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Sequoia Pathway


Getting children back on school campuses is less fun than it sounds.

Self-regulation and stress-management are going to be really, really important this year.

The opening of the 2020-21 year looms for Maricopa Unified School District and charter schools, with most starting entirely online. With an unknown date for returning to in-person education, school leaders looked for a balance between best health practices and the wishes of families before presenting a plan to roll out the return. Another component is preparing students psychologically for a new experience.

As the Arizona Department of Education presented a “Roadmap for Reopening Schools,” it told schools that implementing direction from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable and tailored to the needs of each community.”

Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order keeps kids off campus until at least Aug. 17, and Arizona School Board members are pushing for a delay in the return to physical classrooms until October. MUSD board member Torri Anderson said she would like to keep children learning remotely until fall break, which is Oct. 5.

Heritage Academy has a July 22 all-online start date. MUSD starts July 30 online. A+ Charter Schools, which is debuting this year, starts Aug. 3 online. Sequoia Pathway will start Aug. 4. Legacy Traditional School starts Aug. 5 and is hosting a July 15 virtual town hall to explain the plan. Leading Edge plans to start school Aug. 17 in person but with an online option for families that prefer to stay at a distance.

MUSD surveyed parents to learn if and how families wanted children to return to campus. Some shared their ideas and concerns about reopening with InMaricopa, as well.

“Open the schools as normal, but with extra sanitation precautions,” Jesselee Evans Green said. “At my work, we stop every two hours to clean every surface that’s been touched. It only takes a couple of minutes. Kids can help with that by wiping their desks down at the end of the class. Extra hand washing stations around the schools as well …. My kids need to go back to a learning environment that they enjoy.”


District Nurse Lizabeth Stephens, R.N., created an infection-control plan for MUSD that is ready to go when the day comes. She and the Health Services Department will put together health tubs for each teacher.

“It contains some backup hand sanitizer and also some Lysol spray, the larger alcohol wipes that are also with virucide. I read the label; it works perfectly. And with gloves and masks,” Stephens said.

School nurses will also create a video for teachers about the items in their infection-control tub, explaining how and when to use them. Stephens said she does not want teachers to use certain items incorrectly.

They will explain the difference between disinfecting and cleaning, for example.

“I’m also going to put together a video for the kids on the first day about the importance of social distancing, keeping as far apart as possible under the circumstances,” she said. “Coughing and how important it is to keep their hands clean.”

To convey the basics to students of all ages, they will explain the concept of sterile technique, “Clean to clean; dirty to dirty.” That means if something is dirty and you touch it with your hand, your hand is now dirty and needs to be cleaned.

At Leading Edge, all students and staff will be temperature checked upon entry to school each day. Masks may be worn but are not mandatory. All classrooms will have hand sanitizer. Cleaning and disinfecting procedures will be intensified, and there will be training in health and safety protocols.

MUSD schools will establish entry points where health workers will take the temperature of each student that comes in. It’s not a diagnosis but it is a screening. Students who have a temperature of 100 or more are sent to the health office. Students with a temperature of 100.4 are sent home.

Students are expected to go to their classrooms immediately rather than milling in the hall and mixing with large groups before the first bell.

“We’re trying to cohort the classrooms as the group, however many kids there may be,” Stephens said.

For the elementary grades, that means, where feasible, schools will try to have art in their classroom and music in the classroom. They may even have breakfast and lunch in the classroom.

Principals and teachers will plan the recess times, which may not allow use of playground equipment. A cohort may be assigned a specific section of the play area for physical activity. And hand sanitizer will always be nearby.

But they are still dealing with very young children.

“All we can do is the best we can,” Stephens said. “We try to teach them to be safe. As long as they’re not hugging each other and slobbering all over each other, I don’t care if they hold hands.”

Health Services has had video meetings with custodial staff to go through the cleaning and disinfecting process. If more than one cohort uses a classroom, the room will be disinfected between each cohort. If only one cohort uses the room, it will be disinfected once or twice a week.

For all ages, the nurses are encouraging masks on the bus or from their drop-off point onto school grounds. If parents want their children to wear a mask in more settings, that can be accomplished up to a point.

“Children should not sit in a mask all day long in a room,” Stephens said. “It’s the rebreathing of the carbon monoxide. It’s not safe for anyone to wear a mask all day long.”

She said teachers would not wear masks while teaching unless they approach students to help with something. Afterward, both teacher and student are asked to clean their hands.

Middle school and high school, however, leaves Stephens at a loss, even with her many years of infection control. She has students wearing masks when they change classes. The schools may mark hallways to divide traffic moving in separate directions so students are not face to face.

To prevent congestion in the hallway, there may be monitors to move students along instead of stopping to chat. As they enter the classroom, they will be asked to clean their hands with school-provided hand sanitizer.

Meetings between Health Services and the principals were organized to get everyone’s ideas about how to put best health advice into practice. The Arizona Interscholastic Association’s COVID-19 guidelines are also a point of conversation.

There are procedures in place if a child who has been to school tests positive for COVID-19, especially determining who else has been exposed.


“Overwhelmingly, what I’m hearing is students just want to go back to school,” said Amber Liermann, Exceptional Student Services behavioral counselor and licensed professional counselor and clinical supervisor.

Many parents, too, want their kids in the classroom.

The counseling department at MUSD has had weekly meetings during the fourth quarter of last school year and all through the summer to prepare for a start to a new school year unlike any other.

“We want to make sure that we’re staying on top of the developments of what’s going on and making sure that we are prepared to support our students and our families for whatever happens and whatever options are offered,” Liermann said.

They have discussed validating each family’s and each student’s personal experience with COVID-19. Some families might have lost a loved one. Some might have financial impact while others were not as affected.

They will be coming back with different levels of socialization as well. When students do come back, reestablishing attachments, from elementary to high school students, has vital importance.

“It’s important to create routines as normal as possible so the students regain security,” Liermann said. “We would replace old rituals with new rituals. At the elementary schools, in particular, students want that hug from teachers. So, instead of a hug or a high five, they’ll have a tingle and a dance.”

The campuses have Positive Behavior Interventions & Support (PBIS) teams to help students make good decisions if they are feeling stressed. All schools also have Comfort Corners but will change how they are used to avoid sharing tools.

The teletherapy and video chats available last quarter will continue when appropriate.

“Self-regulation and stress-management are going to be really, really important this year,” Liermann said. “There are going to be fears and anxiety coming from students going to school. We will be teaching stress-management tools, help teachers know when to give breaks.”

Health Services asked to participate in administration training to talk about trauma informed care, crisis prevention and de-escalation strategies for a most unusual beginning of a new school year.

This story appears in part in the July issue of InMaricopa.

An Adopt-a-Senior page for upcoming high school graduates has spread joy around Maricopa.

The first week we created it, the support of this community was infectious.

With more than 600 graduating high school seniors living in Maricopa, the announcement that schools were closed for the year due to coronavirus and there would be no standard graduation ceremonies was stinging for the community.

Three women, all mothers of seniors attending Maricopa High School, wanted to make sure the teens weren’t “swept under the rug.” They started a Facebook page, “City of Maricopa Adopt a Senior 2020,” to give them a little extra support and love.

Jodi Levy launched the page April 21 after chatting with her friend Kasi Johnson. Christina Dryden, who met them on the MHS Parents page, came on board, and all three became administrators as the page quickly drew 635 members.

They opened it to all high school seniors in town, no matter what school they attended or if they were homeschooled. At least one of them is handling the page at all times, answering questions and watching for duplicate entries.

“These kids, this is their milestone,” Levy said. “They’ve worked so hard to get to that graduation day for this to be taken away. I mean, it’s nobody’s fault. It happens. They just need to be shown, ‘We understand what you’re going through; we’re here for you.'”

Parents or friends or the seniors themselves can post a photo and information about a senior to be adopted. Other community members can then look for names that are “not adopted” and claim them. That means private messaging the poster and finding out what is wanted or needed by the senior.

Surprises have included snacks, gift baskets, balloons, yard signs, gift cards and more.

“The parents post the pictures once they get their little surprise or whatever their adoptee has brought to them, and it just melts your heart to see what this page is doing for these kids who thought they lost everything,” Johnson said.

They have seen people who don’t have kids in school come on the page to adopt one or two, or more. They have seen friends adopting friends.

Levy said the circumstances hit some seniors harder than others and sometimes hit parents harder than the kids.

“Everyone, no matter what your story, we’re here for you,” she said. “We see what you’re going through. We’re so proud that you guys got to this moment and you’re just pushing through in this crazy, freaking time.”

The page has kept pace with the number of “adoptees,” and Johnson said they are trying to reach more seniors.

“I just sob. The first week we created it, the support of this community was infectious,” she said. “Everybody was jumping on board. Seniors were getting adopted multiple times. Some had two, three, four people that adopted them. Just to show them that they love them and see their reactions.”

Dryden said the situation is bigger than just being able to walk across a stage and get a diploma. Each senior has had their individual challenges and struggles and accomplishments to reach the graduation milestone. Some have serious medical conditions. Some have terrible family situations. Some have had serious academic struggles. Some are the only child in their family, and parents were left with a mountain of disappointment.

“Every kid’s got a story and a history to their journey,” Dryden said.

Levy said they want to have a big push on the page on graduation day, whatever form that takes, to show the seniors how much they are appreciated.

“We just wanted to lift spirits for these seniors,” Dryden said. “That’s what it amounts to.”

High school seniors across the country saw their final year implode as COVID-19 stripped away many of the spring events that normally put a big exclamation point on the achievement of graduation. But that hasn’t stopped these outstanding seniors from pursuing their goals. So far, they have earned over $7.7 million in scholarships. At Maricopa High School, 440 seniors have special honors and distinctions and 165 are senior award recipients.
MHS’s virtual Senior Awards Night video: https://youtu.be/UZ3wb1fKK7Y

Freya Abraham
Maricopa High School
The valedictorian of MHS Class of 2020 spent all her school years in Maricopa. Her career goal is to be a pediatric neurologist, working in healthcare advocacy and public policy. She has earned the highest GPA in MHS history and was named the mathematics and AP Student of the Year. She also earned the most local, state and national honors in school history.
How are you achieving your career goal? Attending University of Arizona as a Baird Scholar, attend best possible medical school for neurology. I participated in Banner Health volunteer, T-Gen Bioscience Leadership Program, Maricopa STEM club, job shadow medical professionals, Project Puente Microbiology intern [anticipated], many hours spent researching and applying, JSA director of expansion (policy exposure) and DECA (marketing and presentation skills).
Greatest achievement: National and state scholarships and awards including National Merit finalist, Presidential Scholar candidate, Coca-Cola semi-finalist, Flinn semifinalist. Winning second place in the world for Business Marketing Services at DECA’s 2018 International Career Development Conference, being on the international stage and making friends from across the country.
COVID-19: I’m not frustrated with anyone or anything in particular, except maybe for myself for paying for things too far in advance. It’s hard to believe in the intensity of my losses when I see death counts rising and the struggles of healthcare workers worldwide. I feel blessed to have the option to stay home with my family and be safe; I didn’t realize that was a privilege before.

Riley Bell
Maricopa High School
A Maricopa native, Riley is a noted dancer who performed with the MHS dance and theater troupes this year. She received an Academic Excellence award. She plans to become a hospital pharmacist.
How are you achieving your career goal? I plan to attend CAC to finish my general studies, then transfer to U of A. From there I plan to do pharmacy school.
Greatest achievement: Assuming the role of president of MHS’s dance company and choreographing countless dance pieces throughout my high school career. My favorite memories from high school are a collection of the hours and hours of rehearsing for recital with my dance family.
COVID-19: With the cancellation of the remainder of our senior year, I regret not taking advantage of the time I had left; I wish I would have cherished it more. The biggest sting is not having a “senior-spring recital.” I have been preparing myself for years for my last time on stage and I was not ready to say goodbye.

Cassandra Bonah
Maricopa High School
A Maricopa native, Cassandra participated in student council and plans to be a general physician for low-income and marginalized communities and eventually run for public office to encourage healthcare reform.
How are you achieving your career goal? Obtain a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences and a minor in law and society at NAU to eventually attend medical school. I currently take AP and Honors courses to prepare myself for the rigor and intensity of university and medical school. I also spend my time volunteering to help low-income communities through church.
Greatest accomplishment: Being awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Dream award. It felt nice to be recognized in the name of someone I respect and admire so much. My favorite memory has been Mr. MHS. I was a part of the student council committee for it and seeing it all come together was just amazing.
COVID-19: It was difficult at first to come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my senior prom or walk the stage at graduation due to COVID-19. However, it’s nice to see the Class of 2020 in MUSD, as well as all over Arizona, recognizing one another and supporting each other through this. It’s comforting to know that we’re all in this together.

Brielle Duff
Sequoia Pathway
Brielle has lived in Maricopa less than a year after moving from Kentucky. She is graduating from Pathway as salutatorian of the Class of 2020. She is pursuing a career in music.
How are you achieving your career goal? I have been accepted into Western Kentucky University’s music program, which I will be attending in the fall, and I am dedicating myself to my music.

Greatest achievement: Overcoming the obstacles in my life that held me back from my potential. It felt freeing and satisfying. If I had stayed in that situation, I would still be trapped in my own belief that I couldn’t achieve anything worthwhile with my life. Now I am on my way to making an impact.
COVID-19: It has hindered me from getting the benefits of classroom learning, but it has allowed me more time to spend with family and work on my career interest. While losing educational hours is a loss, the virtual learning has allowed me to work on my own schedule and increase my self-discipline.

Roberto Esqueda Quintana
Maricopa High School
Originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, Roberto has lived in Maricopa 11 years and played four seasons of MHS football. His career goal is to help preserve buildings for centuries to come.
How are you achieving your career goal? I have applied for many scholarships and have started diving deep into the field and what I will have to learn in college. Attend ASU and get my degree in architecture.
Greatest achievement: Being able to succeed in Honors and AP classes while being a multi-sport varsity athlete and having many
hours of community service throughout my high school career.
COVID-19: It is quite sad; a lot of things were taken from me, but I have no doubt in my mind that we will pull through and find a way to please everyone.

Yasmeen Hanania
Maricopa High School
Yasmeen has spent all her school years in Maricopa, moving with her family from California when she was 4. She plans to attend ASU W.P. Carey School of Business to be an entrepreneur and study political science to enter government.
How are you achieving your career goal? I have interned with City Hall before and have campaigned for my State Officer position with Arizona DECA. I also am taking marketing and have participated and helped run Market Day at Maricopa High School and have presented my business idea to entrepreneurs to get advice and connections to start my business.
Greatest achievement: Becoming a state officer for Arizona DECA, representing District 9 and being able to be a part of an organization that has helped shape me and has prepared me for my future and being able to give back to my members and hold conferences and events for them. Also qualifying for ICDC the last two years and getting glass at State.
COVID-19: We have worked so hard and accomplished so much and the fact that all the rewards we get for our accomplishments that other graduates were able to get have been taken away by a disease is extremely devastating, but I understand that it is for our safety and that the Class of 2020 is still going to be the best graduating class.

Angello Hernandez de la Peña
Maricopa High School
Gianni discovered computer programming in middle school and now has set his sights on becoming a software engineer at a large company. What he’ll be doing, he said, depends on whether he goes to graduate school. He was named MHS science Student of the Year and was admitted to Harvard College.
How are you achieving your career goal? I will study computer science at Harvard and possibly pursue Artificial Intelligence for graduate school, depending on my interest by that time. I also plan to minor in history or political science. I have already learned to program in Python, C++ and Java. 
Greatest achievement: Being accepted to Harvard. Other than that, I would say my greatest accomplishment has been my acceptance to and participation in the SAMS summer program at Carnegie Mellon last year. The program helped me immensely through the college application process and made me even more excited to pursue computer science in college.
COVID-19: School shutting down has made it difficult to stay motivated about my classes. Being stuck inside all day without any in-person contact with my friends takes a toll after a while. I’m also disappointed I won’t be able to see my friends speak at graduation or walk on stage. However, I understand this is all being done to protect the safety of ourselves and others. I hope the situation clears in time for the next school year to begin and our city is not hit heavily by the pandemic.

Haley Lemon
Maricopa High School
A 12-year student in Maricopa, Haley has had a diverse high school experience and has diverse plans for her future. She was named the drama and theatre arts Student of the Year and is the salutatorian of MHS Class of 2020.
How are you achieving your career goal? I am going to NAU in the fall and the plan is to begin with an associate degree studying in the fields of English, studio art and/or forestry. I will then serve a mission with my church and return to school to complete my bachelor’s and go from there. I am a person who feels obligated to constantly be working on myself. I work hard to do my best morally, academically and creatively in all areas of my life, and I hope that effort is enough to give me the opportunities of growth and experience I would like to have in life.
Greatest achievement: I was amazingly lucky to be able to be both the president of the internationally recognized MHS Theatre Company and the salutatorian of the Class of 2020. I consider both of these opportunities in such high regard I cannot pick which one is greater.
COVID-19: I think it has made me realize something very important about how I should treat the rest of my life. When I first realized my senior year had basically ended, I wrestled a lot with the knowledge that the show I was waiting months to direct was cancelled, that I would get no chance to give a speech to thousands of people like I had dreamed of, that I wouldn’t get the senior week I was so excited for and that no one else in my class would either. I realized the titles were pointless, but the effort I put into them and the growth I received from them wasn’t. I did what I could, and though the physical rewards I don’t get to experience, I do get to go into the rest of my life knowing I have the capacity to always try my best and be personally successful just for my own peace of mind.

Juan Marquez
Maricopa High School
A native Californian, Juan and his family moved to Maricopa in 2019, and he found a way to excel in a new school for his senior year. He plans to attend Grand Canyon University while working for Proof Pest Control.
How are you achieving your career goal? My career goal is to find something that makes me happy, so I don’t work a day in my life. I am practicing yoga, reading books on interesting topics, and searching for my heart’s desires.
Greatest achievement: Becoming Mr. MHS, joining the wrestling team and being able to start at a new place and still do good. My favorite memory from high school is the interaction between students and all the smiles and laughs that took place.
COVID-19: It hasn’t stopped me. I’m still having a blast. There is always a good side and bad side. It matters what you look at and become.

Leah Peterson
Sequoia Pathway
A native Maricopan, Leah is the valedictorian of her class at Pathway. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which inspired her to set her career goal toward being a nurse.
How are you achieving your career goal? When I was diagnosed, I spent some time in the ICU and it gave me insight and made me feel very thankful for the nurses who watched and took care of me as well as reassuring me in a hard time. I hope to be this way to someone else in the future. The steps I am taking to reach this is going to a university. I have been accepted into Grand Canyon University and will start classes that will prepare me for being a nurse. I was also accepted into their Honors College which will provide me many opportunities as well.
Greatest achievement: Becoming valedictorian of my graduating class. School has never been easy for me, and I have had to work really hard to get to where I am. My advice for others would be no matter what your goals are just try your best and work hard at it. You won’t be disappointed by the results.
COVID-19: It has affected my senior year tremendously. It’s sad that I may not see my classmates again and may not have a prom or graduation or be able to have the same experiences as other senior classes before me. I hope I will be able to have a graduation when things get back to normal. 

Elijah Quinto
Maricopa High School
A standout on the color guard auxiliary for his school’s marching band, Elijah came to Maricopa five years ago. He plans to teach high school science and wants to be part of a professional-level color guard. He was named one of just six Winterguard Arizona scholarship recipients.
How are you achieving your career goal? Finishing high school and starting CAC classes in fall of 2020.
Greatest achievement: Being promoted at work to become a shift lead at Dutch Bros. My favorite memory of high school would be all the times during band and band competitions. I think getting a caption in our auxiliary section was my favorite part.
COVID-19: I unfortunately let go of high school after we learned our winterguard season would be cut short due to COVID-19, therefore I lost hope in all aspects of life in terms of finishing the last year of my formal education. I know, however, that I will still strive for my own education in the future and if that means online school, then we must change our norm.

Alex-Ann Velasco
Maricopa High School
A self-described Army brat, Alex-Ann came to Maricopa her sophomore year. With a wide array of talents exhibited at MHS, she plans to hone her studies to become an obstetrician.
How are you achieving your career goal? Studying biomedical science in the Honors College at Northern Arizona University. I will use my biomedical science degree to meet all my prerequisite requirements for medical school.

Greatest achievement: My costume designs competing at the Central Arizona Festival of Theatre and qualifying to compete at the International Thespian Festival. Also, reading “The Flea” by John Donne in my sophomore honors English class or getting on the roof for the first time as the Fiddler in last year’s production of Fiddler on the Roof.
COVID-19: Events like graduation, senior awards night, cap decorating, prom and even dress shopping were things I looked forward to for years. I understand it is better to take extra precautions for our safety than to risk anyone getting seriously sick or worse. But it is still a bummer to check your phone after a shower to see more has been canceled in what seems to be the blink of an eye. We worked hard for years to earn all the fun senior activities that we no longer get.

This story appears in part in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Adapting for COVID-19 may have long reach

Maricopa teachers (from left) Maria Pour, Ellen Zoretic and Paul Krigbaum are among hundreds teaching from home during COVID-19.

“This is a crazy time, and I don’t think any of us expected to ever be teaching like this.”

The things that our kids are concerned about go from funny to heartbreaking.

Stephanie Arturet is one of hundreds of Maricopa teachers who made a dramatic shift to educating their students online for the last two months of the school year to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. A third-grade teacher at Santa Cruz Elementary School, she is also helping her own children with their online classes at home.

“It’s not easy, especially while I’m doing school with my own two kids, both of whom are MUSD students,” she said. “But we want the best for our students and are figuring it out as we go.”

Shannon Hull, who teaches Blended Learning at Desert Wind Middle School, said the toughest impact of not returning to school was the lack of closure and not getting to say goodbye to students and staff.

“When teachers found out we were closing the doors for the rest of the school year, the first thought was not about math or English or science; it was all about the end-of-year field trips, the graduations, the promotions, prom, senior nights for baseball, softball and track, etc. – all these life events that our seniors will now miss. All of the end-of-year activities we all plan for our students are now gone.”

Instead, everyone had to find a way to stay connected and keep teaching. Everyone went virtual.

Posting videos on Google Classroom and communicating with students and parents via ClassDojo are the new normal. Maricopa Unified School District purchased workbooks for all students in math and English with a schedule for completion by the end of May. After a Santa Cruz staff meeting to clarify the dos and don’ts, Arturet created a calendar and activities.

“I also want to post some videos about content we would be covering now, math especially, and assigning some practice activities, games and challenges to put those skills to use,” Arturet said. “I’ve posted a multiplication fact game through Kahoot.com for students to compete in and plan to do this a couple times a week. It’s an activity we use in class a lot, and they love the competition aspect.”

Some classes demand a little more tactile activity, such as cooking, physical education, art and music.

When I open my email now, it is from a student, and they are sharing their cooking pictures with me. So awesome.

For Sequoia Pathway students, culinary coach David Smith basically hosts his own cooking show. The class preps for a new recipe during the week, seeing a video on the dish and reading an explanation of the recipe and ingredients.

Then Thursday is cooking day, or, as Smith puts on his lesson calendar, COOKING DAY! That is when he posts his full cooking video so students can watch before they start cooking at home.

“I like to make my cooking videos fun and engaging so they will hopefully be inspired to cook something during this time,” Smith said. “So far, the students are responding very well. When I open my email now, it is from a student, and they are sharing their cooking pictures with me. So awesome.”

Paul Krigbaum, who teaches PE at Maricopa Elementary School, said reaching students is the biggest challenge. He also uses ClassDojo.

“I could make a calendar, but how do I know they’re actually doing that?” he said.

So, he created 5-7-minute videos every day of workouts the students (and their parents) can do at home, knowing most will not have the same equipment at the house that they would have at school. He posts them on his “Get Fit with Coach K” Facebook page, and parents respond by posting photos or videos of their children working out.

A Tobata workout will have throwing and tossing. Kids have created their own exercise course with sidewalk chalk. Krigbaum has created a ball from duct tape for a game of hamper ball. He’s been happy to see 110-200 views a day. His exercise challenges have prizes of jump ropes and Gatorade.

He sees ways to incorporate what he is doing temporarily into his regular lesson plans when “normal” school begins again.

Pima Butte PE teacher Jesus Leyva also set up his students with a program and videos.

“I’ve created a Google Classroom where I post weekly skills that students will be working on for that week,” he said. “I have also created YouTube videos to accompany the skills being taught for the week. This provides the students an opportunity to see me give instruction on their iPad, tablet, laptop or electronic device that they are accessing their lessons with. The students post their comments and share their thoughts on the Google Classroom page.”

Hopefully, that leads to more independent musicianship for students and more at-home practice, which is a top goal for any music educator.

Music teacher Ivan Pour also sees a future for elements of the distance-learning curriculum beyond the pandemic.

“I’ve been wanting kids to use SmartMusic more and this is an opportunity to get more kids connected and comfortable on the system,” said Pour, who chairs the Fine Arts Department at Maricopa High School. “I’m also learning a lot about making videos and live online events. Since I’m more comfortable with it, when we get back, I will probably have a more robust selection of online resources for them to use at home than before. Hopefully, that leads to more independent musicianship for students and more at-home practice, which is a top goal for any music educator.”

SmartMusic, which has made its entire catalogue free, is an online practice platform Pour calls “a very cool practice resource.” Band students are expected to use their time working on their individual playing. They have two assignment each week, one a playing assignment and one “virtual concert attendance” using streaming platforms to watch symphonies, bands, opera, etc. Pour encourages them to listen to music they normally don’t hear or play.

Pima Butte Elementary art teacher Ellen Zoretic uses Google Classroom, ClassDojo, email and phone calls to stay connected to her families.

“In my Google Classroom I post videos I’ve recorded of myself teaching the students art lessons as well as reading them art books,” Zoretic said. “I have an extra activity section where I have uploaded links to art games online, printable coloring pages, virtual museum tours and other ideas to keep busy and be creative.”

One of those ideas was creating a color-wheel challenge. Students had to find household items of every color of the rainbow and put them in a circle in their categorized color ranges. “They loved that project!”

She found another way to keep students engaged by reading Diane Alber’s “I’m Not Just a Scribble” while her bird sat on her shoulder as a special guest. She maintains Facebook and Instagram accounts to connect and show student artwork.

“One thing that I think is interesting is that our Blended Learning students at both middle schools are at a distinct advantage with the new online learning that is now happening across the nation and world,” Hull said. “Our students already received their schoolwork online, so this doesn’t change. Our students are also already used to doing research on their own and not needing that direct instruction that most teachers do on a daily basis.”

What’s changed is Hull is teaching her Blended Learning students from her computer table at home instead of in a classroom. She’s making WeVideo math content to post on Google Classroom. In language arts, weekly assignments include blogs or vlogs, where students can express themselves in a safe environment.

“And the things that our kids are concerned about go from funny to heartbreaking,” she said. “Most are concerned about food in the house, parent’s jobs, taking care of siblings, worrying about grandparents’ health. But the biggest thing our students talk about is not seeing friends and teachers and wondering if we will see each other at all before school starts next year.”

At Maricopa Wells Middle School, seventh and eighth grade history teacher Shelby Rostas keeps her students engaged with daily tasks using Google Classroom.

  • Multi-media Mondays
    “I will post a video for you to watch and respond to, a movie that I suggest you watch (if you can find it on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Youtube), a short video called “This Week in History” as well as the CNN10 for the day.”
  • Time Travel Tuesdays
    “I will post a short reading comprehension article on topics that cover the basics of American History with a few questions to answer, a virtual field trip for you to explore and comment on, and the CNN10 link for the day.”
  • Wacky Wednesday Writing
    “I will post a journal prompt for you to respond to as well as the CNN10 link.”
  • Thankful for Thinkers Thursday
    “I will post a short biography on someone from history with questions for you to answer, and the CNN10 link for the day.”
  • Fun Fact Friday
    “I will post a fun fact and ask you to do some independent research to discover the 5W’s & H on each topic (Who did it impact, What is important about it, Where was it created or happening, When it was created or happening, Why it matters now, and How it has impacted society), as well as the CNN10 link for the day.”

Graphic design teacher Maria Pour said she wants her MHS students to feel they are at least connected with her. It’s been a learning experience for her, too, as she created her own YouTube channel, showing students her home studio and posting enrichment lessons.

“Throughout our entire school year, we’ve used Google Classroom to submit student work, so that has continued as usual and offered the students some stability when it comes to Graphic Art & Design,” she said.

Through the school’s main software vendor and in-house information-technology expert, students were set up with the Adobe Creative Suite at home. Maria Pour said that gave her graphic designers a creative outlet and opportunity to master technical skills.

“I’ve done a Livestream for my students, which felt awkward for me until my students began submitting comments, feedback and jokes through my e-mail,” she said. “It was a wonderful way for me to feel connected to them again.”

I make sure and leave a personal note for them, to let them know I appreciate their work.

Enna Post is the K-5 technology teacher at Saddleback Elementary. She normally would see students twice a week 30 minutes at a time.

“Now with the Distant Learning method, I’m reviewing their computer skills, combining files and video tutorials,” she said. “When students finish and turn in their work, I can see it in Google Classroom. I make sure and leave a personal note for them, to let them know I appreciate their work.”

The program allows her to explain and show the students basic skills like copy/paste and text editing. They can hear her voice and follow along as she moves objects or creates graphics.

Hull said the technology aspect of Blended Learning may get new attention when this vast experiment is over.

“I think now more people will look to our Blended Learning model of how to better integrate online and in-person teaching for the new world we live in.”

Old-fashioned communication still has a place, too. Arturet said she is continuing to connect with kids the way she always has, even by “snail mail.”

“I’ve mailed all of my class postcards and plan to do that every two weeks or so,” she said. “It’s something I do during the year sometimes, and they’re always super excited to get their own mail.”

More than anything, teachers want to see their kids in person again.

“All this is keeping us moving in a bad situation,” Ivan Pour said. “Nothing is the same as in-person ensemble rehearsal. It’s not the same. I can’t wait to run a full rehearsal with my students again. I miss them.”

This story appears, in part, in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Butterfield Elementary teachers posted notes outside the school where children picking up daily meals can read how much they are missed.

To continue to grow our local coverage of COVID-19’s impact on Maricopa in the difficult weeks to come while continuing our day-to-day newsgathering, we are partnering with the Local Media Association’s foundation to ask our readers to help with a tax-deductible donation at GiveButter.com/inmaricopa.

Legacy Traditional School staff distribute supplies Monday morning: Josi Apernethy, Elvira Figueroa, Fanta Vasquez, Becky Durovka and Susan Chacon. Photo by Kyle Norby

After a semester and part of a quarter, the school year is over for physical campuses, and many questions remain.

State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman and Gov. Doug Ducey announced the extended closure of all public schools through the remainder of the school year in an effort to slow the spread of a novel coronavirus. All school curricular activities were shut down as well. No banquets, no award presentations, no prom night.

“This decision was made in the best interest of the health of our students, teachers and their families to do our part in flattening the curve of the spread of COVID-19,” Hoffman said. “This was not an easy decision, nor one that we have taken lightly.”

School staff will have full pay through the end of the school closures.

“We know our students and staff look forward to the excitement that the end of the school year brings, and this is not the outcome we wanted,” said Tracey Lopeman, superintendent of Maricopa Unified School District. “However, the health and safety of our students and staff members is our first priority.”

As the announcement was being made, MUSD was beginning to prepare teachers for the distance-learning program it put in place this week for students to learn remotely. Originally it was to be activated through April 10 but is now the education program for district schools through the end of the year.

Lopeman said the ramifications of closing schools for the rest of the semester are complex. Prom had already been canceled, and graduating seniors do not yet know what will happen for graduation. Sports season and championships were also canceled, frustrating the final high school seasons of many.

Hoffman said the state board will meet Tuesday to discuss graduation requirements, A-F grades and remote-learning documentation.

“I think it’s a safe decision,” said Amy Sundeen, assistant principal at Leading Edge Academy. “To put 800 kids in one location definitely increases the risk of them catching the coronavirus. We are taking every step possible to ensure that our kids can receive the best education from now through the end of the year.”

Leading Edge Academy began handing out laptop computers last week. Photo by Kyle Norby

Leading Edge Principal Mat Reese said his K-8 charter school handed out 200 laptop computers last week. There was a 50% response from parents on Friday alone, with more showing up afterward.

“We are still looking at how we will do grades and promotions,” Reese said. “I am proud that our staff have really stepped up their game. Students are getting excellent classroom instruction through Google Classroom.”

Maricopa Unified School District distributes meals at its campuses. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Sequoia Pathway started handing out supplies last week in a curbside distribution. MUSD schools also began handing out meals to their students, with each student 18 and younger receiving breakfast and lunch. Legacy Traditional School had three distribution tables set up Monday morning for families to pick up lesson plans, school supplies and paper products such as, yes, toilet paper.

Teacher Grant Hanks, who teaches at both Maricopa High School and Central Arizona College, called it “a strange few weeks” as everyone gets up to speed.

“For MUSD, we are using Google Classrooms with our students. Luckily I was using this from the start of the school year,” Hanks said. “I post copies of the PowerPoints notes and assignments so that students are aware of what they need to do. During the latest textbook adoption, we also decided on a Pearson, which gives us access to online materials as well.”

Hanks uses MyLab Math in pre-calculus, letting high school students see how math classes will be in college.

“So I plan to continue to use Google Classroom to share notes and links to videos so that students can learn the material,” he said. “They will do their assignments on Pearson’s Mylab Math. All high school teachers will be offering virtual office hours for students that would like some help. I’m not sure exactly what that looks like at this time. For the students that can’t access the Internet, we are providing them hard copies of the assignments.”

Hanks’ wife teaches third grade at Sequoia Pathway, and he has helped her set up her distance-learning class, despite the fact technology is not her superpower.

“She now feels better using Google Classroom, can use Zoom, and Microsoft Teams,” he said. “So it’s been a successful couple of weeks. It’s been a learning experience for both of us.”

Each school is counting on parents to hold students accountable for their lesson plans, whether online or in hardcopy. But the schools are also waiting for answers to questions to come from the state education department.

“We are committed to communicating with staff and families regularly as information becomes available,” Lopeman said.

Multimedia journalist Kyle Norby contributed to this report.

Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman announced Sunday the closures of all public schools in the state through March 27 as a safety measure against COVID-19.


“The health and safety of all our students is our top priority,” Ducey said in the video announcement.

Hoffman said the state had heard concerns from many school administrators about staffing and possible absences.

Maricopa Unified School already had a planned two-week Spring Break during the time of the statewide closure, as did Heritage Academy. Sequoia Pathway Academy is in the middle of a two-week break.

Leading Edge Academy earlier announced a network-wide extension of Spring Break through March 23, but that will now extend through March 27. Legacy Traditional School had announced an extended Spring Break through March 20 at three campuses, which is also altered by the state decision. The LTS network had already canceled gatherings such as field trips through April 10.

“Legacy will be providing meals for in-need students during this extended break,” the charter school announced to its members. “Breakfast and lunch will be served in grab-and-go bags and will be available for pick-up from 8 to 9 a.m. for breakfast and from 12 to 1 p.m. for lunch.”

The state, too, is working to keep boxed meals available for students during the time schools are closed. It would be an early start to the summer food service program through USDA.

The state announcement included an effort to provide childcare options that may be announced later. Families are discouraged from leaving children in the care of elderly adults, a group who appear to be the most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

“We are asking schools to please adhere to the following measures during this period of closure:
* School administrators should make every effort to provide continued education learning opportunities through online resources or materials that can be sent home.
* School administrators should develop a plan to continue breakfast and lunch services for Arizona students.
* As demand rises on healthcare professionals and first responders, schools should expand child care programs currently available to ensure minimal disruption to these critical jobs as a result of the school closure.
* When school resumes, school administrators should develop and implement precautions to ensure schools are a safe learning environment, including social distancing measures, regular intervals for administrators to wash and sanitize their hands, and guidance on how to properly and frequently sanitize election equipment and common surfaces.”


Sequoia Pathway girls' basketball team won the CAA D3 title. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

With clutch play from senior Che’Leez Smith-Ralph, Sequoia Pathway fended off East Valley Athletes for Christ to win the Canyon Athletic Association’s Division 3 girls’ basketball state championship Tuesday.

The win capped off an undefeated season, but it didn’t come easy.

EVAC ran off with an 11-0 lead before the Pathway sorted itself out and caught up. The teams battled for the lead throughout the game. EVAC pulled ahead in the fourth quarter, but Pathway tied it at 40-40 with just 1:11 left and went on to win 46-43.

Head coach Dee Estrada said her team came out “really, really nervous,” and she had to remind them it was going to be the last time they played together as a group.

“We did not work this hard this entire season to get this far to shut down now,” she said. “I said, ‘I don’t care if we win or lose at this point. I want you to go out there and show them what Puma basketball is all about.’”

Smith-Ralph became a steady force under the basket to allow Pathway to get back into the game. Senior Aleina Estrada started hitting shots as well and guided the team with a calm hand. Dee Estrada called Aleina Estrada the team strategy for her leadership and shot-making.

Free throws by Aleina and eighth-grader Iniko Burton down the stretch moved Pathway out of reach of EVAC.

Aleina, the team captain who has been on the varsity team since fifth grade (as allowed by CAA), said she didn’t really feel pressure when the team was down.

“Doing the pick-and-roll with Che’Leez and her rebounding, we all did really well boxing out,” Aleina Estrada said. “I just think we did really good with our ball movement and getting our shots to go in.”

“My team worked hard every day at practice, and we deserve this,” Smith-Ralph said.

Smith-Ralph, who had been in California and Phoenix before coming to Maricopa, said it was a dramatic adjustment for her to enter Pathway’s program under Estrada. She walked away from Tuesday’s championship with the Player of the Game award.

“I can show this to everyone in my family, kids when I grow up, and say, ‘I did this, and I worked hard for it.’”

Dee Estrada recalled coming into the gym at the start of season practice and seeing a 5-foot-11 newcomer standing there, in contrast to Aleina’s compact 5-foot-2. Smith-Ralph, Estrada said, was a key component to this year’s team, which had an uncertain beginning. During fall semester, Pathway saw students being withdrawn from the school as a series of teachers resigned amid administrative upheaval.

“Our school has had a little bit of a struggle, and we weren’t really sure we would have enough girls to come out and have a varsity team this year,” coach Estrada said. “I have two eighth graders that I moved up, and Che’Leez came from Phoenix. That was just the work of God, because he sent her my way. She’s the most coachable athlete that I ever had to deal with.”

Returning to the CAA state bracket was a big goal, and the Pumas worked at it. Besides regular two-hour practices, members of the team were also with coach Estrada at Copper Sky for 1.5-hour conditioning sessions, including Sundays.

“I knew that if we came out here today and we lost this game, it wasn’t because of a lack of effort,” said Dee Estrada, who has coached the team eight years. “We have been competing against EVAC the past six-seven years, and they always seem to be one of our toughest opponents. I have the utmost respect for them. If anybody deserved to be in this championship game, it was EVAC and Pathway.”

The win is apparently Pathway basketball’s final appearance in CAA competition as the school moves to Arizona Interscholastic Association next year. Dee Estrada said that was out of her hands.

“I don’t know what the future’s going to hold, but does anybody?” she said. “We’re just going to keep representing our school, continue to represent Maricopa, our families, our businesses. We’re a small community, so we have to knit together.

“I’m just so blessed to have this pack of girls to finish the season with,” Estrada said.

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The Sequoia Pathway girls’ varsity basketball team took down Imagine Prep-Surprise Saturday, 58-45, in the Canyon Athletic Association’s Division 3 semi-final at Valley Lutheran High School. The victory continued the team’s win streak that has lasted all season. In the championship game, scheduled for Tuesday at 3:30 p.m., the Pumas will face East Valley Athletes for Christ, a team Pathway defeated earlier in the regular season. The title game will be played at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Pathway's Jose Miguel was top scorer in the game, but Heritage came away with the playoff win. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

Heritage Academy and Sequoia Pathway went all the way to Phoenix to play each other for the third and final time this year, and with similar results. The Heroes won the Canyon Athletic Association quarterfinal matchup, 99-81.

“We expected to come in, we expected to win by a decent margin,” said head coach Jim Deakyne. “They played us really well, but they played us really well the first two times we met, but it felt like the first two times we didn’t really play our best game. The guys played a lot better tonight and things went our way.”

Previous margins of victory in the charter school rivalry were 106-101 and 93-91. Coming to the CAA playoffs, the Heroes were ranked second in Division 3 behind San Tan Charter. Pathway was seventh.

“We expect to go all the way,” Deakyne said. “That’s what we came to do. That’s the expectation, and that’s why these guys have been working their butts off all year.”

Next up for Heritage is No. 3 BASIS-Scottsdale, whom they defeated in the regular season.

While this was Heritage’s its first year of competition in Maricopa, Pathway ends its last year in CAA with a regular-season record of 12-9. Next year, the school moves over to the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Saturday, Pathway senior Jose Miguel led all scorers with 39 points. Yufiel Jones scored 16, and Ajani Elliot 14.

On the Heritage side, Josh Deakyne (the coach’s brother) scored 33, and Logan Porter put in 30. The team hit six 3-pointers.

Heritage is averaging 97.1 points per game, a nation-leading statistic. This season the Heroes also set an Arizona record for 3-pointers in a single game. They hit 21 in a game against BASIS-Peoria, including six from Porter.

Josh Deakyne is averaging 24.6 points per game and seven assists per game. Porter averages 24.1 ppg.



The Sequoia Pathway Academy football team defeated South Pointe, 44-0, in the semifinal of the state championship.

Competing in Canyon Athletic Association’s open division, the Pumas remain undefeated. They next play San Tan Charter for the title Nov. 16 at Bourgade Catholic High School.

Despite a slow start laden with penalty flags on its home field at Pacana Park, Pathway strung together a series of scoring runs and passes while the defense held the Griffins practically immobile. The scoring was capped off by a display of sportsmanship as both teams helped a Puma with autism score a final touchdown to end the game.

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The Sequoia Pathway varsity football team ended its regular season undefeated at 8-0 and atop the Canyon Athletic Association’s open division.

The Pumas defeated ASU Prep-Phoenix 40-6 Friday. They outscored their opponents this season 232-50 under new head coach Donnie Margerum.

The division’s four-team playoff begins Nov. 9. Seeding has not been announced.

Players who have been part of this year’s team:

  • AJ Anderson
  • Daijuan Anderson
  • Gavin Buchberger
  • Nolan Cook
  • Curtis David
  • Jonathan Dominguez
  • Ajani Elliot
  • Samuel Feigenbaum
  • Jyrei Gamble
  • Malikia Gustina
  • Favier Gutierrez
  • Esequiel Jaramillo

  • Yufiel Jones
  • Logan Keller
  • Weston Klee
  • Wyatt Klee
  • Tre Lacey
  • Quentin Lara
  • Brendan Lerch
  • Patrick Lisby
  • Jacob McIntyre
  • Shane Miller
  • Alex Montano
  • Rocco Prentice

  • Jon Richardson
  • Elijah Roman
  • Bowdie Sanders
  • Robert Sciuto
  • Aaliyah Scott
  • Jeffery Talbert
  • Karl Todtenbier
  • Colin Torres
  • Juan Vasquez
  • Bailey Velasquez

Sequoia Pathway football coaches (from left) Ryan Portee, Donnie Margerum, Corey Nelson, Jonathan lesperance and Dick Portee. Submitted photo

The Pathway volleyball team lost in the quarterfinal to third-seeded Imagine Prep-Surprise, 3-1, to end another successful season. The Pumas were 11-3 on the regular schedule and 1-1 in the playoffs.

The Pathway boys soccer team ended its season 5-5, which was tops in Division II’s Region 5.


Sequoia Pathway students demanded a fired teacher be brought back during a protest before school Monday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Sequoia Pathway students are protesting the termination of a popular teacher last week.

Word got out Friday that Kevin Struble had been fired, and several parents were irate, saying it was the last straw in a series of controversial decisions. Students carrying signs and chanting stood in front of the secondary school Monday morning. Some wore masks of Struble’s face.

“He does everything for this school. He stays up until 2 or 3 a.m. making his lesson plans so he’s ready to teach his classes,” senior Joliegh Boothe said. “At one point, he was signing and grading assignments for every teacher with a math class. He’s supported by every teacher and every student in this school just because of all that that he’s done. The new admin doesn’t know anything about him and all that he’s done because they’re new.”

The charter school administration cannot talk about personnel decisions specifically.

“As an organization, if a termination takes place, it has been thoroughly vetted with appropriate documentation, along with adherence to legal precedent, even in this right-to-work state,” CEO Mark Plitzuweit told InMaricopa Friday. “Keep in mind that student and staff safety will always be of highest concern.”

Plitzuweit himself has been a target of some of the anger, with parents saying dissatisfaction has been building.

“There have been at least three teachers let go or resigned since the start of school, not to mention the two or three who didn’t return from last year,” parent Brandon Stone said. “The replacement teachers are either long-term substitutes or teachers who are now just filling in during their prep hour.”

Stone has four children attending Pathway in first, seventh, eighth and 10th grade.

“The application process for the school doesn’t apply any longer, so all students are let in, which has translated to multiple fights recently, more students in classes who are disrespectful and don’t want to be there, which means the students who do want to be there don’t receive the education they have for the past few years,” Stone said.

The students were hearing the teacher had been fired for low test scores, insubordination and unprofessional behavior. Those protesting were highly skeptical.

“In reality, when we did AzMerit, his pre-calc class got the highest scores,” senior Mickenzee Bell said.

Plitzuweit said, due to privacy, only half the story was being told. “It’s always the second half of the story that can’t be shared that could bring clarity to the actions,” he said.

Angry parents threatened to pull their children from Pathway, and Plitzuweit said they have every right to do that. But he warned against organized protests on private property, “as it would be considered a disruption of an academic learning environment.” When Monday’s protest continued into classtime, police were asked to drop in and monitor the situation.

Plitzuweit said the school is facing a teacher shortage similar to the rest of the state, and the hardest slots to fill are math, science and special education. “Out of our 18 schools, this location is one that we have had a greater need for long term substitutes.”

He said he is unaware of an increase of fighting or other disciplinary issues parents have claimed and said he would talk to the administration about it. He said he has heard from several families expressing appreciation for the new leadership.

“All that being said, I am very supportive of the campus-level decisions that have been made in several areas and I look forward to the continued accountability measures that are in place to increase student outcomes, in a safe and secure environment,” Plitzuweit said.

Pathway Secondary Principal Ja-Queese Dightmon did not respond to a request for comment.

The protest was an echo of a 2015 student pushback against the termination of two administrators at the campus. The two were eventually re-hired, but have since left EdKey.


Some of the counselors at Maricopa Unified School District. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

A counseling department plays a vital role in a school’s ability to meet the needs of all students. Maricopa Unified School District’s Counseling Department has grown to 16 full-time counselors, and Sequoia Pathway Academy has a counselor in its campus. Among them, they have earned more than 15 master’s degrees. MUSD is applying for the School Safety Grant through Arizona Department of Education to support future growth. MUSD has four guidance counselors, a mental health counselor, a college and career coordinator, an Ak-Chin advisor and an Exceptional Student Services counselor who serve the high school. There are four school counselors, an Ak-Chin advisor and an ESS counselor serving the middle schools, and three full-time elementary school counselors, an Ak-Chin advisor and an ESS counselor serving elementary schools. Four of the counselors hold clinical supervisor licensure through the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health.


Maricopa High School Counseling Department

Maricopa High School Counseling Department:
Seniors – Vanessa Stone. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Vanessa Stone (seniors)
Stone is a new addition to the counseling department at MHS. Stone received a Master of Science in clinical mental health counseling from Prescott College with a focus on ecopsychology and wilderness therapy, and bachelor’s degree in social work from Weber State University. Stone has a profound love and passion for people and connection with the natural world. Their prior work has included leading activity-based, adventure work and ecotherapy interventions with youth and adults in a variety of group settings. Outside work, Stone loves to spend time exploring with their dog, Xavier, rollerblading and swimming.

Maricopa High School Counseling Department: Juniors – Larry Veltrie. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Larry Veltrie (juniors)

“I have been privileged to have graduated almost 1,400 seniors in my 12 years here.” Veltrie received his B.A. at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington, and a master’s degree from Whitworth University in Spokane.

Deana Paine (sophomores)

“I have been at Maricopa High School since 2012, starting as a math teacher before moving into the position of school counselor. I completed a BS in psychology at the University of Illinois, an M.S. in education and counseling psychology from the University of Kentucky and an M.S. in academic advising from Kansas State University. Married for 30 years, my husband and I have five children (including three MHS grads!) and one grandchild. I love baseball, travel, reading and spending time with my family and our dogs.”

Maricopa High School Counseling Department: Sophomores – Deana Paine. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos
Maricopa High School Counseling Department: Freshman – Mark Lavit. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Mark Lavit (freshmen)
“I have over 16 years of experience working in the behavioral health field and in education. I have worked in a variety of capacities, which include clinical supervisor, integrated care manager, rehabilitation counselor, case manager, high school guidance counselor and career counselor. I consider myself a lifelong learner and am currently seeking my doctoral degree in organizational leadership. When I am not working, I am usually with my two children, who are in third grade and kindergarten. We love taking road trips up north with our family dog and spending time with our horses.”

Maricopa High School Counseling Department: Ak-Chin – Teresa Valisto

Teresa Valisto (Ak-Chin students)
“I am a member of the Ak-Chin Indian Community. I am married to Benjamin Valisto, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Our two daughters and I are graduates of MHS. I have been working as the Ak-Chin Student counselor 23 years. I started working in 1996 and have seen many changes over the years. I am here to assist students and the staff so that our students can be more successful in their education. I enjoy my job working with the students of the Ak-Chin Indian Community. They are like my own children and I am here for them.”

Maricopa High School Counseling Department: College and Career Coordinator – Bernadette Russoniello. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Bernadette Russoniello (College and Career coordinator)

“Serving at MHS 18 years, I am excited by my current role in advising students on opportunities beyond high school and organizing impactful events and experiences for college and career. I attended Arizona State University’s Barrett Honors College attaining concurrent degrees in English and history, a post-baccalaureate in secondary education, and an M.Ed. in curriculum design and instruction, in addition to an M.Ed. in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University. My years as an educator have taught me learning never stops, education and knowledge cannot be static, and a professional community of support is essential for success.”

Maricopa High School Counseling Department: Mental Health Counselor – Lynette Nelson. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Lynette Nelson (Mental Health)

“Originally from New Jersey, I have lived in Idaho, Washington, Colorado, Wisconsin and Korea. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in counseling from Arizona State University and a master’s in public administration from the University of Colorado. I have worked with children and families over 30 years. My husband and I have six children and five grandchildren. I love to travel, make jewelry and play with Peaches, my 4-year-old pug. I have a passion for supporting young people and am thrilled to be here at Maricopa High School.”

Maricopa High School Counseling Department: Exceptional Student Services Counselor – Amber Liermann. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Amber Liermann (Exceptional Student Services)
“This is my 16th year here at MUSD as an ESS counselor. My favorite part of my job is seeing students achieve their goals. I live in Maricopa and have three children attending MUSD. I am a foster parent and have positive relationships with community agencies. In my free time I enjoy working out at the gym and riding my motorcycle.”

Sequoia Pathway Academy Counseling: Rebecca Collins

Sequoia Pathway Academy

Rebecca Collins

“I have been a school counselor seven years and currently, for the past two years, have worked at Sequoia Pathway. I have three children – a senior, a sophomore and a seventh grader. My family has been in Maricopa 13 years, and I’ve been married for 20 years. I love our community and I am grateful every day that I get the opportunity to work with the students of Maricopa.”


Maricopa Wells Middle School

Laura Lopez

“I was born and raised in Phoenix. I began my journey as a school counselor in 2011 at Maricopa Wells. I have a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University in social work and a master’s degree in education – school counseling from Ottawa University. I enjoy working with students and their families. My husband Rodolfo Lopez and I welcomed our beautiful daughter, Isabel, in 2017. She definitely keeps us busy. We love traveling and spending time in the Bay Area visiting family when we get the chance.”

Maricopa Wells Middle School: Laura Lopez – School Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos
Maricopa Wells Middle School: Danielle Baird – School Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Danielle Baird

“My role is to assist MWMS students with their academic, career and social/emotional development. I have been working as a school counselor in MUSD since 2014 and am a resident of our great city of Maricopa. Originally from New Jersey, I have a dual bachelor’s degree in psychology/justice studies and my Master of Arts in counseling psychology specializing in school counseling and mental health. I have worked previously in the juvenile justice system, child welfare and social service fields. Before I transferred to MWMS, I served at both MHS and Desert Wind Middle School.”

Desert Wind Middle School: Jackie Kellar – Exceptional Student Services Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Jackie Kellar (Exceptional Student Services)

“I am the ESS counselor for Desert Wind, Maricopa Wells and Maricopa Elementary. I have my master’s degree from University of Denver in social work and am an independently licensed clinical social worker. I am married and have three children. I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom. Similar to Olaf, I like warm hugs. I can truffle shuffle with the best of them because nobody puts baby in a corner. I love working with kids especially being their biggest cheerleader. I am trained in CBT, DBT, solution-focused therapy and mindfulness, because there is no crying in baseball.”


Desert Wind Middle School 

Desert Wind Middle School: Rudolph Skeete – School Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Rudolph Skeete

Skeete earned a master’s degree in education and counseling with PPS credentials, licensee professional clinical counseling recertification from Azusa Pacific University; Child Welfare & Attendance credentials from California State University, Dominguez Hills; and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration from California State University, Los Angeles. He brings over 20 years’ experience as an educator, 13 as a counselor in middle and high schools. “I truly love working in collaboration with students, parents and staff; enjoy cooking a variety of foods from around the world. Track and field is my favorite sport, but I also played professional rugby in South America.”

Desert Wind Middle School: Molly Colgan – School Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Molly Colgan

“I was born and raised in Arizona and cannot imagine calling anywhere else home. I first realized that I wanted to go into the field of education while I was in the sixth grade, and I never strayed from this path. I graduated from Northcentral University with my bachelor’s in secondary education – English. I became an eighth-grade English language arts teacher in Phoenix and later returned to school myself and received my Master of Education degree in school counseling from Ottawa University. In my spare time, I like to read, write, learn and travel cross-country by train.”


Butterfield Elementary and Santa Cruz Elementary

Butterfield Elementary and Santa Cruz Elementary: Tara Roy-Pablo – School Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Tara Roy-Pablo

Roy-Pablo has been a counselor with MUSD since 2006. She worked four years at MWMS, six years at MHS and recently began working at Butterfield Elementary and Santa Cruz Elementary. She is a licensed MSW with the AZ Board of Behavioral Health Examiners, a Certified Guidance Counselor and School Social Worker with the Arizona Department of Education and serves as a field liaison with Arizona State University’s School of Social Work. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out with her family, road-trips, gardening and spending time with friends.


Santa Rosa Elementary and Saddleback Elementary

Santa Rosa Elementary and Saddleback Elementary: Alyse Belletti – School Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos


Alyse Belletti

“I am starting my second year with MUSD as an elementary school counselor. I was born in Colorado Springs but consider myself a native as I have lived in Arizona a majority of my life. At Arizona State University, I graduated summa cum laude with a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. Most of my professional career has been spent working as a clinical therapist, providing community-based services to children with autism. In my spare time, you will find me with my family and two German shepherds. I enjoy camping, traveling and making lifelong memories.”


Maricopa Elementary and Pima Butte Elementary

Maricopa Elementary and Pima Butte Elementary: Anna Luna – School Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Anna Luna

“I have my master’s degree in social work from Loma Linda University and an undergrad in sociology with a minor in psychology. I have been in the education and social work field since 2006 and have worked for Native American reservations, public K-12 schools and in drug prevention education. I am a board member of Mindfulness First. I teach cultural competency in social work at the college level and work as a community liaison for Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale. I am a foster mother-turned-adoptive mother to two amazing little kiddos who have caused me gray hairs and deep laugh lines.”

Maricopa Unified School District K-5 Counselor: Ak-Chin – Sheila Bandin

Sheila Pablo-Bandin (Ak-Chin)
“I am the Ak-Chin K-5th grade advisor for students of MUSD. I oversee all students of the Ak-Chin Indian Community with the permission of our parents/guardians. As the K-5th the adviser/tutor I am responsible for providing educational guidance and assistance for students and families within the MUSD. I have been in my position over 13 years and have found my home to help support my community and MUSD schools. I am grateful to be working with an amazing staff and am looking forward to the continued partnership.”

Dawnielle Castellanos Exceptional Student Services Elementary Counselor. Photo by Dawniele Castellanos

Dawniele Castellanos (Exceptional Student Services)

Castellanos is a licensed clinical social worker in Arizona. She is a transplant from California and has lived in Arizona for the past 13 years. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Azusa Pacific University and her master’s degree in social work from California State University of Long Beach. Castellanos has worked with children, youth, and families since receiving her master’s degree. She likes to travel, read and go to movies.

This item appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Sequoia Pathway celebrates a side out in a Thursday win on the volleyball court. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Sequoia Pathway volleyball team ended its regular season Thursday with a tough home win over Desert Heights 3-2. The victory put the girls’ record at 11-3 atop the Canyon Athletic Association’s Region 5 of Division 2.

It was also senior night as the team honored six who are finishing their high school volleyball careers this season: Mikayla Gallon, Lynniece Andrews, Alanah Stoher, Chloe Shishmanian, Roniesha Davis and Emma Berg.

Post-season play starts Oct. 22.

Also in CAA play, Heritage-Maricopa is 1-9 after a Tuesday loss to Tri-City Christian. Heritage Academy has two games left on its schedule.

The Rams tried to turn shirts and clipboards into fanning devices to cool off in a hot gym Thursday.

Maricopa High School’s team had its annual breast-cancer awareness night Thursday while losing to Gilbert 3-0. The Rams are 4-11 overall, 0-5 in the 5A San Tan region of Arizona Interscholastic Association.

The girls wore special pink uniform tops in a game marked by a lack of air conditioning in the gymnasium. MHS has four more games before the end of the season.

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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

Photo by Victor Moreno



MHS plays hard, fast against tough foes
There is no off-season for Maricopa High School 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 the tough 5A San Tan.

“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.”

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.”

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,” Athletic Director Jake 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.

Daxton Redfern
Photo by Victor Moreno

“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.”

Other expected standouts include junior Mister Chavis, Ilijah Johnson, Tylek Mooney, Steven Forrester, Anthony Valenzuela, Hunter Taylor and Bryan Pick, among other Rams who want to make a name for themselves.

“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.”

W, 33-22              at McClintock
L, 0-47                  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

Jacob McIntyre
Photo by Victor Moreno

Sequoia Pathway gets new coach for growing program
Sequoia Pathway Academy has a new varsity football coach, but he’s no stranger to football in Maricopa. Donnie Margerum moves across town from MHS’s freshman team.

Coach Donnie Margerum
Photo by Victor Moreno

“This year, with Coach Donnie, it’s creating a new culture,” said Glen Hale, the school’s athletic director. “He came in with a new system. He also has another assistant coach from MHS, Corey Nelson.”

The Pumas grew from eight-man to 11-man football a couple of seasons ago, and this year are joined by more charter school teams in the Open division of the Canyon Athletic Association. In 2018 they finished third with a 4-3 record, but football didn’t end with the season.

“I’ve been saying, just taking it to the next level of play and playing throughout the season instead of just coming in through the season,” Hale said. “Now we’re moving to where it’s year-round and giving our kids opportunities to travel to places and compete against higher competition.”

Returning seniors include Shane Miller, Gavin Buchberger, Jacob McIntyre, Ajani Elliot and Patrick Lisby. The high school team has grown to 35 players.

“We had to go get more helmets and equipment, which is a good thing.”

Sequoia Pathway
W, 14-8                vs. Canyon State
Sept. 6                  7 p.m. vs. South Pointe
Sept. 19                6:15 p.m. at Canyon State Academy
Sept. 27                7 p.m. vs. San Tan Charter
Oct. 4                    7 p.m. vs ASU Prep
Oct. 11                  7 p.m. at South Pointe
Oct. 18                  7 p.m. at San Tan Charter
Oct. 25                  7 p.m. at ASU Prep

Shakira Gillespie
Photo by Victor Moreno


MHS trying to restore self-confidence
The Rams are trying to rebuild a team after a haphazard volleyball season in AIA 5A.

Returning as head coach for MHS varsity is Theresa Abernathy, who is also an instructor at Copper Sky. She is trying to overhaul a team that was 2-20 last season.

“We are completely going to start fresh,” Abernathy said. “We’re building the program from the ground up.”

Expected returning players include juniors Shakira Gillespie, Brooke Smith and Ashley Brown along with senior Tayler Riley-Coleman. But it looks to be a young team.

“They have improved an awful lot,” Abernathy said. “They listen to what I’m saying, and they seem to like each other.”

After the discouragement of 2018, she said they need to restore their self-confidence. She is encouraging more year-round play. In today’s volleyball climate, it is difficult for players who only play during the high school year to compete against those who participate in clubs.

“They need to believe they can win and be competitive with every team,” she said. “They need to be a team.”

W, 3-0                   at Camelback
W, 3-1                   vs. Fairfax
L, 0-3                    vs. Verrado
Sept. 10                6 p.m. at Paradise Valley
Sept. 12                6 p.m. vs. North Canyon
Sept. 16                6 p.m. at Campo Verde
Sept. 17                6 p.m. vs. Ironwood
Sept. 24                6 p.m. at Williams Field
Sept. 25                6 p.m. at Centennial
Sept. 26                6 p.m. at Higley
Oct. 1                    6 p.m. vs. Casteel
Oct. 3                    6 p.m. vs. Gilbert
Oct. 15                  6 p.m. vs. Campo Verde
Oct. 17                  6 p.m. vs. Williams Field
Oct. 22                  6 p.m. vs. Higley (Senior Night)
Oct. 24                  6 p.m. at Casteel
Oct. 29                  6 p.m. at Gilbert

Lynniece Andrews
Photo by Victor Moreno

Sequoia Pathway works to improve on remarkable year
Pathway wants to build off a hot year that saw them reach the Final Four in Canyon Athletic Association’s Division II, and has had a strong turnout of players. Varsity coach LaShieka Holley is keeping nine, while there are 16 in junior varsity, and 42 came out for junior high.

“I’m asking all the coaches from varsity to reach down into the elementary level, to reach down into the middle school level, so we’re not just working on one program; we’re building as a whole,” Hale said. “She’s done a really good job with that. She’s actually the coach of the junior high, too. It’s been good to see how that transition is happening with the girls, and how they’re just growing.”

Puma captains are Lynniece Andrews and Mikayla Gallon, returning from the team that was undefeated in the regular season.

“This summer they went to an ASU camp. That was amazing,” Hale said. “Once again, they competed against AIA schools. Some were state champions, so they got that experience of playing with top-level competition. That’s where we heading as an athletic program. We want to play people that are better than us so we can get better.”

Sequoia Pathway
W, 3-0                  vs. Basis-Peoria
W, 3-0                  at Basis-Chandler
W, 3-0                  at San Tan Charter
L, 2-3                  vs. Heritage-Gateway
Sept. 5                  7 p.m. at Imagine-Coolidge
Sept. 11                5:30 p.m. at Sequoia Charter
Sept. 12                7 p.m. vs. Mission Heights
Sept. 17                4 p.m. at Imagine-Coolidge
Sept. 19                7 p.m. vs. EVAC
Sept. 24                6:30 p.m. at Mission Heights
Sept. 26                7 p.m. vs. Heritage-Mesa
Oct. 1                    4 p.m. at South Ridge
Oct. 3                    7 p.m. vs. Desert Heights

Kian Carroll and Eva Zavala
Photo by Victor Moreno


MHS dives into 2nd swimming season
Coming off a rookie season in AIA competition, the MHS swimming team has about 30 returning swimmers and around 45 overall.

“We lost some to the new high school (Heritage Academy), but we have a lot of freshmen coming back from last year,” coach Laura Logan said.

She said having a year under their belts is allowing her to coach more instead of just teaching the basics of swimming as much as she did in 2018.

“They have a base of knowledge that they can build on,” Logan said. “We had so many kids with no experience whatsoever.”

She expects her team leaders to again Olivia Byers, now a junior, and Connor Schrader, a sophomore. The four seniors are Jose Perez Barraza, Kian Carroll, Jacob Davis and Eva Zavala. There are a few more boys than girls participating.

The team includes 16 sophomores and 14 freshmen.

A team goal is to get swimmers qualified for state competition and show the more established swim programs “what Maricopa is becoming.”

The Rams compete in AIA Division II.

Sept. 5                  4 p.m.                   at Apache Junction
Sept. 12                4 p.m.                   at Copper Sky
Sept. 24                4 p.m.                   at Saguaro
Oct. 3                    4 p.m.                   at Copper Sky
Oct. 10                  4 p.m.                   at Copper Sky
Oct. 17                  4 p.m.                   at Copper Sky
Oct. 23                  9:30 a.m.             at Apache Junction
Nov. 2-3               TBA                        State Championship

Quinton Stapleton and Zanaa Ramirez
Photo by Victor Moreno


MHS finding new motivation
MHS cross country is recuperating from a difficult year that saw flagging motivation on the boys’ team and not even a full team on the girls’ side.

“Right now, we’re definitely rebuilding,” coach Heather Abel said. “I think we’re looking at a better situation than we were last season, where we were real small and didn’t see a lot of commitment from kids who should have been committed. That seems like it’s changing this year.”

She bases those hopes on the initiative she sees runners taking for themselves and their teammates.

Abel considers this year’s leaders to be Jovanni Fentes, Quinton Stapleton and Zanaa Ramirez.

“Quinton’s really dedicating himself this year,” she said. “They live in San Tan Valley now, so he’s commuting like I am every day and coming to practice every day.”

Ramirez, meanwhile, is a member of the West Coast Striders, a club team based in Maricopa and coached by Corey Nelson. She qualified for the 800-meter run in the Hershey’s Junior Olympics National Championship in Sacramento in July.

Abel sees that level of competition giving Ramirez newfound confidence on the 5K course for cross country. Though literally miles apart, both events take a lot of mental toughness and physical endurance.

To grow the boys’ team, she has been encouraging athletes in other sports to run cross country to stay in shape between their seasons. Wrestlers have been doing just that. Freshman boys are also turning out.

Her goal is to get her runners in good shoes and keep them hydrated and healthy and they come to understand pack strategy while running not just for themselves but for the team.

“What they’re doing is really hard, and they don’t get a lot of recognition for what they’re doing,” Abel said. “Most people won’t do this because it’s hard.”

Sept. 4                  4:30 p.m.             at Vista Grande
Sept. 7                  7 a.m.                    at Chandler Invite
Sept. 14                7 a.m.                    at Fountain Hills Invitational
Sept. 14                7:30 a.m.             at Ojo Rojo Invitational
Sept. 27                TBA                        Nike Desert Twilight
Oct. 12                  TBA                        O’Connor Invitational
Oct. 26                  TBA                        Eye of the Tiger Invite
Nov. 8                   TBA                        State Sectionals

Tyler Kientzler
Photo by Victor Moreno


Sequoia Pathway wants to bounce back
The Sequoia Pathway boys struggled last fall, posting a 2-8 record. This year, the school took advantage of the opportunity to play more out-of-season soccer to improve.

Coach Juan Garavito is “real excited about this year, being able to work through summer and just being able to work with the kids outside of school,” Hale said. “I’m looking for definitely this year seeing improvement. I think it’s only up from there.”

The team is returning a couple of players from last year’s squad – Anthony Saldana and Tyler Kientzler – and are a little fewer in number. They play home games at Pacana Park.

“We did a summer program,” Hale said. “A major focus of ours is to start early and build that program. It’s always been, ‘Are you honing your craft?’”

W, 5-4                  vs. Imagine-Coolidge
W, 1-0                  vs. Basis-Scottsdale
W, 1-0                   vs. Mission Heights Prep
Sept. 5                  4:30 p.m. at Mission Heights Prep
Sept. 11                6:15 p.m. at BASIS-Chandler
Sept. 23                4 p.m. vs. Heritage-Gateway
Sept. 25                4 p.m. vs. Sequoia Charter
Oct. 1                    4 p.m. vs. Canyon State
Oct. 15                  4:30 p.m. at ASU Prep Polytechnic

Karson Collazo
Photo by Victor Moreno

BOYS’ GOLF – Division I Yuma

Sept. 3                  2 p.m.                   at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes
Sept. 10                3:30 p.m.             at Arcadia
Sept. 12                3:30 p.m.             at Tempe
Sept. 17                3 p.m.                   at Westwood
Sept. 24                3:30 p.m.             at Ocotillo Golf Course
Oct. 1                    2 p.m.                   at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes
Oct. 15                  3 p.m.                   at McCormick Ranch Golf Course


GIRLS’ GOLF – Developmental

Sept. 4                  3 p.m.                   at Western Skies Golf Club
Sept. 12                3 p.m.                   at Las Colinas Golf Course
Sept. 16                2 p.m.                   at Marcos de Niza
Sept. 18                3 p.m.                   at Granite Falls South Course
Sept. 25                3 p.m.                   at Apache Junction
Sept. 30                3 p.m.                   at Apache Creek Golf Course
Oct. 2                    2 p.m.                   at The Duke at Rancho El Dorado
Oct. 4                    1 p.m.                   at Girls Golf Developmental Invitational – Encanto 9

This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

Athletic Directors Jake Neill (left) of Maricopa Unified School District and Glen Hale of Sequoia Pathway see changes ahead.

As Maricopa schools dig into their fall sports, much appears the same on the surface, but there could be changes afoot.

It’s not about personnel, though the athletic departments of Maricopa High School and Sequoia Pathway hired a couple of varsity coaches each. (For MHS it was baseball coach Brad Vericker and boys’ basketball coach Paul Gretkierewicz; for Pathway, football coach Donnie Margerum and boys’ basketball coach George Courtney.)

“The future’s looking like there is going to be a little bit of change because we’re growing so much,” said Jake Neill, Maricopa Unified School District athletic director. “If there’s a change in the next two-year block we could end up being a 6A school. Very good chance of that actually.”

MUSD reports enrollment to the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) in October and then is assigned a conference for a two-year block starting the next school year. However, close on the heels of that, is an election in November. If voters agree to a bond to build a second high school for MUSD, it could trigger a change in district athletics down the road.

Neill said he doesn’t even want to think about that until November, and then will wait to see how things fall out. A second school, for instance, might not have sports initially. Even if it does, it could be years away.

“It really depends on the timing of how everything happens,” Neill said. “What we hope to avoid is turning in our numbers and then split schools and be playing a 6A schedule with two schools of 1,500 kids. We can prepare for that and inform the AIA if that should ever happen.”

For now, the fall season is looking comfortably familiar.

“The good thing is there’s nothing new,” Neill said. “There’s a little bit of consistency from last year to this year. We’re still competing in the always tough 5A San Tan region with the likes of Williams Field, Casteel, Campo Verde, Gilbert High. So, we definitely have our challenges with being in probably the most competitive region in the 5A conference again, but for the most part we’re status quo.”

Maricopa High School’s fall sports include football, volleyball, cross country, swimming and boys’ and girls’ golf.

He said MHS is building a reputation for having great student-athletes, and programs are improving. Tying into that is creating strong bonds between middle school and high school programs. Neill said a recent change made to junior high scheduling could foster more of that.

MUSD’s middle schools are joining the Signal Peak Athletic Conference, playing mostly schools in the Casa Grande area rather than Queen Creek and Apache Junction.

“It’s going to benefit the program because our parents can get to their kids’ games on time. Our students and our coaches that are teachers aren’t going to be missing as much class time and instruction time,” Neill said. “When you look at middle-school athletics, it’s not supposed to be taxing on the student. Just traveling as much as we were, it was taxing on the student. We want to make sure we set our kids up to succeed.”

It may also make it easier for high school coaches to be involved with the middle school sports, he said.

“It’s an expectation that our varsity coaches are somehow, someway involved in our middle school athletics, and everyone does a good job with that,” Neill said. “Being seen and talking to kids. Just creating that connection with kids and getting them excited to be a Ram and come to MHS and maybe future high school No. 2.”

At Pathway, which enrolls about 275 high schoolers, Athletic Director Glen Hale also expects his varsity coaches to maintain a strong link to the junior high. That includes instilling this year’s motto, “Expect great things.”

“It encompasses life,” he said. “If they come to practice, if they’re on time, if they work hard, they can expect great things to happen. Grade-wise, if they’re in the classroom and they’re making their grades and doing their homework and they’re working hard, they can expect great things to happen.”

He said that starts with the coaches working hard and doing their jobs, modeling their behavior they want to see in the student-athletes.

“Each coach, as we go to the next level, is going to sacrifice things so we can get better,” Hale said.

The “next level” could mean a change if Hale gets his way. He intends to apply to join the AIA. Pathway is currently in the Canyon Athletic Association, comprised of charter schools.

“We basically want our kids to play higher competition,” he said. “The CAA is really good, but everybody knows the AIA.”

If accepted, it would mean a big shift for the athletes, who would be facing completely new competition. Having watched the kids face AIA teams during summer competitions, Hale said it could help them grow. He also looks forward to adding girls’ soccer to the array of high school offerings.

“We’re homing in on academics, we’re homing in on character, we’re homing in on serving our community and playing at the next level.”

See the upcoming September issue of InMaricopa for more on this year’s teams.

MHS Varsity Football
W 33-22               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

Sequoia Pathway Varsity Football
Aug. 30                7 p.m. vs. Canyon State Academy
Sept. 6                  7 p.m. vs. South Pointe
Sept. 19                6:15 p.m. at Canyon State Academy
Sept. 27                7 p.m. vs. San Tan Charter
Oct. 4                    7 p.m. vs ASU Prep
Oct. 11                  7 p.m. at South Pointe
Oct. 18                  7 p.m. at San Tan Charter
Oct. 25                  7 p.m. at ASU Prep

MHS Varsity Volleyball
Sept. 3                  6 p.m. at Camelback
Sept. 4                  6 p.m. vs. Fairfax
Sept. 5                  6 p.m. vs. Verrado
Sept. 10                6 p.m. at Paradise Valley
Sept. 12                6 p.m. vs. North Canyon
Sept. 16                6 p.m. at Campo Verde
Sept. 17                6 p.m. vs. Ironwood
Sept. 24                6 p.m. at Williams Field
Sept. 25                6 p.m. at Centennial
Sept. 26                6 p.m. at Higley
Oct. 1                    6 p.m. vs. Casteel
Oct. 3                    6 p.m. vs. Gilbert
Oct. 15                  6 p.m. vs. Campo Verde
Oct. 17                  6 p.m. vs. Williams Field
Oct. 22                  6 p.m. vs. Higley (Senior Night)
Oct. 24                  6 p.m. at Casteel
Oct. 29                  6 p.m. at Gilbert

Sequoia Pathway Varsity Volleyball
W, 3-0                  vs. Basis-Peoria
W, 3-0                  at Basis-Chandler
W, 3-0                  vs. Phoenix College Prep
Sept. 3                  6 p.m. vs. Heritage-Gateway
Sept. 5                  7 p.m. at Imagine-Coolidge
Sept. 11                5:30 p.m. at Sequoia Charter
Sept. 12                7 p.m. vs. Mission Heights
Sept. 17                4 p.m. at Imagine-Coolidge
Sept. 19                7 p.m. vs. EVAC
Sept. 24                6:30 p.m. at Mission Heights
Sept. 26                7 p.m. vs. Heritage-Mesa
Oct. 1                    4 p.m. at South Ridge
Oct. 3                    7 p.m. vs. Desert Heights

MHS Swimming
Sept. 5                  4 p.m.                   at Apache Junction
Sept. 12                4 p.m.                   at Copper Sky
Sept. 24                4 p.m.                   at Saguaro
Oct. 3                    4 p.m.                   at Copper Sky
Oct. 10                  4 p.m.                   at Copper Sky
Oct. 17                  4 p.m.                   at Copper Sky
Oct. 23                  9:30 a.m.             at Apache Junction
Nov. 2-3               TBA                        State Championship

MHS Cross Country
Sept. 4                  4:30 p.m.             at Vista Grande
Sept. 7                  7 a.m.                    at Chandler Invite
Sept. 14                7 a.m.                    at Fountain Hills Invitational
Sept. 14                7:30 a.m.             at Ojo Rojo Invitational
Sept. 27                TBA                        Nike Desert Twilight
Oct. 12                  TBA                        O’Connor Invitational
Oct. 26                  TBA                        Eye of the Tiger Invite
Nov. 8                   TBA                        State Sectionals

Sequoia Pathway Boys’ Soccer
Aug. 29                6 p.m.                   vs. Imagine Prep-Coolidge
Aug. 30                5 p.m.                   at Basis-S
Sept. 2                  5 p.m.                   vs. Mission Heights Prep
Sept. 5                  4:30 p.m.             at Mission Heights Prep
Sept. 11                6:15 p.m.             at BASIS-Chandler
Sept. 23                4 p.m.                   vs. Heritage-Gateway
Sept. 25                4 p.m.                   vs. Sequoia Charter
Oct. 1                    4 p.m.                   vs. Canyon State
Oct. 15                  4:30 p.m.             at ASU Prep Polytechnic

MHS Boys’ Golf
Aug. 22                 3 p.m.                   at Las Colinas Golf Course
Aug. 27                 2 p.m.                   at Ken McDonald Golf Course
Sept. 3                  2 p.m.                   at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes
Sept. 10                3:30 p.m.             at Arcadia
Sept. 12                3:30 p.m.             at Tempe
Sept. 17                3 p.m.                   at Westwood
Sept. 24                3:30 p.m.             at Ocotillo Golf Course
Oct. 1                    2 p.m.                   at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes
Oct. 15                  3 p.m.                   at McCormick Ranch Golf Course

MHS Girls’ Golf (Developmental)
Sept. 4                  3 p.m.                   at Western Skies Golf Club
Sept. 12                3 p.m.                   at Las Colinas Golf Course
Sept. 16                2 p.m.                   at Marcos de Niza
Sept. 18                3 p.m.                   at Granite Falls South Course
Sept. 25                3 p.m.                   at Apache Junction
Sept. 30                3 p.m.                   at Apache Creek Golf Course
Oct. 2                    2 p.m.                   at The Duke at Rancho El Dorado
Oct. 4                    1 p.m.                   at Girls Golf Developmental Invitational – Encanto 9


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.

Sequoia Pathway varsity softball celebrates an undefeated season. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

After playing a perfect 14-0 season that wrapped Tuesday, the Sequoia Pathway varsity softball team is top seed in the Canyon Athletic Association Division 2 state tournament automatically in the final four.

At home Tuesday, the Pumas defeated South Ridge 22-2. This season, they outscored their opponents 239-26. Pathway played in the CAA’s Landmark Conference. CAA is primarily comprised of charter schools.

In the state tourney, the Pumas will play either Sequoia Charter or Imagine-Superstition on Friday at Salt River High School.

Last season, Sequoia Pathway was 7-6. The turnaround was driven by this year’s seniors, who were honored after Tuesday’s contest. They include Deserae Garcia, Alicia Lewis, Jasmin Nafarrate and Brenda Peck.

Garcia, a co-captain, led the team in hits with 23, runs scored (27) and doubles (nine) while batting .609.

“She is the leader on the field and in the batter’s box,” head coach Matt Gallagher said. “There is no one I want hitting in a clutch situation than Deserae Garcia.”

Nafarrate, who batted .407, has been a team captain for four years, the last three of which she has been catcher.

“There is something that is just awesome when your catcher can throw to second base from her knees,” Gallagher said. “Nobody runs on that.”

Lewis batted .545, scored 16 and drove in 16 while playing a steady first base.

The Pumas had only two close games this season. One was an 8-6 win at Desert Heights; the other a 3-1 win over Imagine-Superstition.

From Feb. 7, 2019. Photo by Kyle Norby

High school girls’ basketball teams have extended their seasons as the Sequoia Pathway varsity upset No. 4 Jefferson Prep in the Canyon Athletic Association quarterfinals.

The Pumas won 47-39 Monday night to advance to the semis of Division 2. Aleina Estrada scored 24 points for Pathway, bringing her season total to 371.

Kymani Bledsoe put up 12 points, and Jasmin Nafarrate scored seven and had 5 offensive rebounds. Alicia Lewis scored three, and Destiny Rosales had two.

The Pumas, seeded fifth, next play Saturday against top seed Desert Heights at Valley Lutheran High School at 6:15 p.m.

In the Arizona Interscholastic Association, the Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team plays tonight at Marana High School in the 5A round of 16. The Rams are seeded ninth. Marana is eighth. Game time is 7 p.m.

Other Maricopa teams that qualified for the playoffs bowed out early. The Pathway boys’ basketball team lost to top-ranked Eduprize-Gilbert, 102-28, in the CAA round of 16 on Friday. In AIA play, the MHS girls’ soccer team lost to Casteel in the first round 4-0 Saturday.

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Photo by Kyle Norby

Living up to their billing, the Sequoia Pathway girls’ basketball team won their play-in game easily Thursday in Canyon Athletic Association competition. The Pumas, ranked fifth in Division II, defeated South Ridge, 56-23, at home. That puts them in the quarterfinals to play No. 4 Jefferson Prep on Monday at Powerhouse Hoops in Phoenix. Game time is 5:30 p.m.

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The Pumas fight for the ball at home in the play-in tournament. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Sequoia Pathway boys’ basketball pulled out a win over Bella Vista College Prep in the Canyon Athletic Association’s play-in, 58-53, moving onto the second round. The Pumas trailed until the fourth quarter, but key shots and turnovers salted away the victory. Pathway, which was ranked 16th, next plays top seed Eduprize-Gilbert on Friday.

Isabella Ayala tries out the driver's ed car with teacher Glen Hale at Sequoia Pathway. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A program that started in October is making it less nerve-racking for teens to take their driving tests and get a license.

Drivers education has returned to Maricopa on the campus of Sequoia Pathway Academy, but it’s not just for Pathway students. Some have come from as far away as Mountain Pointe High School.

“The first seminar we had 23 kids,” said Pathway Athletic Director Glen Hale, who teaches the class. “They all passed, which was awesome for our first time.”

There were more seminars in December and January. The three-hour class is taught on a Saturday morning. Students watch a PowerPoint presentation, have interactive discussions and review. Then they take the written test. If they pass, they receive a certificate and can go to the MVD and get a permit.

“It’s exciting to have that moment with the kids, just to be part of that when they’re so relieved, but also to lower their anxiety,” Hale said. “It takes you back and you remember when you took the test.”

If they fail, Hale tells them to take notes home and study and come back in a couple of weeks to try again.

Sixteen-year-old Isabella Ayala has a 2019 Honda Civic waiting for her when she gets fully licensed. Before taking the seminar, she had tried the test the way many teens do when there is no drivers ed class available.

“I took it online and failed,” Isabella said. “I didn’t want to risk it again.”

Then she learned about Hale starting the program at Pathway.

“I thought, ‘OK, he’s my favorite teacher, so it’s a win-win,’” she said. “At first, I was nervous, because I learn more hands-on, and I didn’t know what to expect.”

Like others who have passed the written test, she awaits the driving portion of the licensing process.

A Behind-the-Wheel program starts Feb. 25. That involves 30 hours in class and six hours behind the wheel. The program has a Toyota Prius for student drivers.

Hale said the classes discuss the practical aspects of driving, rules of the road, what to do when pulled over by law enforcement and the specific street situations in Maricopa.

“We relate it to Maricopa,” Hale said. “It’s amazing to use our city as a backdrop to take the test.”

He said the classes lower the insurance rates for teen drivers. The course involves guest speakers from the police and fire departments as well as Courtney Tyler of State Farm.

The permit seminars cost $30. Behind-the-Wheel training costs $240.

Contact Hale at ghale@edkey.org.

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A diverse collection of sports stories in Maricopa were interesting for different reasons in 2018. Some were about the new and shiny, others about overcoming challenges while the top story was flat-out victory.

Brandon Harris and RaShawn Calvert are among Maricopa Unified’s new coaches hired this year.

5. New coaches and athletic directors were hired this year at Maricopa High School and Sequoia Pathway Academy. At MHS, Brandon Harris became the varsity football head coach while RaShawn Calvert was hired as girls’ basketball head coach and Laura Logan launched the swim team. Former boys’ basketball coach Jake Neill returned as AD. At Sequoia Pathway, Glen Hale took over the football and boys’ basketball teams and was named AD.

4. Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, one of the top-rated golf courses in the state, was inundated with floodwaters from Vekol Wash in October, causing the course to close for nearly a month. General Manager Brady Wilson and his staff soldiered on, keeping the pro shop and restaurant open while water was pumped off the fairways.

Brady Wilson faced flooding challenges as general manager of Ak-Chin Southern Dunes.

3. In Arizona Interscholastic Association competition, MHS football earned a spot in the playoffs out of arguably the toughest section in the state. Sequoia Pathway’s varsity football team finished second in the Canyon Athletic Association’s open division, and the Puma volleyball team reached the final four with two players named all-state.

2. Even readers who don’t usually follow high school sports took interest in this year’s Homecoming game at MHS after a fracas between head coaches capped off the Rams’ 55-0 win. Central suspended its coach long-term, Maricopa’s Harris sat out a game, and both teams were given warnings by AIA.

Photo by Jeffrey Hazlett

  1. The MHS 4×100-meter boys’ relay team won the state gold medal in Division II in May, running the fastest circuit of any team of any division in the Arizona Track & Field Championships in 2018. Longman Pyne, Jacob Cowing, P.J. Austin and Frank Jones ran their lap in 41.51, breaking their previous school record by nearly 2 seconds.

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Three schools in Maricopa have earned A-ratings from the state as announced this fall, and other schools showed marked improvement.

Butterfield Elementary (MUSD)
Legacy Traditional School (charter)
Pima Butte Elementary (MUSD)

Leading Edge Academy (charter)
Maricopa Elementary School (MUSD)
Santa Cruz Elementary School (MUSD)
Santa Rosa Elementary School (MUSD)

Camino Montessori (charter – closed)
Desert Wind Middle School (MUSD)
Graysmark Schools (charter)
Maricopa High School (MUSD)
Maricopa Wells Middle School (MUSD)
Saddleback Elementary School (MUSD)
Sequoia Pathway Academy (charter)

Stanfield Elementary School (SED)


A = Excellent: Distinguished performance on the statewide assessment, significant student growth, high four-year graduation rates, students are on track to proficiency or overall performance is significantly higher than the state average.
B = Highly Performing: High performance on statewide assessments and/or significant student growth and/or higher four-year graduation rates and/or moving students to proficiency at a higher rate than the state average.
C = Performing: Adequate performance but needs improvement on some indicators including proficiency, growth or graduation rate.
D = Minimally Performing: Inadequate performance in proficiency, growth and/or four-year graduation rate relative to the state average.
F = Systematic failures in proficiency, growth and graduation rates and/or performance is in bottom 5 percent of the state.

“We are excited to earn an A rating for our wonderful school. This A rating represents the dedication and care of each and every one of our staff and our students’ hard work. I am so proud and excited for our students, staff and community to have another A school in Maricopa.” – Butterfield Elementary School Principal Janel Hildick

“Pima Butte is ecstatic about receiving the 2018 ‘A’ rating. This achievement was due to the tireless effort and dedication of our teachers, the hard work of our students and the support of our families. We are extremely proud of this recognition.” – Pima Butte Elementary Principal Randy Lazar


Sequoia Pathway Academy          0.18%
Desert Wind Middle School        0.69%
Maricopa Wells Middle School   2.58%
Maricopa High School                  4.51%

Percent graduating in four years from Maricopa High School and Sequoia Pathway Academy

MHS                      SPA
                                                                 350 Grads             97 Grads
Total                                                          76%                        97%
Economically Disadvantaged               77%                        96%
Male                                                           71%                        97%
Female                                                       81%                       96%
White                                                         81%                        94%
Hispanic                                                    80%                       100%
African-American                                   65%                        *
Native American                                     54%                        *
Asian                                                          73%                        *

*Sample size too small

Source: AZED Oct. 5

This information appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

The Sequoia Pathway volleyball team had a perfect regular season and reached the CAA semifinals. Top row: Coach Holley, Emma Berg, Alexis Powell, Volunteer Assistant Jodi Kalulu; middle row: Cydnee Byrd, Lynniece Andrews, Lexi Trimmer, Mikayla Gallon and Lani Kalulu; bottom row: Taylor Yon, Mercedes Garcia, Jasmin Nafarrate and Jameshia Hughes.


Last night the Sequoia Pathway volleyball team experienced its first loss of the season against the Basis Peoria Scorpions in a hard-fought four-setter.  The 1-3 defeat means the Pumas will not advance to the Canyon Athletic Association’s Division II State Championship.

“The girls held on to their nerves for too long,” coach Lashieka Holley said of the game.

However, Holley was more upbeat about the season past as a whole and the one to come.

“The girls ended the season 16-1,” Holley said. “They really came together and had an unprecedented season, which sets us up for next year. They will be ready for those close games.”

Two juniors are slated to return next season, as will a number of freshmen and sophomores, preserving a strong core. Despite the loss, the camaraderie developed by the tight-knit squad was itself a form of victory.

“We worked really hard as soon as we came in from tryouts,” said Lynniece Andrews, the team’s court captain. “We weren’t as bonded back then, and that was a big piece, because we had different components coming in. We all meshed together and we’re sisters now. We work hard everyday and every game.”

Another Puma captain, Jasmin Nafarrate, echoed this sentiment.

“We have our ups and downs, of course, every team does, but we really did bond together,” said Nafarrate, who described her own role on the team as the “emotional support captain.”

“I’m like a big sister. If they need any advice off the court, anything going on with their families, boy troubles, I’m always there for them. I’m just a shoulder to lean on.”

Holley had hoped the Pumas’ extra practices and long hours would have end in the goal they wrote down shortly after tryouts: winning the state championship for their division. 

“They really put themselves through it this year,” Holley said. “They are a really hard-working group of girls, a special group.”

Shianne Holman guides students through the process of reading local news and using traditional media as they learn to consume information. Photo by Mason Callejas


In an age dominated by digital platforms, Shianne Holman’s fourth-grade students learn hands-on, practical skills like public speaking, reading a paper map and writing checks.

But it’s the teacher, with her bubbly personality and welcoming smile, that motivates students to come to social studies class at Sequoia Pathway Academy.

“She makes me feel joyful, happy and calm,” said 9-year-old James Newman.

Shianne Holman brought a background in education – from security to secretary to paraprofessional – to her newest position as fourth-grade teacher at Sequoia Pathway Academy. Photo by Mason Callejas

A native of Hawaii, Holman is in her second year teaching.

Prior to earning her master’s degree in Elementary Education, she built her resume with wide-ranging school positions in Washington state – from security to secretary to paraprofessional.

And she covers it all in class, too.

With segments in government, economics and state history, Holman’s students are exposed to real-world applications of modern-day issues.

In September, they begin lessons on current events. The children study news of the day from magazines and newsprint collected by Holman from local outlets.

“They need to know what’s happening,” Holman said. “They need to know what’s going on.”

Technology has evolved the education system. Its effects are present in every school’s computer lab and digital smart screens. Holman’s students, likely having navigating hand-held devices since a young age, are exposed in class to the idea that tech can – and does – fail.

That’s why students receive teachings from traditional textbooks, dissect and create map legends, and use their hands to flip through the tangible pages of a news magazine.

Through those lessons, Holman’s students learn to identify the structure of informational texts and gain experience with traditional mediums still produced today.

Photo by Mason Callejas

“I hope they are able to use their experiences that they’re learning now and apply it to become better for us,” Holman said. “They’re our future. Who’s going to take care of us?”

Being informed is an important key in Holman’s teaching philosophy.

Every year her students compose a classroom constitution and submit votes to a handmade ballot box.

“I try to make everything into a real-life situation. I tell them if our parents and grandparents hadn’t gone through what they went through, we wouldn’t have the things we have now, such as technology,” Holman said.

Holman’s educational nostalgia even reaches into the scripts of penmanship – with occasional worksheets on cursive handwriting.

Her fourth-grade teaching colleagues say Holman’s love for educating is illustrated not just by her personality, but also her sundry lesson plans.

“Shianne brings such a passion to teaching, and it shows because her students are always excited to enter her class,” said social studies teacher Dillon Shosted. “Shianne is always looking for new ways to reach all of her students with instructional practices.”

Holman has lived in Maricopa since 2014 with her husband Jonathan and their three daughters Tiani, 11, Nara, 9, and 6-year-old Azaria.

The new educator said she considers former and current students family and hopes her hands-on teachings will produce future leaders.

“I feel like maybe it will inspire one of the kids,” Holman said, “and if that’s one, then that’s better than none.”

This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.


Back to school

Members of the Maricopa High School band continued to perform during the summer in preparation for an early start to the school year.


It will still be July when students return to class in the Maricopa Unified School District, Legacy Traditional and Sequoia Pathway this year.

In exchange for an expedited first day of school, kids will get to spend an additional week off during fall, winter and spring breaks.

The changes at MUSD come as part of a modified calendar adopted by the school Governing Board in early 2017. The district operated an additional year under its traditional calendar to give families and staff time to plan ahead. The two charter schools then chose to follow suit.

Back in 2017, parents voiced concern about childcare during the extended breaks and how the July start-date would negatively affect teen workers with summer jobs.

Others are not worried.

“As a stay-at-home mom, (the new schedule) doesn’t really affect our family,” said Karen Fortunato. “Our family is pretty excited about the changes.”

Some educators in the district are also pleased.

Kathy Fuentes, special education teacher at Saddleback Elementary School, has experience working under the modified calendar in another district.

She loved it then and is looking forward to spending more time off in the cooler weather months of October and March.

“It also gives families a week to take care of doctor appointments and other business and then a week, or so, to rest and relax,” Fuentes said.

A sixth-grade teacher at Maricopa Wells Middle School, Rachael Isenberg, also likes the additional time she’ll have to schedule appointments and travel.

Isenberg was on the district calendar committee and deliberated the reasons why the district should adopt the new schedule.

“We considered things like getting kids out of the worst of the heat and continuity of curriculum and instruction,” Isenberg said.

But the committee also looked at how the extended breaks could benefit educators and families.

Isenberg said teachers often spent the one-week vacations in waiting rooms – cramming in medical appointments during break to avoid missing a day of school.

She said the extended breaks could alleviate that.

Even with its benefits, teachers said the new schedule doesn’t come without a degree of adaptation, especially with summer break.

“For me, it has already made the summer feel shorter,” said Desert Wind music teacher Roger Wagner, who said marching band camp begins one week before staff returns to school

Many educators like Alicia Chin, a science teacher a Maricopa High School, teach summer school and participate in curriculum planning well into June.

School begins July 23.

“I will only be able to take a couple weeks to myself before I need to be back to work again preparing for next year,” Chin said.

MHS Music Director Ivan Pour called the schedule changes “minimal,” although the fall break is in the middle of marching band season.

Beginning school in July means the marching band will have more time overall to rehearse, but Pour said he will have to reconfigure his spring programming because of the new schedule.

“A calendar is a calendar and it is the same number of (school) days,” Pour said, adding, “I think, ultimately, it will allow for more intentional teaching throughout the school year with less progress lost in summer. But it will take some getting used to.”

This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Victor Moreno

Sequoia Pathway Academy celebrated the graduating class in commencement exercises Friday night. More than 70 seniors graduated from the charter school as Mayor Christian Price was the guest speaker.  See senior photos of the graduates here.

From left to right: Graduating Seniors from Maricopa High School, Lindsay Hubbard, Porter Jones, Alessandro Hernandez, and Britney Montgomery. Photo by Victor Moreno.

The class of 2018 at Maricopa High School and Sequoia Pathway Academy is filled with many goal-oriented, career-minded individuals. Learn about a few of them as they prepare for the commencement of the rest of their lives. Maricopa High School graduation is May 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Ram Stadium. Sequoia Pathway graduation is set for May 18 at 7 p.m.

Ethan Armendariz

Ethan Armendariz. Photo by Victor Moreno

When he’s not working or going to school, Armendariz likes to study math, physics, psychology and biology. He has been accepted at Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University and University of Southern California.
School: Sequoia Pathway Academy
Years in Maricopa: 3
Originally from: Wasilla, Alaska
Career goal: Pediatric physician for Doctors Without Borders
Proudest accomplishment: Moving away from my parents at 16 to pursue my education while maintaining my grades, 35 hours a week at work and all my extracurriculars.
Moving forward: I plan to attend medical school at NYU or Stanford after my undergraduate degree in an engineering field. Following this I would like to take my education and training to families in need across the world while traveling to impoverished countries and making an impact in the lives of the youth who have yet to see life without suffering.


Joycelyn Cabrera. Photo by Victor Moreno

Joycelyn Cabrera
Accepted to Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU, Cabrera made scheduling choices to be involved only in journalism-related courses at MHS and has interned during the past year at InMaricopa.com to gain real-world experience.
School: Maricopa High School
Years in Maricopa: 13
Originally from: Yuma
Career goal: Journalist
Proudest accomplishment: I would say I am most proud of having my writing published in the local magazine and doing my first real broadcast, which was aired to the community. I have built a very strong resume and have developed many relationships with various members of the community because of the networking required for these articles.
Moving forward: I plan to study at the Walter Cronkite school and participate in more internships at the university. From there, I’ll be able to decide what specific aspect of journalism I want to pursue and continue
into that field.

Edgar ‘Harrison’ Edmondson IV

Edgar ‘Harrison’ Edmondson IV. Photo by Victor Moreno

Edmondson is president of the MHS chapter of DECA and has participated in summer programs such as ASU’s Fleischer Scholars Program, which helps high school seniors explore W. P. Carey School of Business.
School: Maricopa High School
Years in Maricopa: 3
Originally from: Superior
Career goal: Supply chain manager
Proudest accomplishment: The accomplishment I am most proud of is oddly not being my DECA Chapter’s president, but the award that I received that started the journey that has taken me to where I am today. During my sophomore year, I was awarded the Emerging Leader Award by my DECA Advisor, Mrs. Bernadette Russoniello, an award given to a select few students in the Marketing I classes that showed outstanding leadership potential. It is because of this award that I made the leap to lead students and give back to an organization that has done so much for me, without it I would not be where or who I am now.
Moving forward: I am pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Supply Chain Management and another in Management at ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business beginning this fall. During college, I hope to gain work experience by getting various internships with companies in the business field, expand my network to have the connections needed to go where I wish to go in life, join clubs, and of course have fun!

Fernanda Garcia. Photo by Victor Moreno

Fernanda Garcia
Garcia has been in CAVIT’s veterinary assisting program and competed in a Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) veterinary competition to prepare for her studies in animal health.
School: Sequoia Pathway Academy
Years in Maricopa: 2
Originally from: Phoenix
Career goal: Veterinarian or biologist
Proudest accomplishment: I am proud of the 33 college credits I have earned at CAC as a high school student, the $10,000 scholarship I earned from ASU, being a member of our school’s National Honor Society, being CAVIT’s HOSA president and my straight A’s throughout high school.
Moving forward: I plan on working in an animal clinic while going to ASU for my bachelor’s degree. From there, I will apply to vet school or pursue a master’s degree in biological sciences.

Alessandro Giovanni Hernandez De La Pena. Photo by Victor Moreno

Alessandro (Giovanni) Hernandez De La Peña

Hernandez is the salutatorian of the MHS senior class. His AP classes include chemistry, giving him a foundation in pharmaceuticals, which he wants to make his future. He will attend the University of Arizona and its Honors College.
School: Maricopa High School
Years in Maricopa: 6
Originally from: Eastvale, California
Career goal: Pharmaceutical scientist
Proudest accomplishment: My naming as a National Hispanic Scholar was definitely one of my proudest moments, and it has opened up to me many opportunities, such as those in scholarships and admittance.
Moving forward: I plan to attend the University of Arizona and pursue either an undergraduate degree in biochemistry or later a PharmD. Pursuing a further education at a graduate school is also something to be kept in mind while working toward a successful career in science and medicine.

Dylan Hill. Photo by Victor Moreno

Dylan Hill
Nominated for two military service academies, Hill has become involved in serious responsibilities during her high school years, including leadership of the city’s Youth Council and the MHS Air Force Junior ROTC program. She intends to foster her leadership skills in college to prepare for life in the military and accepted an appointment to West Point.
School: Maricopa High School
Years in Maricopa: 11
Originally from: Chandler
Career goal: Serve in the U.S. military
Proudest accomplishment: I have received the National NROTC Marine-option scholarship valued at over $180,000 and have received a service academy appointment.
Moving forward: I plan on attending college in the fall, then continually progressing through taking on leadership roles and increasing my physical fitness so I can become more prepared to lead others after I graduate.

Christiana Holguin

Christiana Holguin. Photo by Victor Moreno

Holguin is headed to Villanova, where she intends to continue her study of English literature in hopes of becoming a professor. To prepare, she has tutored English, volunteered at the library and wrote an article about a local veteran for the Veteran’s Heritage Project.
School: Sequoia Pathway Academy
Years in Maricopa: 12
Originally from: Gilbert
Career goal: English professor
Proudest accomplishment: I’m proud of the fact that I was invited to give a speech at the TEDx (Technology, Entertainment and Design experiences) event as a sophomore.
Moving forward: I was accepted to Villanova University, and I intend to study English literature and pursue a doctorate.

Lindsay Hubbard. Photo by Victor Moreno

Lindsay Hubbard
Hubbard is enrolled at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering to study aerospace engineering in the fall. But first, in June, she will be competing in the Miss Arizona pageant.
School: Maricopa High School
Years in Maricopa: 12
Originally from: Phoenix
Career goal: Aerospace engineer at NASA
Proudest accomplishment: I am most proud of my title as Miss Pinal County, a part of the Miss America Organization. With this title I get the chance to have a voice and expand my platform ‘Starting at the S.T.E.M.’ Sharing my passion and dreams with others is not something I thought I would be able to do so early in my life. It’s an amazing feeling to be so young and doing something so big. In June of 2018, before the start of my freshman year at ASU, I will be competing in the Miss Arizona pageant. I hope to make my County and the city of Maricopa proud by bringing home the title Miss Arizona.
Moving forward: I plan to achieve my career goals by continuing the process of applying for scholarships to make my college and future stress free. I want to focus on my first responsibility – being a student. I plan to continue to learn not just in the classroom but through my environment as well. Every day is a new experience and every day I have the chance to learn something new.

Porter Brigham Jones

Porter Jones. Photo by Victor Moreno

Jones is the valedictorian of the MHS senior class and has accepted a full-ride scholarship to NAU. He studies languages and ancient civilizations when not focused on service, art and theater.
School: Maricopa High School
Years in Maricopa: 16
Originally from: Chandler
Career goal: Archaeologist/linguist, husband and father
Proudest accomplishment: Accomplishments are all relative, depending both on how you and others view them.  Still, the things that have given me the most pride in my life so far have to include some things that naturally come from a school environment, like learning how to get along with everyone you meet (and still keep your opinion), learning time management, and most importantly, making so many outstanding and phenomenal friends who inspire me to do better!  I also have a great sense of satisfaction that I have been able to vastly improve my art skills from what they were before, maintain a high GPA, land some larger roles in theatrical performances in the community, and have the opportunity to enter many competitions in the county, state, and nation!  Service has also been a highlight in my time in high school, and I’m thankful that there are many chances for youth to help others and learn some humility—something that I and everyone else could use a hefty helping of in a self-centered world.
Moving forward: Well, one should never count their chickens before they’re hatched — and life is notorious for its curveball pitches — but I feel that I have a pretty straightforward plan for my life so far!  I will be spending my first year of college attending Northern Arizona University, where I plan to get some preliminary Archaeology and Language classes out of the way, taking time to also revel in the electives.  Soon after, however, I hope to have saved enough money to go on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!  After that I’ll move on to another chapter in my life.  I’ll get my degree, get married, settle down, raise a family, and find something I enjoy doing and that will benefit a lot of people.  If I can, I hope to educate the public on the wonders of history, help out people in need, and support my country.    On the side I might also make a hobby/career of cartooning and writing, since both greatly appeal to me.  Of course, none of this would be possible without my family, friends, and God, so thanks!

Britney Montgomery. Photo by Victor Moreno

Britney Montgomery
Montgomery has been a mainstay of the MHS Theatre Company and has earned a musical theater scholarship with her “superior” vocal abilities, honed in statewide and international competitions.
School: Maricopa High School
Years in Maricopa: 4
Originally from: Freeport, New York
Career goal: Broadway performer/theatre teacher
Proudest accomplishment:  I am most proud of being awarded the Amy Bennett Foundation Scholarship. To receive something that means so much to someone is really an honor.
Moving forward: I plan on going to University for musical theatre and secondary education and get my teaching degree and also a degree in theatre.

Haley Petersheim

Haley Petersheim. Photo by Victor Moreno

Petersheim plans to study political science at ASU with a broader goal of civic leadership. As part of the nonpartisan Junior State of America, she has learned how to be an effective civic participant and debater. She is on Maricopa Youth Council and attends school site council and district budget meetings.
School: Maricopa High School
Years in Maricopa: 12
Career goal: To work in legislation
Proudest accomplishment: I am most proud of the fact that I can see the students from my club stand up and try making changes in our community. I am also proud of the award that I received from the Daughters of the American Revolution for my civic engagement and interest in government.
Moving forward: I plan on applying for/getting internships at the capitol and making connections with the congressmen/women to be able to get as much experience and be as involved as I can.

Jalen Reyes. Photo by Victor Moreno.

Jalen Reyes
Reyes intends to earn a university degree in dance education and was recently accepted into a Silver-Medal competitive Urban Dance team, The Elektrolytes.
School: Maricopa High School
Years in Maricopa: 6
Originally from: Greeley, Colorado
Career goal: Choreographer and dance studio director
Proudest accomplishment: Joining the Elektrolytes is definitely one of my greatest accomplishments. The discipline of dance is very subjective and to be accepted to such a prestigious team is validating. It is not everyday that the winners of America’s Best Dance Crew accept dancers onto their competitive team.  I have only been dancing for four years but it something that I take very seriously because it can transcend speech, send a message, and impact a person on an indescribable level. This is what I aim to do as a choreographer: to inspire and to push others to grow.
Moving forward: After receiving my degree in dance education, I plan on traveling to New Zealand to audition for The Royal Family, one of the best and biggest dance teams in the world. This is more than just another team, however. The Royal Family have worked with some of the biggest names in pop culture such as Justin Bieber, Jason Derulo, Nicki Minaj, etc. With my experience and training, I will then be in a position to share this with and mentor the next generation of performers in a dance studio of my own. By owning a studio, I can continue to work in the dance world long after my performing days as a teacher, director, and coach.

This story appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Below: Photos and names supplied by Maricopa High School. Click on photos to enlarge.

Below: Photos and names supplied by Sequoia Pathway Academy. Click on photos to enlarge.