For better or worse: Ahwatukee school community has come out of 2012 with hope - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

For better or worse: Ahwatukee school community has come out of 2012 with hope

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Posted: Monday, December 31, 2012 6:45 am | Updated: 1:58 pm, Tue Oct 14, 2014.

If the Ahwatukee Foothills community knows one thing, it’s how to stand in resilience and maintain hope.

The past year proved to be a test of strength for parents, students, school officials and residents.

In 2012, we saw hope for the new year in gaining Ahwatukee representation on each school board, suffered through the loss of a handful of deaths within the school community, and also rose to the challenge of aiding a school community in Connecticut in their own time of need.

Here’s a look back at some of these events, giving this community a duty to carry on in hope.

Desert Vista mourns

The Desert Vista High School community saw seven deaths of current, past students, and employees in 2012.

On July 20, the movie-theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., claimed the lives of 12 people including Alex Teves, a 2006 graduate of Desert Vista who died shielding his girlfriend from bullets.

“He was a hero to me,” said Caren Teves, of her eldest son. “It’s in true Teves fashion that he died a hero just as he lived.”

Later that month, Timothy Lupton-Stegall lost his battle with cancer on July 28. The Desert Vista graduate of 2008 was recognized earlier this year as the Arizona Special Olympics’ “most inspirational athlete.”

In October, Desert Vista sophomore Trenton Keller was found by his family after committing suicide.

Two of the school’s beloved security guards, Pat Quinn and Lee Wasden, died this year. Quinn died of a heart attack and was found by police on Desert Vista’s track in May. Quinn was a district employee for a total of about eight years before he died, and was known to regularly run the track before school in the mornings. On Nov. 11, another revered school security guard died. Wasden, 84, was a security guard for about two years, and had been on a recent health decline, according to Battle.

Two other graduates from the school died from auto incidents. In July, a nine-vehicle wreck on Interstate 10 near Ahwatukee took the life of 21-year-old Desert Vista graduate Aaron Brandt. He died at the scene after he was ejected when a semi truck rolled on its side and collided with Brandt’s truck. On Nov. 7, Matthew Swift-Kraemer, a 2009 graduate, died after a week-long struggle on life support following a car accident in Pueblo, Colo.

A memorial service for Swift-Kraemer, mentioning Brandt, was hosted by Desert Vista this past weekend.

Ahwatukee residents represent school district governing boards

While local legislative and congressional district candidates gave a heated race this season, the local public school governing board elections came out on top for Ahwatukee, gaining representation for both districts.

Longtime resident and business owner John King won a seat on the Kyrene Elementary School Governing Board during this year’s election in November. King, 64, said during his campaign that he wanted to see the district continue to move forward.

“Things are changing in the community, and we are starting to see those things affect us in many different ways. I have a business background and an education background, and I think that I can mold those together in such a way to enhance the board,” he said in a previous report by the AFN.

For the Tempe Union High School District, Ahwatukee’s two public high schools, Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe, will have its first local resident on the board in 12 years.

Moses Sanchez, an educator at South Mountain Community College, won his seat.

Schools prove top in academics, performing arts

Horizon Honors High School in Ahwatukee steadily increased its ACT scores since 2008, maintaining a steady lead ahead of Arizona’s average scores.

Students at Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools this year were also above state average on a five-year trend, according to Linda Littell, executive director of community relations at the district.

Desert Vista High School and Kyrene Altadeña Middle School were among a list of Arizona schools named as All Subject Higher Performing Schools in November. The Arizona Business and Education Coalition, in partnership with the National Center for Educational Achievement, names elementary, middle and high schools in the state that have consistently outperformed others in one content area or more, and in all subjects tested by the Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS).

Desert Vista’s marching band took home its third gold plate in November during the Arizona State Marching Band Championships.

A handful of Mountain Pointe seniors submitted art and photography, garnering Best of Show and Exceptional Merit titles. The students submitted their work into the Arizona State Fair’s Student Art and Photography contest.

Taking on the challenge of bullying

With school bullying continuing to be on the forefront of a list of concerns for parents, Kyrene schools promoted anti-bullying awareness this year with national programs.

Rachel’s Challenge, a program aimed at spreading a “chain reaction” of kindness in schools, was inspired by one of the first victims of the 1999 Columbine school shooting in Colorado.

The ABC’s of Bullying Prevention program by the Harlem Globetrotters piloted its newest school challenge called Do the Write Thing with its start at Kyrene del Milenio.

But one student, a third-grader at Kyrene de Colina, took matters into her own hands in October.

In honor of anti-bullying month, Hazel Cates wanted to raise awareness to the issue of bullying with her classmates by hosting a pinky-nail painting table. For two days at each recess, girls could have their pinky nails painted orange — the official color for Anti-Bullying Awareness Month — and boys could have an orange string tied to their shoelaces.

Ahwatukee reaches out to Sandy Hook

In the most recent tragedy to hit the nation, the effects of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting made its way to Ahwatukee Foothills.

After 27 people, including 20 children, were killed when gunman Adam Lanza fired off high-powered rifles, a group of students here in Ahwatukee wanted to extend their condolences.

During each lunch hour at Mountain Pointe, about 100 students and staff gathered around the school’s front entryway where a small memorial was set up representing each victim.

An Ahwatukee resident, Joy Holsinger, whose niece was a Sandy Hook student at the time of the shooting, collected school supplies for Sandy Hook students being placed into new schools.

Last week, a Kyrene de las Lomas teacher and his wife also supplied the school with service, donations and collected items. Dave Leonard, who teaches fifth-grade, said his wife, Faith, made the trip to Newtown, Conn., to offer help.

Each school district, including Horizon Community Learning Center, reminded parents of each school’s safety measures, with Kyrene implementing some new procedures last week.

Though the year seemed to end on a dark note, small glimmers of positive anticipation were revealed for the upcoming year.

Residents, students and businesses have seen their share of ups and downs, and some could say that through trials and faith a hopefulness can be refined.

One thing is for sure, Ahwatukee has come out of 2012 on top, maintaining its sense of family, courage and perseverance amidst chaos.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dmartinez@ahwatukee.com. Follow on Twitter: @_dianamartinez.

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