Tags Articles tagged with "MHS"


Members of the Maricopa High School football teams visited Maricopa Police Department and City Hall on Saturday. Head coach Brandon Harris planned the visit a year ago with MPD Chief Steve Stahl. Harris, who has police officers in his family, said he wanted the students to have a productive relationship with local law enforcement and he wanted to defuse any apprehension and suspicion about law enforcement that comes from “news reports about officers and young men that go horribly wrong – and how we can better ensure this doesn’t happen to our boys.”

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School cross country team competed twice at Chandler’s Tumbleweed Regional Park in two weeks.

Senior Zanaa Ramirez earned a medal by finishing in the top 10 at the Chandler Invite Sept. 4. Then on Sept. 14, six Rams ran personal-best times in the Ojo Rojo Invitational in the same park.

The Chandler Invite was divided into grades for the 5K. For the seniors, Ramirez was ninth among the girls in 22:44.66. Coreyuna Mitchell was 39th in 33:11.80. On the boys’ side, Quinton Stapleton finished 47th in 19:52.02.

In the girls’ junior race, Stella Richter was 60th in 27.49.57, Frances Trast was 76th in 33:05.45, and Beatriz Gallardo Avila was 83rd in 38:57.53. For the boys, Jovanni Fentes was 47th in 20:28.30

For the sophomores, Gabriel Garcia was 60th in 20:48.98, Xavier Rose was 78th in 22:04.37, and Charles Liermann was 101st in 24:10.22. For the girls, Anel Kenezhekeyeva was 85th in 1:07:28.66.

Saturday morning, 33 schools competed in the Ojo Rojo , with freshman, varsity and open divisions.

Ramirez reached a personal best in 22:31.8 while finishing 63rd. The two other girls running the varsity race with her also posted their best times yet. Richter was 129th in 27:17.0, and Trast was 138th in 30:33.8. Brynna McQuillen of Vista Grande won the race in 18:41.5.

The boys’ varsity ran a full team and finished 20th overall. Stapleton finished 102nd in 19:59.5. Garcia was 121st in 20:29.9, a personal best. Rose finished 128th in 20:51, also a personal best. Fentes was 149th in 21:31.9. Liermann was 171st in 23:39.2, and Nico McKinley was 184th in 32.32.6. Trent Holiday of Page High School won the race in 16:04.

In the freshman race, Blodgett finished 66th in 23:46.5, a personal best.

Quinton “Q” Stapleton has been the MHS boys’ team leader this season.

Photo by Victor Moreno

Though Maricopa High School’s boys’ and girls’ swim teams finished third in their first home meet of the season, they knocked personal best times and set some school records in the process.

“From last week to this week, we saw improvement, in almost every event,” coach Laura Logan said.

Freshman Katelyn Owens won the 100 breaststroke in 1:18.22, a school record by over 3.5 seconds. Logan said the time is .20 of the Division II provisional state cut.

Also talking first place was Olivia Byers in the 50 freestyle in 27.42 and the 100 free in 1:03.4.

The girls’ 200 free relay team of Owens, Eva Zavala, Emily Fauth and Byers set a school record by three seconds while finishing second in 2:04.57.

While finishing third, the 200 medley relay team of Sophie ZOcchiline, Owens, Byers and Zavala set a school record, again by three seconds, in 2:21.85.

Also taking third was Owens in the 200 individual medley, just 0.7 of a second off a school record. Au

Photo by Victor Moreno

bree Wittemann was third in the 200 free, and Zavala was third in the 50 free.

Overall, the girls scored 83 points to finish behind Valley Christian (117) and American Leadership (98).

On the boys’ side, Rafe Scoresby won the 200 free in 2:19.15. Connor Schrader won the 100 backstroke in 1:00.38. The 200 free relay team of Andrew Varga, Abel Rodriguez, Kian Carroll and Schrader took first place in 1:48.75.

In second place were Schrader in the 200 IM and Scoresby in the 500 free.

Swimming third were Varga in the 50 free, Carroll in the 100 free, Jayden Call in the 500 free, the 200 medley relay of Schrader, Joseph Lambert, Rodriguez and Varga, and the 400 free relay team of Rodrigez, Anthony Nelson, Victor Moreno and Scoresby.

American Leadership won the meet in 111. Valley Christian scored 95 and MHS 64.

Superintendent takes blame for implementation errors

Parent Tyler Wright speaks to the board before a capacity crowd Tuesday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A school policy updated in April has had unintended consequences at Maricopa High School this fall, and a room full of students and their parents explained the impact during Wednesday’s meeting of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board.

At the request of board member Torri Anderson, the board held a work study on the implementation of Policy IIE, which states:

“It shall be the responsibility of the principal, with the cooperation of assigned counselors, to assist students in the scheduling of classes. All students in the high school, with the exception of graduating seniors, are required to enroll in six (6) credit-bearing classes.

Graduating seniors are required to enroll in the minimum of five (5) credit-bearing courses. Seniors wishing to participate in extra-curricular programs must adhere to Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) guidelines.”

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said she had made an error in the implementation of the policy. It was meant to be in place for this year’s incoming freshmen and future classes rather than students already in high school.

“It was completely my error regarding the freshman implementation,” Lopeman said. “It was completely my oversight, and I apologize for that.”

Anderson called it a communications breakdown and said it should not have happened. Students said it was forcing them to choose between their church and school activities.

Eric Goettl, instructor of the Seminary program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, earlier said the way the policy was implemented has “negatively impacted our youth and our ability to offer release-time religious education in an off-campus setting.”

Before Tuesday’s meeting, however, Goettl had a fruitful discussion with Lopeman about the situation. Currently, 150 students from MHS and other high schools attend Seminary in the church across the street from MHS for an hour during the school day.

MHS offered Odyssey courses outside the regular class schedule, during Zero Hour or Eighth Hour, for those students wanting to meet the required enrollment hours and still take time for Seminary. However, students said those course options did not include Advanced-Placement classes and they could not make up the lost credit as well as they did before. The long school day was also leaving students exhausted, they said, especially those trying to be involved in extracurricular activities or after-school jobs.

“I just panic all the time and am stressed out a bunch of the time, too,” student Kyle Jones said. “It’s really hard to keep up. I’m really surprised I’m only a few assignments behind in the class.”

Lopeman had discovered the discrepancy between policy and practice at the high school after some teachers raised the question about “weighted” grade point averages that gave higher results to students taking fewer classes and finishing higher in the class standings. Lopeman said the six-credit-bearing-classes policy has been in place for “quite a while” but had not been in practice at MHS. On the other hand, the previous policy had required seniors to take just four credit-bearing classes while in reality they were taking five.

“They have to take five because of early-release Wednesdays,” she said.

“I understand that this change was to make sure that we have all of our credits to graduate,” senior Katie Hanks said. “I know every single one of us knew as a freshman coming in that we would have to make up that credit. This hasn’t been a problem in the past and so it shouldn’t be a problem today.”

Hanks outlined her day, which included heading off to Zero Hour before 6 a.m. and coming home at 7 p.m. or later. Only then, she said, did she have time to do homework for her many AP and honors classes. Haley Lemon, president of the MHS Theatre Company, said its even worse for students in Tech Theatre, who may not get home before 10 p.m. when preparing for a production.

“It’s my understanding that a lot of this came to fruition because of some discussion or some concern about weighted GPAs and valedictorians and that kind of stuff,” Bishop Ryan Atwood said. “I’m sure there’s much more complexities than that. But I can tell you, the current solution is not acceptable.”

The GPA calculation was at the center of discord and will be part of the discussion as the district tries to work out a solution.

“I get it, the GPA boost that we got when you divide it by less number of credits,” student John Jackson said. “I know some of my member friends would talk about it in freshman year how, ‘Wow, we’re first in our class because of this GPA boost.’ But now, I’d argue, without the ability to take AP credits and honors credits A Hour or Eighth Hour and do it online, our numbers will have lower GPAs instead of the little bit higher GPA they had prior.”

The use of only the Odyssey program for online credits is also part of the conversation. Questioned by Board Vice President Ben Owens, Lopeman said the single program was adopted for consistency. After hearing from students, she said Odyssey is not adequate.

James McNelly and his mother Sue both explained how the implementation of the program had thrown off his plans after he adapted his schedule to fit in release-time Seminary.

“I have planned for graduation since my freshman year. I had taken a lot of my classes on Primavera, and these classes suddenly don’t matter because of this policy,” he said. “I just think it’s unfair that as a prepared individual, I can’t use those credits I’ve already taken. Now I’m in a Zero Hour class. I have to get up at 5:40 every morning. Getting kind of tired of it.”

Sue McNelly said her son had completed the credits necessary to make up for the time lost to Seminary his junior year. “And he was good to go. The district then changed the policy, and we were told those credits no long count.”

Anderson said not accepting online credits from other programs was “very disturbing” and said it was not explained when the policy was forwarded to the board. She also said the understanding was that the policy would affect incoming freshmen.

“I am very disappointed in the implementation of this policy,” she said. “I’m disappointed it’s affected this many families. We want these students in our schools who are honor students, who are civically responsible. This is what we build our public education system on. I am confident we will resolve this to the benefit of all of our children.”

Anderson also said the consequences should have been spelled out during board discussions over the summer before school started.

Several students spoke of the value of the Seminary class to them personally.

“You may be thinking if I didn’t take Seminary I wouldn’t have this problem at all,” Hanks said, “but I value my hour in seminary because I know it will help me throughout my entire life, and I want to go and learn what I can in that class.”

Johnna Belcher, the mother of three young children said she was concerned about the problems of accommodation. “This policy change is troubling for me as a parent. I attended Seminary when I was a youth. It was a place for me to be able to decompress during stressful days, and I know that a lot of days are stressful these days.”

Parent Tyler Wright said he has seen kids, including his daughter, on the verge of having a nervous breakdown trying to juggle school, homework, activities and some social life with the policy change.

“There’s has to be a way to allow these kids to play sports,” he said. “If they want to be the valedictorian, then let them fight it out. Let them work hard and earn it. Don’t give it to someone. That’s not right. They do not need to be burned out. They need to be educated.”

Board member Patti Coutre expressed empathy for parents dealing with stressed-out teens but also said it may come down to personal decisions.

“I know it is tough to make choices between what to do after school, wanting to participate. Sometimes those choices are going to be tough and you might have to choose to do Seminary versus theater or football or any other athletics,” she said. “It’s a lesson that’s hard to learn. I’m sorry you have to learn it as a kid, but you’ll be better rounded as an adult when you have to make those choices as an adult.”

Anderson said it wasn’t just LDS Seminary student impacted by the policy change. Her son, a senior, had expected to have a lighter load this year with maybe time to get a job but instead found himself at school five credit hours. She said that was true of seniors across the board.

Lopeman said in implementing the policy, Principal Brian Winter and counselors spoke with students they thought would be most impacted. The district also prepared to approve stipends for teachers to teach during Zero Hour and Eighth Hour.

“Zero Hour and Eighth Hour were added so students could continue to attend Seminary during the day,” Lopeman said. “We didn’t want to eliminate that option just blanketly. We wanted to create a transition.”

She said it became clear in her discussion with Goettl and his wife that following policy and community service did not have to be mutually exclusive. She said she is confident a solution can be found that is fair for all. Other elements of the issue include MHS’s closed-campus status and liability.

What was unclear was whether the district’s policy of six credit-bearing classes was based on state law, which requires 720 educational hours for high schoolers. That will be part of the research behind future conversations, prompting board member Joshua Judd to warn parents, “When we get these policies, it’s statewide. It’s not a flexible thing if it’s state-based.”

Anderson said she hopes to work out a resolution before Christmas so the conflict is not still in place next semester.

Board President AnnaMarie Knorr said she wants to see something evenhanded. “I want to be sure that whatever we do going forward is fair and equitable both for the students who do not leave campus and go to Seminary, that their GPAs aren’t less just because of that fact, but also for those who do, that they have the opportunity to take AP classes or honor classes or whatever it is to get the GPA that they want. It needs to go both ways. I’m hopeful that we can come up with a solution that does ensure that.”

Maricopa Unified School District notified parents over the weekend of a “potential threat of a weapon on campus on Monday” at the high school.

The alleged threat was made off-campus Friday night. MUSD told parents it was working with Maricopa Police Department and had not substantiated the threat.

Classes will take place as normal on Monday, but MPD plans to increase patrols.

MUSD reminded parents threats against a school facility, even in jest, can be prosecuted beyond school discipline. “Please take this opportunity to talk with your children about the consequences of making statements of a threatening or dangerous nature at any time,” MUSD advised parents in its notification.

The alleged threat comes after days of student fights on and off campus, also involving MPD.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Despite being shorthanded and battling Murphy’s Law during the first half, the Maricopa High School varsity football team tested its depth to overcome Apollo Friday, 21-9.

The Rams were behind until midway through the second quarter having suffered through a series of miscues that included a safety. They were coming off a physically punishing loss to Millennium the week before that showed in the lineup.

The win moved the Rams’ record to 2-1.

Maricopa kept quiet during the week about the fact they would not have standouts like Ilijah Johnson or Michael Flood on the field, but from the outset it was clear the Rams were a lot smaller and a little less diverse.

“We have a saying around here: Next Ram up,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “We don’t have the luxury of kids sitting around waiting to be knighted to play varsity football. They’ve got to come in; they’ve got to prepare as if they’re going to have to play tonight, because they might very well have to do that. So, we had a team out there that was not our projected starting lineup at all, but we hid it. We kept it quiet all week. We had some kids that came out here and worked real hard. They did a nice job.”

The defense started the scoring for Maricopa as junior Patrick Garcia intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. With Mister Chavis rushing and receiving, not to mention returning the kickoff, for the first drive of the second half, Maricopa scored again to go up 14-2.

Apollo (0-2) scored its only touchdown in the final seven seconds of the third quarter. Maricopa answered with another touchdown with 10:27 remaining in the fourth and held back the Hawks the rest of the game.

“The defense played great,” Harris said. “They held the line for us,”

Harris credited his assistant coaches with getting the team game-ready despite the vacancies. He said the Rams need to get a lot healthier by getting some guys back in time for Friday’s Homecoming game against South Mountain.

“We’re very, very, very, very young. They’re learning how to play on the fly,” he said. “I’m proud of them. A lot of kids played both ways. A lot of kids didn’t leave the field, and that’s a huge win in Division 5.”

A series of fights on and near campus have marred campus life at Maricopa High School this month.

A fight broke out Wednesday after school, bringing police to Honeycutt Avenue. That fight reportedly ended up in a Maricopa Meadows park west of the school. Thursday, Maricopa Police Department was on campus investigating what Mariopa Unified School District described as “three separate incidents involving an isolated number of students.”

MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said there were charges pending.

“Investigations are still ongoing, and discipline will be aligned to our discipline matrix,” MUSD spokesperson Mishell Terry said, explaining the release of further details could violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. “That said, the District will cooperate with law enforcement authorities if requested, to the full extent it can lawfully do so.”

MUSD sent out a message to parents signed by Principal Brian Winter explaining why the front office was briefly closed while MPD worked with students and families. “Please know the safety of our students and staff is always our first priority, and we will continue to partner with you to ensure Maricopa High School provides a safe and secure environment,” he stated.

Friday, however, another fight was reported in a campus building, again bringing additional police to campus.

Parents expressed anger and anxiety about the situation, with one parent telling InMaricopa his daughter is terrified of going to school.

by -
Photo by Victor Moreno

The Maricopa High School swim team launched its season Thursday taking on Poston Butte and Apache Junction.

Though finishing third, the girls’ team scored 33 points more than last year. Olivia Byers won the 200 freestyle in 2:24.01 and the 50 free in 27.09. Katelyn Owens was second in the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke.

The meet was at the Apache Junction Aquatic Center.

“Olivia Byers turned in a several really strong performances. Her leadership is invaluable,” coach Laura Logan said. “Freshman Katelyn Owen’s had her hands full in both her individual events, and she performed extremely well. Overall really impressed with our growth.”

The 400 free relay team of Kaitlyn Crean, Lexie Nordhoff, Shelby Eisanacher and Sophie Occhiline finished second.

Third-place finishes were the 200 medley relay team of Occhiline, Owens, Byers and Crean, the 200 free relay of Owens, Eva Zvala, Emily Fauth and Byers, and the 400 free relay team of Rylee Pirtle, Isabella Piwowar, Genevieve Pierce and Katelynn James.

Poston Butte won with 100 points, Apache Junction was second with 99 and MHS third with 73.

The MHS boys’ team placed second at the meet, led by sophomore Connor Schrader, who won the 200 individual medley in 2:09.25 and the 100 backstroke in 59.54.

“Connor Schrader broke two of his school records in 200 IM and 100 back,” Logan said. “He broke them both by 4-plus seconds, and that is a significant time drop for the first meet of the season.”

The Poston Butte boys scored 102 points overall while MHS had 91 and Apache Junction 86.

Rafe Scoresby placed second in the 200 freestyle for Maricopa. Placing third were Abel Rodriguez in the 100 butterfly, Andrew Varga in the 100 free, Scoresby in the 500 free, Joseph Lambert in the 100 breaststroke, the 200 medley relay team of Schrader, Lambert, Rodriguez and Kian Carroll, and the 200 free relay team of Varga, Carroll, Scoresby and Schrader.

“Rafe Scoresby, Victor Moreno, Abel Rodriguez and Jayden Call have shown tremendous growth from last season,” Logan said. “Freshman Andrew Varga turned in two very impressive swims. I look for him to be a great contributor by the end of the season.”

Logan said the Maricopa boys “have really narrowed the gap on Poston Butte and, with continued growth, should be a great dual meet between Poston and MHS in October.”

Poston Butte is scheduled to meet MHS Oct. 17 at Copper Sky.

by -

The Maricopa High School volleyball team started its season with two wins and a loss in Arizona Interscholastic Association play, while in the Canyon Athletic Conference, Sequoia Pathway has built a record of 5-1.

Photo by Kyle Norby

MHS soundly defeated Camelback in straight sets, 25-13, 25-14, 25-9. That was followed by a 3-1 home victory over a team they lost to last season, Betty H. Fairfax, with sets of 25-10, 25-13, 13-25, 25-22. Thursday, the girls lost to Verrado in straight sets, 17-25, 12-25, 13-25.

Meanwhile, the Pumas walked over Basis-Peoria to start their season, 3-0. They also took down Basis-Chandler in three, 25-13, 25-24, 25-4, and then Phoenix College Prep in straight sets, 25-20, 25-16, 25-17. Pathway defeated San Tan Charter in five sets, 3-2, but had the tables turned on them against Heritage Academy-Gateway, which handed them their first loss, 2-3.

The Pumas had a walkover win against Imagine-Coolidge, which failed to show for Thursday’s match.

In its first season of competition in CAA, playing in an independent region, Heritage-Maricopa has posted straight-set losses to Southwest Leadership and Basis-Ahwatukee.

Photo by Kyle Norby

Maricopa had its hands full with Millennium Aug. 30. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School football team had backward momentum against a big Millennium squad Friday and suffered a blowout loss, 47-0, in front of a home crowd.

“You meet a team that physically is your equal or greater, the thing that separates you is how you play your technique,” MHS head coach Brandon Harris said. “If you don’t play with technique, you get beat, you get beat bad, and that’s what happened tonight.”

The home game evened the Rams’ record at 1-1. It was the Tigers’ first game of the season.

While Maricopa struggled to execute its game plan, Millennium was hitting four touchdown passes by junior quarterback Jalan Early. The Ram defense had its struggles, but the offense never got on its legs.

When the Rams felt overwhelmed, the coach said, they reverted to old habits and abandoned proper technique. The end result, he said, was something MHS deserved.

“They blitzed. We know what we’re supposed to do. We had checks for their blitzes the same as we did last year. We didn’t check to the plays we were supposed to go to. Simple as that,” Harris said. “They blitz the inside A gaps; we pitch the ball to the outside. We didn’t pitch the ball to the outside. You don’t stay with the play, you get sacked. If our quarterback drops his eyes and doesn’t look downfield, we don’t get the ball out to guys that are wide open.”

Millennium scored twice in each of the first three quarters. Next up for the Rams is a home game against Apollo (1-1), which suffered a similar shellacking at the hands of Casteel, 53-7.

“We’ve got to be prepared. We’ve got to be honest about where we are, who we are and what we did, and then go back and get better at it,” Harris said. “The nice thing about what happened tonight is that it’s all fixable. We just have to do what we’re supposed to do.”

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School opened the varsity football season with zip, with quarterback Daxton Redfern connecting Ilijah Johnson for scoring touchdowns three times in defeating McClintock 33-22 Friday.

The game had all the earmarks of a first game, with miscues by players and referees alike. But Maricopa scored in every quarter and mostly dominated the Chargers.

The up-and-down nature of the quality of play was a learning lesson, head coach Brandon Harris said, as many of the Rams had not started varsity before.

“We were confident. We had a good game plan and we executed it mostly,” Harris said. “I thought our defense played extremely well. We held them for the better part of three quarters to two points.”

McClintock had its only lead after an early safety, but the Rams came back quickly as Redfern hit Johnson, who executing some fancy running to take it into the end zone.

Three minutes later, Johnson took another Redfern pass 32 yards for another touchdown. Despite a blocked point after, Maricopa was up 13-2.

Junior Tylek Mooney, playing both ways on the night, took an interception 70 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, and Maricopa led 19-3.

The Rams were limited to a field goal in the third while the defense continued to put up a wall. McClintock came through with its first touchdown with just 27 seconds left in the quarter.

At the top of the fourth, Redfern again found Johnson for a touchdown, with Redfern keeping the ball himself for the two-point conversion. After the Chargers scored from the 4, Maricopa responded with another field goal.

While the Rams were getting more players into the game for some playing time, McClintock scored a final touchdown in the final two minutes.

Maricopa worked to reinvigorate its running game in the fourth quarter, getting running room for junior Mister Chavis. Harris said he liked the resiliency he saw from his players and was happy with their conditioning, which held up on a warm and humid night.

Next up, the Rams host Millennium Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.

Total Yards
Maricopa 292 McClintock 352

Passing yards
Daxton Redfern, Maricopa 14-for-19, 149 yards, 3 touchdowns
Xavier Venitez, McClintock 13-for-30, 233 yards, 1 touchdown

Top rushing
Mister Chavis, Maricopa 24 carries, 126 yards
Jaden Mason, McClintock 23 carries, 110 yards, 2 touchdowns

Top receiving
Ilijah Johnson, Maricopa 5 catches, 84 yards, 3 touchdowns
Bryce Tate, McClinock 7 catches, 104 yards

Top tackling
Maricopa: Patrick Garcia 14, Anthony Valenzuela 9
McClintock: David Cisneros 10, David Felix 10

Maricopa: Quintone Green-Seabrooks 2
McClintock: Kerrion Dates 1, Scott Jones 1

Maricopa: Tylek Mooney 1 (touchdown)

Maricopa: Roberto Esqueda 1 PAT, 2 FG
McClintock: Felipe Sanchez 2 PAT

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman cuts the ribbon on office space at Maricopa High School, where Central Arizona College will set up CAC Connect: (from left) MHS senior Freya Abraham, Bernadette Russoniello, City Councilmember Rich Vitiello, MUSD board member Patti Coutre, City Councilmember Marvin Brown, Lopeman, MUSD board member Torri Anderson, CAC President Jackie Elliott, Principal Brian Winter, CAC board member Dan Miller, CAC outreach coordinator Monica Vogan and CAC Director of Student Affairs Megan Purvis. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Central Arizona College launched its new partnership with Maricopa High School in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.

CAC Connect gives the college office space in the high school’s Career and College Center so CAC advisors and recruiters can meet with students on their own campus.

Speaking directly to the high school students attending the opening event, CAC President Jackie Elliott said the college “is happy to enhance your learning experience and assist you in pursuing your academic goals through higher education. CAC Connect will provide you a true learning community, and we look forward to seeing this program grow throughout Pinal County.”

Monica Vogan, outreach coordinator for CAC, said the program will allow CAC to help students explore educational options, apply online and register for classes.

“It’s incredible what we can accomplish when we actually come together,” said Bernadette Russoniello, MHS College and Career coordinator. “This started as a sit-down, brief meeting where we said, ‘How can we do it better?’

Principal Brian Winter pointed out MHS is the first high school in the county to have that kind of connecting program.

“We are proud to pioneer such a unique program, one that will bridge high school resources with college resources in one easy to access package for our Maricopa students,” he said.

CAC student Rebekka Harris said CAC Connect will be a great way for the college to have impact and recognition within the school. “When I was actually a student at MHS, I didn’t know about CAC until the semester before graduation and I was panicking.”

CAC students Rebekka Harris, Elizabeth “Mimi” Prentice and Timonyeh Shines

She first attended CAC to become a teacher but realized about halfway through her studies that was not the path she really wanted. Changing majors, she said, felt like less of a blow at CAC than it would at a huge university.

Timonyeh Shines, a CAC graduate now starting at ASU, said CAC Connect would have been a better influence on her younger siblings as they went through high school but are currently not in college.

“CAC has been a wonderful, wonderful school to attend,” said Shines, who did not attend high school but earned her GED to qualify for college. “I feel like if they had had this opportunity, they would have been along the path that I am on now. I’m really happy this is part of this high school so it can influence other people to actually attend.”

Maricopa Unified School District Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said the program helps the district achieve its first board-adopted goal: “Every student graduates prepared to create, innovate, lead and succeed.”

MHS students were part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
CAC President Jackie Elliott
MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman
MHS Principal Brian Winter in front of the CAC Connect cubicle.

Photo by Victor Moreno

There is no off-season for MHS football; just out-of-season. That’s where head coach Brandon Harris has tracked improvement in the players coming back from a team that was 5-6 and qualified for state play from arguably the toughest region in 5A.

The 2019 season starts Friday at McClintock.

“Summer was good for us,” Harris said. “We participated in a lot of 7-on-7 tournaments. It was nice. We came home and won the whole tournament here at Copper Sky.”

That involved the Arizona Football Coaches Association, and Harris said “everybody in the state that is somebody was there,” including Hamilton, Mountain Pointe and Higley. Maricopa players placed second in a Tucson tournament. Out-of-season he had them working on speed and agility, skills and drills. Some players migrated to track and field to stay in shape.

“Seven-on-7 isn’t football, I say that all the time,” Harris said, “but it gives you an indication of how you match up skill-wise with other teams in the state. I think we match up really well this year, more so than we did last year.  We’ve got weapons everywhere.”

MHS Athletic Director Jake Neill likes the direction the program is headed.

“We’re just getting compliments on how hard we play, in talking with football coaches who maybe didn’t expect the game they got from us,” Neill said. “That’s a credit to the kids and coach Harris and his coaching staff. The consensus is that if a team is going to get a win [against MHS], it’s going to be a tough one.”

The 7-on-7 participation told the most about the growth of senior quarterback Daxton Redfern.

“We realized how good he was when we went down to U of A in Tucson,” Harris said. “He’s grown exponentially. He knows our offense really well.”

In that 7-on-7 tournament, Redfern threw 42 touchdowns in 13 games against one interception. Coming up behind him is sophomore Merhauti Xepera, who is a tight end when not quarterbacking. “He’s a big kid, an athletic kid,” Harris said. “He’s going to be the future.”

When it comes to team leadership, no class has the upper hand.

“Whoever emerges as a leader is a leader,” Harris said. “I don’t care if that’s a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, because I’ve been in programs where I wasn’t the head coach, I was offensive coordinator, it was like, seniors are in charge. If they weren’t leaders as sophomores or juniors, what makes them leaders just because the calendar changed? Teams end up rising and falling on that. I’m not a believer in a senior has to be the guy.”

The program is experimenting with a new leadership model. Noting the reluctance of a new crop of teenagers to emerge from a crowd, the team has created “position groups.”

We’re setting it up where we’ll have senators, if you will. So, in each position group, there are going to be several people responsible for the position group,” Harris said. “We hold those guys accountable for the performance on campus, off campus, being on time to class, things of that nature. So, three or four guys in each position group meet with me every week.”

Having graduated a batch a of elite players with big personalities, the 2019 edition of the Rams will look a little smaller, but they’ll be fast. They’ve also grown close as a team, helped along by the “transformative experience” of camp in Flagstaff.

“I like this team. I think we’re more of a team this year in a lot more ways, offensively and defensively,” Harris said.

Leading the running back corps is returning junior Mister Chavis along with junior Steven Forrester. Among the wide receivers, “We’ve got some guys that can go,” Harris said. Namely, senior Ilijah Johnson is “Pretty special from both sides of the ball” with a 46-inch vertical leap. Tylek Mooney is an “explosive player, who’s shifty and slippery.”

Bryan Pick will join Xepera at tight end. Junior Hunter Taylor is also a tight end and defensive end, “a bigger version of his brother Logan,” and Anthony Valenzuela is a “high-motor player” who can “just run all day.”

The Rams have players and coaches coming in from other corners of the country. With Corey Nelson leaving to help coach Sequoia Pathway, Harris shifted his assistants.

Stephan Nelson continues to coach linebackers and running backs. Bill Poyser is the defensive coordinator. Ed Jordan coaches the secondary, while the defensive line is in the hands of Dean Hanneman. Harris is letting Gerald Campbell coach the quarterbacks while he moves over to the wide receivers. Andres Zelaya coaches the inside wide receivers.

The team will run the same gauntlet through San Tan 5A, still one of the toughest in the state.

Harris’s recipe for a successful season?

  1. No catastrophic injuries
  2. Academic health during season and beyond
  3. Building on what we started

“We’ll be fast. We’re always going to be fast here, explosive, resilient, family, very close team this year,” Harris said. “We got into the playoffs. Now the next step is to win some games in the playoffs, which is what I’m used to doing. That’s the goal. We think we have a really good chance of doing that.”

Aug. 23                 7 p.m. at McClintock
Aug. 30                 7 p.m. vs. Millennium
Sept. 6                  7 p.m. vs. Apollo
Sept. 13                7 p.m. vs. South Mountain (Homecoming)
Sept. 20                7 p.m. at Central
Sept. 27                7 p.m. at Higley
Oct. 4                    7 p.m. vs. Campo Verde
Oct. 18                  7 p.m. vs. Williams Field (Senior Night)
Oct. 25                  7 p.m. at Casteel
Nov. 1                   7 p.m. at Gilbert

Aidan Balt

The U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board announced Aidan Balt of Maricopa High School has been offered a Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program grant and fellowship.

“Being awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and grant is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am so grateful that out of over 450 applicants, I was selected to participate,” said Balt, a National Board Certified teach.

“I am always seeking to be the best educator I can be, and I’m positive this experience will lead to new ways of thinking and have a big impact in my classroom at MHS.”

She is one of approximately 76 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad through the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program in 2019-20. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential. The grant pays expenses associated with the fellowship.

“The process was long, and I’ve been waiting since the spring to hear if I was awarded a spot or not,” she said.

Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms is a year-long professional development opportunity for U.S. elementary, middle, and high school teachers to develop skills for preparing students for a competitive global economy. The fellowship includes a 10-week course online and a three-day summit in Washington, D.C., in January.

“From there, I will find out where my exchange with the U.S. State Department will take me,” Balt said. “I will be assigned a country, a school and a cooperating teacher/classroom. I will be overseas for 2-3 weeks, working with the cooperating teacher and students. Once I return, I will have until the end of August to complete a Capstone project based on the action research I complete during my time overseas.”

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries that are needed to solve global challenges. It operates in over 160 countries worldwide.

“I can’t wait to see what learning comes out of this experience,” Balt said. “I am always seeking to be the best educator I can be, and I’m positive this experience will lead to new ways of thinking and have a big impact in my classroom at MHS.”

Vincent “Vinnie” Latona was SkillsUSA national champion in internetworking. Photo by Victor Moreno

It’s a first for Maricopa.

Vincent “Vinnie” Latona earned a gold medal for internetworking in the SkillsUSA National Championships in June. He represented not only Maricopa High School but also the state of Arizona.

SkillsUSA creates competition in more than 100 areas of career and technical education, ranging from 3D animation to welding, from cosmetology to robotics. Its overall focus is career readiness.

Latona earned his spot by winning the state competition in April. Last year, he placed third at state.

“Nationals was about what I expected it to be,” said Latona, who graduated this year. “The people who run our state competition run it so close to how the national competition is run, anyone who goes from Arizona has a really good chance at doing well at the Nationals.”

Braydon Sanders was also a state champion for MHS – his category was information technology services – and was a top-10 finisher at Nationals, which were in Louisville, Kentucky. It was his third year competing in SkillsUSA but his first at Nationals. His area focuses mostly on customer service and computer repair and maintenance.

“It was a pretty fun experience,” Sanders said. “One day you have nine different stations of things you have to do, and each one is designed around a scenario you’d have to do in the workplace. One’s a job interview, one’s repairing a computer, one’s just setting up a station, doing a consultation for if you were going to get someone to sign a contract.”

Latona, who will study computer science at Arizona State University, and Sanders, who has a scholarship to New York Institute of Technology, were part of the MHS Cisco Academy taught by Brad Chamberlain.

“These are two amazing individuals who worked very hard for this opportunity and represented MHS well,” Chamberlain said. “They have set the bar very high for all future students in the program.”

A state championship team of Brady Stamps, Anabelle Dayley and Katelyn Daley also finished in the top 10 for community service.

Braydon SAnders, a state champion this year for SkillsUSA, helped set up the City’s new Esports league. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Latona and Sanders credited Chamberlain with setting them up to succeed.

“[He] gave us all the curriculum we wanted and then was like, ‘If any of you guys want to stay together with the rest of the class, you can either do it all together or you can do it individually and go ahead of the rest of the class,’” Latona said. “So, at the beginning of this last year I decided to take all the curriculum, read ahead of everyone else, go ahead and see how far I could get it to go. I was able to finish all my work by the end of October, beginning of November for the first semester, and then second semester’s work I was able to finish by the end of February.”

Certified students who participate in 24PinTech get real-world experience in refurbishing and repairing computers for staff and students.

“He focuses on being very close to the kind of stuff you would do in the workplace,” Sanders said. “I was working on actual servers and stuff that kept parts of the school running. I was setting up actual classrooms. His was so hands-on and so workplace-oriented that it went directly into the competition. His class worked on getting certifications as well, and that kind of workplace readiness has been amazing for me.”

Four 24PinTech crewmembers, including Latona and Sanders, were hired by the City of Maricopa to establish an esports facility for leagues at Copper Sky. Esports are video game competitions that have spread worldwide. It has become so popular in the state, Arizona Interscholastic Association created an esports championship season this year.

This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

by -
Vinnie Latona (left) with MHS instructor Brad Chamberlain.

A career and technical student who graduated from Maricopa High School in May won one of the nation’s highest awards at the 2019 SkillsUSA Championships, held in Louisville, Kentucky, June 26-27.

Vinnie Latona was awarded the high school gold medal in Internetworking. Learn more about Vinnie and top-10 finisher Braydon Sanders, also from Maricopa, in the upcoming August issue of InMaricopa magazine. Both are heading to college after thriving in Brad Chamberlain’s MHS Cisco Academy.

More than 6,500 students competed at the national showcase of career and technical education. The SkillsUSA Championships is the largest skill competition in the world and covers 1.4 million square feet, equivalent to 20 football fields or 25 acres.

Participants earned places in the national competition by winning their categories in state championships. Students demonstrated their technical skills, workplace skills and personal skills in 103 hands-on competitions including robotics, automotive technology, drafting, criminal justice, aviation maintenance and public speaking. Industry leaders from 600 businesses, corporations, trade associations and unions planned and evaluated the contestants against their standards for entry-level workers.

More than 1,100 industry judges and technical committee members participated this year. A total of 1,122 gold, silver and bronze medals were presented to students.

Rams carry in items collected earlier this year for the Family Advocacy Center. Photo by Kyle Norby

The Maricopa High School football team delivered items collected during a May 18 Soap Scrimmage to the Maricopa Family Advocacy Center on Thursday. Several players and head coach Brandon Harris carried in toiletry and food items, which were the admission fee to the scrimmage, and then received a tour of the facility. Maricopa FAC is a new facility for victims of assault, abuse and domestic violence to receive initial treatment and speak to law enforcement in a safe environment.

by -
Jacob Keel, MHS junior, fields the ball at 1st base while David Pankenier checks the speed of the oncoming throw. Photo by Victor Moreno

Monday night, the Maricopa High School baseball team was the beneficiary of a local MLB scout and college recruiter, Maricopa resident David Pankenier.

Pankenier worked with the boys playing summer baseball, after accepting the invitation of new MHS baseball head coach Brad Vericker. The athletes participating spanned grades 7-12.

During the session, Pankenier recorded measurements and statistics related to athleticism testing, defensive testing by position, hitting assessment and a pitching assessment. He recorded the data to assimilate and provide athletes and parents results for each player, so they have quantifiable measurements to see how the athlete compares to athletes being recruited to play at the next level – college and beyond.

“The drills were cool because he can measure the velocity when we throw the ball from the outfield to the plate, and for pitching he can provide a lot of good info – more than just the mph,” said Jackson Lindseth, MHS senior.

Pankenier has a lengthy resume in the baseball world. He is currently the recruiting coordinator and assistant coach at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. He is also a professional scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Scouting Career
2002-present: Kansas City Royals, New York Mets, Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks
2004 co-coordinator for the Northern League Tryouts & Draft
2005 Graduate from Major League Baseball Scout School
2012-present: West Coast Scout Prospect Wire Baseball

David Parks, MHS sophomore, throws to first after fielding a ball to measure accuracy and velocity of throw. Photo by Victor Moreno


Modular buildings wait in the sun in the parking lot at Maricopa High School to be used as overflow classrooms in the coming school year. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

With the excessive heat advisory ending tonight, the weekend outlook for Maricopa still includes triple digits and lot and lots of sun, according to the National Weather Service.

Today is partly sunny and hot with an expected high of 113 and winds reaching 15 mph. Tonight will likely be mostly cloudy with gradual clearing and a low around 71. Winds could gust as high as 25 mph.

Friday is forecast to be sunny with a high near 105 and continued breezy conditions. The nighttime low will be around 69.

Saturday is expected to be sunny with a high near 104. The overnight low will be around 71.

Sunday is also likely to be sunny with a high near 105. The night temperature will drop to around 70.

The pattern will continue into next week with daily temps expected in the low 100s.


Autumn Fausz. Submitted photo

By Bernadette Russoniello

Maricopa High School seniors received honors and recognition for academic, athletic and private scholarships totaling more than $8 million at the May 7 Senior Honors Night. Autumn Fausz, like many other 2019 graduates, earned a full-ride, university scholarship.

Fausz graduated as an AFJROTC cadet and leader. She has been a JROTC cadet since her freshman year, following in the footsteps of her father and brother. She will attend Northern Arizona University pursuing a major in criminology/forensic science with a minor in forestry. Her career goals involve working as a Game and Fish Warden or a national park ranger, “anything where I’m out in the woods.” Fausz grew up in wooded areas of North Carolina and fell in love with the forest.

Fausz moved to Maricopa mid-sophomore year to be closer to extended family after losing her father Wayne Fausz in a car accident. U.S. Army Command Sgt. Major Wayne Fausz led the Wolf Pack battalion of the 82nd Airborne. The Fausz family was involved in a head-on collision caused by a sleeping driver. Her father passed away in flight to the hospital; Autumn and her brother were also critically injured in the crash.

The Marine Gunnery Sgt. John David Fry Scholarship provides post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to children and surviving spouses of service members who died in the line of duty or while on active duty after Sept.10, 2001. Autumn learned of the scholarship through her mother and applied early this fall. The scholarship covers the full cost of attendance at any U.S. university. Autumn selected NAU.

Fausz was also recognized at the AFJROTC Awards Ceremony for the Bri Barnes Community Service Scholarship presented by Jim and Alice Shoaf of the Maricopa Pantry. The award honors the AFJROTC cadet who made the biggest impact and commitment to community service. Autumn was selected because she leads the Community Service team for AFJROTC and led the community-wide canned food drive for the Maricopa Pantry. Additionally, Autumn frequently volunteers at Feed My Starving Children to pack food boxes for children in need.

Although Fausz and her family have been through a lot over the past nine years, she attests “we are definitely stronger from the experience.” She expresses gratitude to her parents, Natasha Faust and Gary Hysop, for the support and love they provide, for always pushing her to do her best. “Although no one can replace my dad, I never imagined someone could fill that role in my life, to be a father figure.”

Fausz is ready for adulthood, ready to move forward, and looking forward to her life at Northern Arizona University.

Bernadette Russoniello is the career and college coordinator at Maricopa High School.

This column appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

by -
Chandler Chang, May 23, 2019, Maricopa High School.

Maricopa High School graduate Chandler Chang delivered this valedictorian address to the Class of 2019 during graduation May 23. A Flinn Scholarship recipient, he has lived in Maricopa 14 years.

By Chandler Chang

Hello, Class of 2019. It is my absolute honor to be speaking here tonight to such a talented group of individuals.

I’m valedictorian and I don’t know how to drive, I’m so bad at cooking I’ll burn water, and I wrote this speech at midnight the day after I was supposed to submit it. If grades were an absolute indicator of success and potential, none of that should be true!

My name is Chandler Chang, but if you only know me from the media, then you might know me as Chandler “Change.” I’ve even received college letters with the same error. Yes, that’s a typo, please don’t make it again.

Before I go any further, I would like to thank everyone whose support made tonight possible. I would personally like to thank my family, friends and teachers for inspiring me to achieve the success I have found myself in today. On behalf of the class of 2019, I would like to thank all parents, teachers, staff, administration, school board members. Your support has empowered us to become the determined young men and women we are now. I’m sure it wasn’t easy putting up with us for four years, or if you’re the parents, a mild seventeen to eighteen years.

Preparing this speech has been a harrowing task. Just a few weeks ago I had no idea what I wanted to say, so I looked to my fellow Flinn Scholars for advice. Actually, allow me to rephrase that. I was desperate for ideas because my speech had to be submitted the next day, so I spammed our group chat. Anyways, here’s what they had to say. Keep in mind these are supposedly the brightest minds in the state.

“Just say ‘peace out y’all’ and sit down.” Too late for that. Someone suggested to “spill everyone’s tea.” I’ve been informed that it means to reveal everyone’s secrets. And lastly, “chug a bottle of apple cider and shout ‘Feel the Burn 2020!’” I’m not even going to pretend like I considered that one.

So, I’m back at square one, and when I reflected on our high school experience and the struggles we have all shared, I found the message I need you all to hear. High school has emphasized the importance of your grades, about presenting colleges this nice three-course meal of grades, test scores and, if they like dessert, extracurricular activities. Our teachers constantly encourage us to avoid this perspective that your grade is a measure of your success, but societal pressures always seem to prevail. It emphasizes grades so much that we pull all-nighters to study for a test or outright skip school to avoid taking the test. It promotes the idea that your grades are a measure of your worth.


Your high school transcript only tells 10 percent of your story, if that. It doesn’t mention that while you were in school you were working two jobs and trying to support your family financially. It doesn’t mention that you have hundreds of volunteer hours at food banks, local churches or rescue shelters. It doesn’t mention that you’re an amazing, kindhearted person with a contagious smile – Dauvian I’m looking at you! Those kinds of things define who you are, your character, not a test score and not a column of letters on a page.

It’s a grim reality that society values that test score and column of letters more than those things. I think the system of awarding scholarships based exclusively on GPA, SAT scores and ACT scores is flawed, but colleges nationwide promote this. Even when such a system tells you otherwise, I urge you all to remember that your grades are not your labels.

I’m valedictorian and I don’t know how to drive, I’m so bad at cooking I’ll burn water, and I wrote this speech at midnight the day after I was supposed to submit it. If grades were an absolute indicator of success and potential, none of that should be true!

I know this advice might come across as condescending coming from the valedictorian, Flinn Scholar, etc., and I don’t want it to. If you feel that way, that means my message hasn’t reached you yet. At the end of the day, I’m someone who enjoys the company of his friends, someone who wants a well-paid and fulfilling job, but doesn’t have the clearest idea of how to obtain that; someone who wants happiness, someone who gets absolutely stressed out over testing and public events such as tonight. I just happen to do well in a classroom setting, and if you don’t, there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you put forth your best effort.

I’m not here to devalue the concept of grades. If good grades and a college education are what you need to be successful, then absolutely go for it. I encourage you to do so. That being said, that can’t show every amazing quality you have. To those of us who are not college-bound, I’m sure we envy that you have a plan for life that doesn’t involve another four years of this, but now with massive student loan debt. To those of us that are college-bound, take what I said to heart, and remember, C’s get degrees! I mean, you are not defined by your grades.

Congratulations Class of 2019! I wish you all the best in your endeavors.

This address appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

Jonathan Pulver had a close call but worked hard to graduate with his classmates. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Sprinkled among the hundreds of Maricopa High School students who graduated May 23 were those who completed their coursework through the school’s Ram Academy.

This was the second full year for the credit-recovery program.

I worked and worked and worked.

“If it hadn’t been for Ram Academy, my son wouldn’t have graduated,” Ray Pulver said.

Students have various reasons for falling behind on their school credits. For Jonathan Pulver, 17, it was a matter of transfer. He had attended district and charter schools growing up and spent his freshman year and half of his sophomore year in homeschool. He enrolled in MHS mid-year, but the homeschool credits did not transfer.

His grade point average had been 3.5 as a sophomore and 3.0 as a junior, but his credits still trailed.

After his junior year, it became clear he was 13.5 credits behind his classmates, the equivalent of a year and a half, which seemed almost insurmountable at the time. When other options failed, his best chance of graduating with his friends appeared to be Ram Academy.

“I was not happy to be there,” Jonathan Pulver said. “Then I realized I could get through classes pretty quickly. I finished my first class in two weeks.”

“Jonathan completed not only his senior year at Ram Academy but also made up his freshman and sophomore year credits all in one year,” Ray Pulver said.

An Eagle scout who is the oldest of five Pulver children, he completed 24 classes through Ram Academy and three more through Brigham Young University Independent Studies. Without the BYU classes, he still would have been short of credits. He said he completed his final course the day before graduation.

It took a combined effort of teachers and parents to keep him motivated.

“I worked and worked and worked,” Jonathan said. “The teachers were great. They would tell me, ‘You can do it,’ and ‘Nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.’”

A typical day was spending 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. working on online classes at home and 2-8 p.m. on campus. When he lost focus and discipline, teachers and Assistant Principal Steve Ybarra were there to clamp down.

“I have great teachers at the Ram Academy who are seasoned, connect with students and care about them as individuals,” Ybarra said. “I have an assistant who treats the students as her own children, and we hold them accountable, we place them on contracts as needed but allow them to earn back any freedoms they have lost.”

Jonathan Pulver said there was some knowledge overlap from homeschool classes in biology and some math that aided his crusade. His mother Rachel helped at home, and his father helped with math classes after work.

Another chance to get on track is a motivating factor for many Ram Academy students.

“Some have left us, but many times they return to allow us to guide and help them get their high school diplomas,” Ybarra said.

Pulver found students got out of Ram Academy what they put into it.

“I like the teachers because if I respected them I would get respect back,” he said.

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said the credit-recovery program is part of MUSD’s options “offering multiple paths to graduation” for those struggling in traditional school settings.

“The flexibility of Ram Academy offers non-traditional learners the options and support they need to earn their diplomas,” Lopeman said. “It is truly a second chance at a bright future, and I’m thrilled with the program’s success.”

For Pulver, who turns 18 in July, that diploma put him right back on track with his future. The grandson of a dentist, he said he intends to study dentistry at BYU-Idaho after serving a mission for his church.

“We thank Ram Academy for making it possible,” his father said.


by -

Cast members of Maricopa High School’s production of Fiddler on the Roof performed “Tradition” from the musical on the ASU Gammage stage Saturday for the High School Musical Theatre Awards. MHS Theatre Company was among 26 troupes competing for prizes. It was the third straight year they have participated. Three performers – Antonio Gonzales, Douglas Moulton and Taryn Story – were Top 10 finalists in their individual categories, and MHS Tech Theatre was a finalist in sound design and set/prop design. The night was dominated by Mingus Union High School’s “Newsies,” a Broadway musical schedule to be performed next spring by MHS Theatre Company.

Photo by Jim Headley

Maricopa High School saw more than 400 seniors cross the stage Thursday as the Class of 2019 graduated in a ceremony at Ram Stadium. Superintendent Tracey Lopeman was the keynote speaker. The graduates also heard from Student Boy President and salutatorian Alexis Jackson and valedictorian Chandler Chang.

Photos by Victor Moreno and Jim Headley

by -
Front row from left: Cassidy Zimmerman, Victor Moreno, Arianna Garcia, Mandy Carroll, Chloe Zimmerman, Justine Sanchez Mora.  Back row from left: Savannah Jones, Rory Pack, teacher McKay Jones, Cannon Jones, Levi Watlington, James Egelston, Julie Molina Rodriguez, Leslie Marrufo, Sarmolue Siefa. 

Fourteen Maricopa High School students placed on the 2019 National German Exam.

Sophomore Rory Pack and freshman Cannon Jones earned gold medals, scoring in the top 10 percent. Freshman Leslie Marrufo earned a silver medal, and freshman Arianna Garcia earned a bronze. Honorable mentions went to juniors James Egelston, Savannah Jones, Levi Watlington, and Cassidy Zimmerman; and freshmen Mandy Carroll, Julie Molina Rodriguez, Victor Moreno, Justine Sanchez Mora, Sarmolue Siefa, Chloe Zimmerman.


“We had an outstanding group of freshmen this year, as you can see,” said German teacher McKay Jones. “Each year is different as far as the make-up of students taking the test around the country, and scores were a lot higher this year. This meant that at least seven other students were extremely close to earning honorable mentions, based on past years results. It also means that several of this year’s honorable mention winners would have won a medal in past years. It all depends on that year’s scores from among 25,000 students. They all did a fantastic job this year!”


Beginning with German 2, national gold medalists are eligible to apply for a summer trip to Germany, paid for by the German government. The application includes essays in German and in English. Selected applicants are interviewed by a committee of AATG (Association of American Teachers of German) members, and state committees send candidates to the AATG national committee. From this group of national finalists, 35 students are selected for the summer trips. Senior Skylar Nelson and sophomore Abigail Poland from MHS were both national finalists in 2019, and Abigail Poland was selected as a trip winner. She will attend school for a month in Aschaffenburg (near Frankfurt), and go on trips and outings to sites of historical and cultural significance. 


Photo by Victor Moreno

Saturday, Maricopa High School’s football program hosted its second annual Community Awareness Soap Scrimmage featuring next seasons varsity and junior varsity players. Admission was a new hygiene or toiletry item to benefit Maricopa’s new Family Advocacy Center.

by -

People show up in droves for the Maricopa High School graduation ceremonies, filling parking lots quickly around the campus.

This year, graduation is Thursday starting at 7:30 p.m. Gates open at 6 p.m. To avoid traffic and parking congestion, Maricopa Unified School District is offering a shuttle service from two of its schools to the football field.

Parking will be available at Butterfield Elementary, 43800 W. Honeycutt Road, and Saddleback Elementary, 18600 N. Porter Road, starting at 6 p.m. Parking signs will be posted. Shuttles are scheduled for every 20 minutes.

Among Maricopa high schoolers graduating this week are Nina Sarappo of Sequoia Pathway, Nancy Saldana of Maricopa High School, Britney Garcia-Coyolt of SPA and Nathan Wallin of MHS. Photo by Victor Moreno

The Class of 2019 at Maricopa High School and Sequoia Pathway Academy is filled with many goal-oriented, career-minded individuals. Learn about just a few of them as they prepare for graduation. 

Jonathan Aguilar. Photo by Victor Moreno

Jonathan Aguilar
An MHS senior, Aguilar has been a student-athlete and taken college-level classes to prepare for his next step. “My high school career has gone by so fast, and I have accomplished a lot.”
Years in Maricopa: 8
Originally from: Downey, California
Career goal: Civil engineering
Self-made advantage: I have taken dual-enrollment classes the past couple of years.
Work/internship/volunteerism: I work at The Duke golf course and I volunteer with Link Crew at Maricopa High School.
High school achievement: My greatest achievement would be having good grades throughout high school and playing varsity sports (golf and baseball).
After graduation: I plan on attending Arizona State’s Ira A. Fulton’s Engineering School and study civil engineering and minor in finance.

Chandler Chang. Photo by Victor Moreno

Chandler Chang
The MHS valedictorian has been out front leading the band and taking tough classes to set himself up for a full-ride scholarship. “It’s an ongoing sense of fulfillment, every moment of every day. I have a whole community supporting me and encouraging me to succeed and excel. It’s like the entire student body and staff is with me in my highest moments, and even my lowest moments. I have made a name for myself and have built a legacy that will endure. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Years in Maricopa: 14
Originally from: Elk Grove Village, Illinois
Career goal: Mathematics/chemical engineering
Work/internships/volunteerism: Drum major of MHS marching band, Junior States of America, National Honor Society, part-time employee at McDonald’s
Self-made advantage: I have received the Flinn Scholarship, which provides me with a four-year, full-ride scholarship to ASU as well as professional connections and mentorship. At MHS, I have taken the most rigorous mathematics and science courses available, earning college credit through AP courses.
High school achievement: Becoming a student role model for MHS
After graduation: I plan to attend ASU to major in mathematics and chemical engineering and explore various research opportunities and internships. While I will always be on the academic grind, I also want to take time to have fun, socialize and enjoy my youth while I still have it.

Brian Forkum Jr. Photo by Victor Moreno

Brian Forkum Jr.
A member of National Honor Society at MHS, Forkum has already been involved academically with Northern Arizona University while staying in touch with his roots.
Years in Maricopa: 12
Originally from: Born in Mesa, but I grew up here. I call this place home.
Career goal: Become tenured professor in history and philosophy
Self-made advantage: I attended college at NAU for three summers through the Nizhoni (Navajo for “Beautiful”) Academy. I also interact with teachers and try to understand how they chose their careers and why.
Work/internship/volunteerism: I was an intern for Dr. Cindy Browder at NAU. I volunteer a lot in Maricopa, especially as an NHS member.
High school achievement: Personal growth, from a quiet freshman to a comfortable and self-assured senior.
After graduation: Continue studying, explore the world, meet new people and help others when I can.

Britney Garcia-Coyolt. Photo by Victor Moreno

Britney Garcia-Coyolt
Valedictorian of the Sequoia Pathway Class of 2019, Britney has had a very busy high school experience including earning certification in Medical Office Management. “I remember completing my exam and anxiously waiting for my results to come in and as soon as I saw my results I was completely ecstatic and so proud because all the hard work that had paid off.”
Years in Maricopa: 17
Originally from: Maricopa
Career goal: Interventional radiologist
Work/internships/volunteerism: Two Internships at Sun Life Family Health Center
Self-made advantage: I currently attend Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology and I am in the Medical Assistant Program. CAVIT was a stepping stone to be able to get into the medical field and to be able to expand my knowledge. Thanks to that I have been able to complete two internships at the Sun Life Family Health Center here in Maricopa and I completely loved it. I am also currently dual-enrolled with CAC so that I can get ahead on some of my basic classes.
High school achievement: Personally, receiving my Medical Office Management Certification was the greatest accomplishment that I received during high school that I worked really hard for.
After graduation: I hope to be able to continue my education at ASU.

Alexis Jackson. Photo by Victor Moreno

Alexis Jackson
The salutatorian of the MHS graduates, Alexis has taken advantage of opportunities for medical training while staying involved in campus politics. “I am extremely blessed and thankful for the support from my friends and family who helped me obtain these achievements, I am eager to see what my career path and future hold.”
Years in Maricopa: 16
Originally from: Mesa, Arizona
Career goal: Nurse practitioner
Self-made advantage: While taking steps towards reaching my end goal of becoming a nurse practitioner, Maricopa High School has provided me with a Sports Medicine program and Athletic Training internship where I have gained insight into the medical field.
Work/internships/volunteerism: National Honor Society member, Student Body president, Student Council experience for nine years, athletic training internship, microbiologist (water quality) intern, ALA Girls’ State attendee, civil engineering job shadow
High school achievement: Earning the Wildcat Excellence scholarship that has paid all my tuition costs at the University of Arizona, as well as getting involved in my community through Student Council.
After graduation: I intend to major in nursing at the University of Arizona.

Brianna N. McVey. Photo by Victor Moreno

Brianna N. McVey
A relative newbie at MHS, Bree has interned with Maricopa Police Department to prepare for her chosen field and was also sent to Girls State. “I was proud to know that I was given such an amazing opportunity.”
Years in Maricopa: 2.5
Originally from: Born in California but lived in Peoria, Arizona.
Career goal: Work for the FBI or be a detective
Self-made advantage: Interning at Maricopa Police Department
Work/internships/volunteerism: I have worked with CopaCloset at MHS and local food banks, I am a captain in the JROTC program, a link leader and an MPD high school intern.
High school achievement: One of my biggest accomplishments is going to Girls State last summer.
After graduation: I am attending University of Arizona to study criminology.

Connor Paine. Photo by Victor Moreno

Connor Paine
With a goal of being a doctor, Connor is also an MHS student-athlete who wrestled his senior year and made it to state. “I was ecstatic because I had worked so hard for months to make it there and I had finally met that goal.”
Years in Maricopa: 7
Originally from: Champaign, Illinois
Career goal: Pediatrician
Self-made advantage: I have begun studying anatomy and physiology to gain a basic understanding of the human body before attending the University of Arizona, majoring in pre-physiology.
Work/internships/volunteerism: Two years at Barro’s Pizza as a cook and two years of volunteering through NHS for various community events
High school achievement: My greatest accomplishment in high school is qualifying for the AIA Division 2 State Wrestling Tournament my senior year.
After graduation: Attending the University of Arizona and majoring in pre-physiology. After college, I plan to attend medical school and become a pediatrician.

Nina Sarappo. Photo by Victor Moreno

Nina Sarappo
Sequoia Pathway’s salutatorian, Nina ingratiated herself with people working in political fields and took dual-enrollment classes starting as a freshman. “My reaction to finding out that I am salutatorian was rewarding myself by eating a whole box of Strawberry Pop-tarts.”
Years in Maricopa: 9
Originally from: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Career goal: Politics
Work/internships/volunteerism: I was treasurer for National Honor Society in 11th grade and our small group organized several volunteer and community-oriented activities. As a senior, I participated in the City of Maricopa internship program which granted me experience in local government.
Self-made advantage: Reading about political philosophy and history helped me shape my own beliefs about what needs to be changed in American government. Although certain ideas are subject to change or evolve, they certainly fuel my own passion to take a political career seriously. Throughout high school, I developed excellent connections with individuals involved in political predictions and reporting.
High school achievement: My greatest accomplishment in high school is graduating second in my class. I have been a dual-enrollment student with Central Arizona College since ninth grade, taking college classes along with high school curriculum and during the summers. Responsibilities and problems outside of the classroom did not hinder my dedication to education and schoolwork. Also, I was low-carb for three months: That was impressive.
After graduation: I will be attending Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University as a philosophy (morality, politics and law) major. I am eager to learn about the subjects that interest me at a higher level and refine my critical thinking and argumentative skills to prepare me for my career aspirations as a politician. Outside of school, I want to travel to Europe, specifically Albania, to reconnect with my heritage.

Nancy Saldana. Photo by Victor Moreno

Nancy Denise Saldana
Chairing the Youth Council, she pushed herself to be involved in school activities and the community at large. “It became my greatest accomplishment because ever since then every opportunity to be involved to serve, to show school spirit I took it and through that I gained close relationships with the community, staff and gained amazing friendships. It really gave me a reason to smile at school everyday.”
Years In Maricopa: I’ve lived in Maricopa for 7 years and love it
Originally from: Baja California, Mexico
Career Goal: My goal is to be happy in what I do everyday. I love being involved and talking to people so that’s why I’ve chosen to further my education in mass communications.
Work/internships/volunteerism: I’ve been a member of the Maricopa Youth City Council and Currently work as a respite and habilitation provider.
High school achievement: This last year I just made the decision to make it the best year it can be.
Self-made advantage: I’ve taken every opportunity around school or the city to use skills I would need in my future career such as promoting events, reaching out to others and have found local internships.
After Graduation: Straight out of high school I plan to serve a mission for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then attend a university to further my career in mass communications and media.

Kimberly Vega-Sanchez. Photo by Victor Moreno

Kimberly Vega-Sanchez
A member of the National Honor Society at MHS, Kimberly has turned her hard work in the classroom into scholarships. “It makes me proud to think that I’ve managed to work a busy schedule, get schoolwork done and volunteer in my free time while keeping my grades up.”
Years in Maricopa: 12 years
From: California
Career goal: Corporate lawyer
Work/internships/volunteerism: I’ve worked at Panda Express this past year and volunteer with the school’s National Honor Society.
High school achievement: Apart from the scholarships and awards, I would have to say my greatest accomplishment in high school has been having the ability to balance it all throughout these four years and seeing how my hard work has paid off.
After graduation: I’ll be attending ASU this fall to study at the W.P. Carey School of business. This will provide me the opportunity to receive internships, expand my connections, and learn the versatile fundamentals of business and legal expertise to help gain the knowledge needed to become a corporate lawyer.

Nathan Wallin. Photo by Victor Moreno

Nathan Wallin
As president of Junior State of America at MHS, Nathan became organizer and leader for community events, including political forums, for which he was awarded by the vice mayor. “I was so surprised to see myself up there with such amazing young leaders from our community but felt very gratified to be seen as a good member to our community and was able to tell people how thankful I was to be here and to listen to their stories and passions.”
Years in Maricopa: 8
Originally from: Spokane, Washington
Career goal: Traveling nurse
Work/internships/volunteering: I work at Copper Sky as a lifeguard and swim instructor.
Self-made advantage: I’ve done very good in high school in order to receive the top 10-percent scholarship for CAC, giving two free years of college, which is just enough to get me into nursing school.
High school achievement: Being one of the recipients of the first MLK Youth Dreamer Award presented to me by Henry Wade.
After graduation: I plan on expanding my knowledge of the world by meeting and talking to as many people as I can while attending CAC in the fall to purse a degree in nursing.

The MHS graduation ceremony is scheduled for May 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Ram Stadium. Valedictorian is Chandler Chang, and salutatorian is Alexis Jackson. The SPA ceremony is May 22 at 7 p.m. in its gymnasium. Valedictorian is Britney Garcia-Coyolt, and salutatorian is Nina Sarappo.

This article appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Bernadette Russoniello

Upcoming College and Career Ready Events at MHS
Dollars for Scholars Scholarship Bootcamp, May 28-29, 8 a.m.-noon at MHS Library
Standing out in the Admissions Process, June 4-5, 8 a.m.-noon at MHS Library
Events are appropriate for all high school students, grades 9-12. For more information, contact Bernadette Russoniello at brussoniello@musd20.org.

By Bernadette Russoniello

Bernadette Russoniello

Applying for scholarships could be a full-time job for high school students. Yet most students are unaware and unprepared for the work required.

Daily, I hear comments from students such as, “Miss, I spent like four hours working on applying, and I found nothing,” “It’s only a thousand dollars, it’s not worth the work” and “I wish I would’ve started sooner!”

Simply by earning all A’s and B’s, students manage to earn at least $27 for every hour they are in high school through university academic scholarships. Students need to invest time up front in building a scholarship application portfolio and a researched action plan to maximize their chances at earning monies.

What’s a scholarship portfolio? I encourage students to start a digital portfolio of all elements typically required for applications. At MHS, we use Google Apps for Education, so starting a folder in their Google Drive is the first step. Gather and develop basic elements required for most scholarships: three letters of recommendation, an updated resume, a list of awards and honors, personal statements including reflections on your career and college goals, a personal narrative describing yourself and an updated high school transcript.

Tips on letters of recommendation. Ask well before you need one. I have students asking regularly for letters the day before they are due. Ask in advance, and make sure to give a five- to 10-day window. After the first week, gentle reminders are appreciated to ensure you receive your letter on time. Additionally, providing your recommender your resume and personal narrative helps them include points about you they may not know. And most importantly, pick people who are strong writers and know you well – specific examples and personal anecdotes are what readers look for, not a regurgitation of the resume.

Standing out. Admissions and scholarship readers read literally hundreds, if not thousands, of applications. The applicant must stand out in the process, either through their voice, their story or their accomplishments. Accomplishments are the toughest; all students applying are in clubs, get great grades and serve as campus leaders. What do you do that makes you different?

Where to start? I’m a fan of Scholarships.com – but not the “Free Search” (unless you love spam and third-party emails). I show students how to use the “Directory” feature to search by category and due date. Students need to develop an action plan that allows them to list scholarships, links, application needs and due dates.


This column appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Graduation for the class of Maricopa High School Class of 2019 is set for May 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Ram Stadium. The valedictorian is Chandler Chang, and the salutatorian is Alexis Jackson.



MHS seniors not pictured:


Allen, JennaRae

Almanza, Nina

Anderson, Emily

Anguiano, Samantha

Antonio, Meladine

Arellano, Emily

Armenta Valenzuela, Joel

Beaumont, Shane

Benally, Dewayne

Cacpal, Alden

Carlyle, Mariah

Carrigan, Reilly

Castro Ramirez, Jose

Ceja, Gerardo

Chavis, Destinee

Diaz, Jorge

Downes, Keishaun

Dusenberry, Cheyenne

Edens, Julia

Enos, Elaina

Flores, Kayla

Forsyth-Ortiz, Shaylee

Fountaine, Arionna

Garcia, D’Andre

Garcia, Davin

Garcia, Doria

Garcia, Jalen

Garcia, Sean

Garcia, Serina

Gastelum, Jesus

Glover, Henry

Guerrero, Matthew

Guidry, Jada

Guillory, Camille

Guzman Bedoya, Luis

Hennigar, Paige

Hill, LeeAnthony

Huddleston, Jordan

Hughes, Nathaniel

Inscore, Tyler

Isaacs, Charles

Johnson, Jayla

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Jada

Jurado, Anthony

Justin, Earl

Kelly, Mackenzie

Keyack, Chloe

Khliu, Danny

Koenig, Christian

Lopez, Bethany

Luna Garcia, Karina

Maldonado, Elijah

Maldonado, Madison

Mariscal Torres, Edgar

Martinez, Albert

Mason, Sarah

Maxwell, Brendan

McAfee, Essence

McWilliams, Kassandra

Melendez, Cesario

Mendes-Castillejo, Anthony

Mullenix, Hunter

Muniz, Gabriel

Narcia, Aiyana

Narcia, Isaiah

Nieto, Alex

Ortega, Mario

Ortiz, Alberto

Partridge, Isaiah

Pearson, Stefon

Pepper, Averi

Perry, Bryce

Platero, Adela

Ramirez, David

Riley-Coleman, Tylen

Rios, Chelsea

Roberts, Fransico

Robinaugh, Warner

Rodriguez, Antonio

Ruiz, Angela

Salazar, Gabriel

Salter, Isaiah

Samayoa, Evan

Sanchez, Michael

Santana, Emily

Sauceda, Clarissa

Sauro, Seth

Schlueter, Broc

Serrano, Meyah

Sessler, Daylyn

Shaw, Ramia

Smith, Destry

Stanley, Chy’Anne

Swapshire, Angelica

Tapia, Brian

Thibault, Damon

Thomas, Dallas

Thomas Jr., Theodore

Tuggle, Maurtel

Tyler, Terrance

Vargas-Zavala, Lazaro

Vasquez, Xzavier

Vasquez Jimenez, Linda

Villegas, Leonardo

Viser, Zachary

Ward, Isiah

Williams, Aaron

Wright, Zhyia

Yarrito, Kye

Yarrito, Sensi