in their lives. On the other hand, if students come to school ready to learn and put all their efforts into their studies, they will help create the optimal learning environment,”said Mendoza.
“I’m a proud product of NUSD, I graduated from NHS and it was NHS the one who offered me my first teaching job. I made my career with NUSD and the district has been very generous, by allowing me to further my education by taking advantage of all the professional development NUSD has to offer. I am grateful to NUSD for the opportunity to learn and grow—to all the students, teachers and administrators who have shaped me throughout the years. Special thanks to Dr. Varona for giving me my first teaching job, Mr. Valenzuela for allowing me to be his intern and finally Mr. Parra for trusting me as his assistant principal and all the opportunities he has given me throughout the years.”
My parents and my siblings have been my greatest inspiration. My parents have helped me identify my strengths and have helped me live my life through their teachings. My siblings have always encouraged me and supported me every step of the way. They keep me grounded and always can provide a word of advice or encouragement.
Border Eco recognizes women across Santa Cruz County who make a difference in our community. We are honored to feature Dina Rojas-Sanchez from the Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital as one of those women who has made a difference in our community. She was born in Nogales, Sonora and raised in Nogales, Arizona.
Holy Cross Hospital provides general medical/surgical services, 24-hour emergency care, rehabilitation, diabetes care and community education services, birthing services, mammography and ultrasound. Holy Cross also offers advanced technology such as teleradiology and lithotripsy programs. Holy Cross Hospital also focuses on offering community education and outreach on key health issues including prenatal care, obesity, diabetes, well-child visits and preventive care. Holy Cross is involved in many special events yearly such as toy drives, food drives, educational classes, health fairs and career fairs to further assist families in our community.
“There has been tremendous teamwork and compassion from hospital staff, physicians and board members, who are offering all of their support during this pandemic. We are all in this together to protect the health of our community. As a rural safety net provider, Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital collaborates with community partners like Mariposa Community Health Center and works with emergency medical services to provide care for residents of the Santa Cruz County area,” stated Dina Rojas-Sanchez.
Dina Rojas-Sanchez is the Administrative Director of Support Services for Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales. She joined Holy Cross in April 1994. She has served in many capacities for the past 26 years leading the various departments of strategic planning, community relations, media relations and marketing. She has served as the lead of all ancillary departments overseeing the operations of facilities, environmental services, dietary services, business office, security and biomedical. Dina holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree in Multicultural Education from Northern Arizona University.
“I provide the staff with a link in the community that in turns provides them resources that further enhance their day-to-day job responsibilities or furthermore provides them assistance on a personal level as needed. It is gratifying to know that you come to work every day knowing that you need to positively impact people in your community in some way every single day. I have a passion to make a difference and am committed daily to help others enhance their lifestyle and overall health wellbeing,” said Administrative Director of Support Services- Dina Rojas-Sanchez.
Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital was recognized for its quality of patient and nurse communication and patient safety in the surveys conducted by the Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, divisions of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital received Critical Access Hospital recognition certification in 2017 from the National Rural Health Resource Center, recognizing its work with the Community Healthcare Integrated Paramedicine Program. It is also certified as a Critical Access facility by The Joint Commission.
“I have been inspired for many years by my parents. They are compassionate individuals who have given me the resources to continue my educational path through the years and they have instilled the importance of giving unselfishly. They provide mental support during difficult or stressful times all while realizing that we must always help those around us. They motivate me daily to always reach for a higher goal and remind me to never give up. They have pushed me and have instilled family values that I live by daily. Work hard, provide assistance to others, teach your children manners, make a difference in people’s lives regardless how big or small it may be and always have faith,” said Mrs. Rojas-Sanchez .
Border Eco recognizes women across Santa Cruz County who make a difference in our community. We are honored to feature Patty Molina as one of those women who has made a difference in our community. Patty Molina is the Senior Director of Community Health Services at Mariposa Community Health Center in Nogales, Arizona known to the community as Platicamos Salud (We Talk Health).
Platicamos Salud was founded in 1991 and has a well-established Promotora-based (Community Health Worker) delivery model with 34 employees who implement a spectrum of health promotion and disease prevention programs based on model programs and best practices adapted to the Spanish-speaking, Mexican American and Mexican immigrant community that is serves under the supervision of management staff with training in nutrition, social work, medicine and public health.
Platicamos Salud is an important extension of Mariposa’s clinical services, connecting referred patients to additional education, support and follow-up that is culturally competent and language appropriate. Offering a variety of ongoing health education classes for all community members in locations easily accessible. Platicamos Salud also provides a critical link to the community via its community-based services that partner with other health and social services to serve families and create systems change.
Molina began her employment at Mariposa in 2004 assisting the Director of Platicamos Salud at that time, Jo Jean Elenes. It was within 8 months of her employment, she was promoted to Prevention Manager. During her employment with Mariposa, and prior public health experience working with the Border Health Foundation, she developed and managed federal, state and foundation funded community-based programs at the US-Mexico border.
Patty manages 34 staff members at the Mariposa Community Health Services. At the two story Sierra building, they have the Health & Social Services staff under the management leadership of Yara Castro. Castro primarily manages the women's programs such as the Well Woman Health Check, Maternal & Child Health and Patient Advocacy.
At the Community Health Services and Independent Medical Specialists Downtown facility is a co-shared space with Nogales Community Development. It is Community Linkages, under the management leadership of Cassalyn David. David manages the weekly Farmer’s market, Personal Responsibility Education program (Teen Pregnancy Prevention and HIV/STD Education) and the Adolescent Wellness Network program. Health Promotion is under the management of Rosie Piper with the primary focus being health promotion. Prevention is under the management of Lizzie Garcia which focuses on chronic disease prevention programs, tobacco cessation, and youth services.
She has implemented numerous health education programs on breast cancer, diabetes, physical activity and nutrition, HIV/AIDS, tobacco use prevention, asthma, environmental health and maternal child health. Molina designed education and training materials on public and preventative health issues, while establishing numerous community-based projects.
Mrs. Molina facilitated the development of project organizational structure and leadership. She facilitated group processes among community members to help identify needs, gaps in service, existing resources and response strategies. She also served as the lead in various research projects at Mariposa Community Health Center.
Mariposa Community Health Center has a unique Community Health Services Department that provides health promotion and disease prevention services, as well as most public health services provided by a county health department. This department is rooted in the Community Health Worker model. “We recently acquired the Carondelet Medical Group behind Holy Cross Hospital and are now providing the same services out of this facility renamed Mariposa Nogales West,” said Molina.
An initiative she is currently working is helping to manage the pandemic, while continuing to provide the best care. “Our goal is to keep our patients safe, this continues to be our main priority. We are working closely with our local health department to ensure vaccination to all who wish to receive it while continuing to educate on the importance of keeping themselves safe regardless of having received the vaccine. We continue to encourage people to wear a mask, wash their hands and practice social distance.
“First and foremost, I would like to personally thank my staff in Community Health Services. I would not be the leader I am if it wasn’t for their support and strive to do their best. I couldn’t ask for a better group of individuals especially during trying times such as those we are going through now with the pandemic. I truly admire them for remaining strong and providing. As non-clinical staff at Mariposa, many of my staff were trained to perform necessary duties for the safety of themselves and patients we serve. Our staff is committed to this without hesitation. I am proud and honored to work with each and everyone of them,” stated Molina.
Patty Molina was born and raised in Nogales Arizona. She currently resides in Rio Rico with her husband of almost 25 years and has three daughters, Cristina, Rebecca and Camilla. She has lived in Santa Cruz County for over 50 years. Molina is a graduate of the University of Phoenix where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. She completed a certificate program at the University of Arizona, the Rocky Mountain Maternal and Child Health, including a Nutrition and Public Health Certificate Program from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health.
This month Border Eco features Liza Montiel. It was a year ago, we featured her as she announced her plans to run for office. Mrs. Montiel is another woman who has been making a difference in our community. She was voted into office by the people of Nogales to serve as a council member in August. Montiel was sworn into office by the Honorable Judge Vanessa Cartwright on January 4th.
Liza Montiel was born and raised in Nogales by two hard-working, humble and amazing parents who raised 5 children on minimum wage. Her father died on September 11, 2020. Her father was elated after her victorious campaign last year in August. It was her father who taught her from an early age to never give up, work hard and serving others is a value and obligation. “Nogales has always been my home to me and my family,”said Montiel.
Nogales has shaped the life of so many people that have gone on to do amazing things in life. This community gave us an education, friends and memories that will last a lifetime. I feel an undiminished pride in working together in efficient ways by engaging people especially our youth to help our economy move forward to benefit all people especially the struggling families. The main reason I decided to run for council was because I strongly feel it is my responsibility to help make constructive changes to improve our quality of life in Nogales. I truly believe if every person goes out of their way to put other individuals' needs ahead of their own. Nogales will and can economically grow in a sustainable way for all to benefit and generations to come. An example of collaboration is the sales tax boost S.C.C. received from the construction of the State Route 189 (Mariposa Rd.).
There are so many people with good will in their heart, with energy and perseverance and by bringing people together and matching the talents and knowledge of the right person to the right causes, will benefit our community. I don’t pretend to have all the answers to get our economy moving but I don't know that working and allowing those who do know to work collaboratively and providing the necessary resources to do their job. I care about the future of Nogales and want our community to be a place that drives economic growth creating high wage jobs and facilitating on improved quality of life for all.
Now with the impact of COVID-19, real challenges are among the leaders,which are at the frontline responsible to create more inclusive economically strong communities. As leaders, people are depending on our courage, adaptability and creativity to deliver real and sustainable results. We have a serious responsibility to our community to get this “economic” engine” going and help bring the pieces together.
One of the main concerns voiced by our residents as I walked the neighborhoods while campaigning was to make economic development a serious priority. Residents are focused on lifting people up and achieving real results. They are tired of the empty rhetoric. Residents want and expect their streets and roads to be paved, libraries and parks improved and grow this economy to sustain a strong future for their children and grandchildren.
I’m committed to these issues and those that matter to the residents. Now is the perfect moment, to be productive at the local level and take the necessary “risks” to unleash the creative potential of our residents and leaders. We have to overcome present and past challenges, grab opportunities, be inclusive in building a stronger economy. It’s no secret that a strong economy plays a massive part in any city’s well-being.
While Election Day has come and gone, I am grateful for making their vote count. Including so many other organizations working together to register and encourage citizens to vote. It was a real group effort on everyone's part. One of my personal goals was to involve the young votes and people who were not interested in politics(for an array of reasons) to find it important to vote for their future leaders. It's important for our youth to realize that they have the power in their vote, and voting is a fundamental right that enables them to elect the leaders of tomorrow. More than ever, voting this year with the impact that the Coronavirus had on hundreds of families, voting was crucial and necessary to hold elected officials accountable for results.So, it’s been inspiring to see first hand how encouraging people to vote was very important. I will continue to work hard for the quiet majority.
One of my favorite quotes from one of the young voters in my committee was,” City Hall belongs to the people.” In fact, City Hall should reflect the vibrancy of our residents. Hopefully by involving many young people in my campaign and meeting hundreds of citizens, they will be encouraged to run for public office and/or take a larger role in their community. Nonetheless, I’m so proud of our citizens for taking an active role in the election process. They are my inspiration and motivation to have the courage necessary to remain committed and work relentlessly to get Nogales to flourish after a pandemic. I've learned a lot from the people I spoke to during my campaign, including inspirational leaders that have been a part of my life. They know who they are! If anyone wishes to contact me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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