A bigger challenge, more recognition and a potential boost to students’ collegiate futures are just a few reasons East Valley charter schools are making the move to affiliate with the Arizona Interscholastic Association — the state’s governing body for high school sports and a host of other activities.
One of those schools is Mesa’s Sequoia Schools, a group of public charter schools that includes Sequoia Schools for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
“This is going to help our athletes, improve them, and get them a better chance to be looked at by scouts,” said Sequoia athletic director Robert McCormick.
It’s also going to open the doors for more programs at the schools that share a campus in Mesa: Sequoia Elementary and Secondary and Sequoia Academics and Arts, as well as the deaf and hard of hearing school.
There are 280 students in grades nine through 12, with about 80 to 85 student athletes.
“A lot of these athletes are multisport players,” McCormick said.
McCormick said his schools would be able to compete in debate and theater once those are set up, as well as existing sports like cheerleading, because of the affiliation with the AIA, the state’s .
“The kids are pretty excited. It gives the kids a vast variety of other athletics out there,” he said.
And it will help the school attract more students because of the opportunities.
Sequoia schools will compete next school year in baseball, basketball, cross-country, football, softball, track and volleyball.
McCormick said he’s seeing other charter schools making the switch to the AIA as well. Mesa Preparatory Academy is another East Valley charter school joining this fall.
“Slowly a lot of the charter schools are starting to switch over to AIA just for that reason – to be able to have different things to offer their kids and their schools such as debate, cheer and theater,” he said.
AIA associate executive director Chuck Schmidt said any school can apply to join the association.
“Charter schools continue to want to seek membership through AIA. I would suggest, depending on the school, that it’s a great fit. That has been going on since about 2000,” Schmidt said. “It’s all positive. It’s about the students. I think it’s positive to get the schools involved and the students involved.”
Alex Provencio and Guillermo Leon are two seniors at Sequoia who are thrilled with the change.
Provencio plays football and basketball and plans to compete in cross-country. A student at Sequoia since seventh grade, he’s excited about how the change to AIA may improve his future chances to play sports in college.
“I’m the guy who just keeps going no matter what. I don’t really get tired. I have a lot of energy,” Provencio said of his playing style. “The AIA? It’s good. It looks good for colleges. I want to go to college on a sports scholarship. That’s my goal. In my mind, if (we) go AIA, more colleges will recognize us.”
Leon, also a multiport athlete, said the AIA move means greater opportunity to be seen by scouts and face more competitive opponents. He’s most looking forward to playing Phoenix Christian, which will be a first for Sequoia.
During the past few years, Sequoia’s football team has made it to the charter schools’ championship games. The basketball team did the same last year.
“We’re capable of the challenges (of the) AIA. We are ready. We’ve been ready,” Provencio said.
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