Author Archives: karenbarr

Phoenix Suns name scholarship recipients

Sixteen high school seniors from throughout Arizona have been named winners in the Phoenix Suns Charities’ SunStudents Scholarship program.

Taylor Sanders of Desert Ridge High School was named winner of the Kevin Johnson Scholar Award and will receive a $5,000 scholarship. Each of the 15 other students will receive a $2,000 scholarship. The funds can be used to defray educational expenses at any college or university they choose.

The announcement was made at halftime during Monday night’s Suns-Trail Blazers game at US Airways Center.

This season marks the ninth year the Kevin Johnson award has been presented. The scholarship, named for the Suns’ former All-Star point guard Kevin Johnson, was created in recognition of Johnson’s retirement and honors the spirit of learning and community service espoused by Johnson during his tenure with the Phoenix Suns.

“Phoenix Suns Charities’ scholarship committee was overwhelmed by the number of impressive applications we received this year,” said Robin Milne, executive director of Phoenix Suns Charities, in a press release. “The 16 recipients have not only displayed stellar academic efforts, but have dedicated countless hours to community service.”

More than 300 applicants from across the state were judged on their community involvement, scholastic performance, letters of recommendation and essays on overcoming adversity.

The 2012 Phoenix Suns Charities SunStudents Scholarship recipients are:

Taylor Sanders
Desert Ridge High School, Kevin Johnson Scholarship winner

Aaron Wodka
Nogales High School

Abigail Mucklow
Northwest Christian High School

Adelynn Shafer
Sahuaro High School

Brandon Shaw
Basha High School

Christina Wood
Marcos de Niza

Cole Waldren
Pinnacle High School

Dominic Hayden
Pinnacle High School

Dustin Jed Tanada
Williams Field High School

Kimberly Mitchell
Sunnyslope High School

Meera Kumar
Horizon High School

Meghan Kuebler
Florence High School

Natalie Jones
St. David High School

Nicholas Jakob
Notre Dame Prep Academy

Stephen Smith
Centennial High School

Victoria Ton
Hamilton High School

Phoenix Suns Charities makes grants to non-profit organizations that serve children and youth in the areas of education, health and human services, the arts, sports and recreation, and rehabilitation. In the 24 years since its inception, Phoenix Suns Charities has donated more than 12 million dollars to worthy Arizona organizations and individuals.


They’re number one

Congratulations to the national championship Lady Knights girl’s basketball team at Saint Mary’s Catholic High School in Phoenix.

The Lady Knights are ranked #1 in the country for girls basketball by ESPN, USA Today and a host of other ranking services. The team had a perfect season of 30-0 and won the Division I Arizona State Basketball Championship in late February.

The Lady Knights vaulted to the #1 ranking in the nation after winning the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions in December. This season the Lady Knights defeated five nationally ranked squads from around the country and the Australian high school national championship team. They sealed the “National Championship” by winning their state title and holding their undefeated record for the remainder of their season.

Tournament play exposes the Lady Knights to hundreds of college coaches, greatly enhancing opportunities for college scholarships. The two seniors, Shilpa Tummala and Cortnee Walton, will be playing basketball next year at Harvard University and the University of Louisville, respectively. They both have been named Arizona McDonald’s All American players, and have been named WBCA Honorable Mention All Americans. Shilpa Tummala was just awarded the Gatorade Arizona Girls Basketball Player of the Year, a prestigious award in its 27th year.

Many colleges have also expressed interest in the younger Lady Knights, including Duke, Stanford, the University of Connecticut, Notre Dame,
Princeton, Harvard, UCLA, USC, Miami, Oregon, Boise State, University of
Arizona, Arizona State, Marquette, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Boston
College, Kansas State and Yale, just to name a few.

These scholar athletes have been awarded the AIA Scholar-Athlete Team Award for the past three years. This award is given to teams with average GPA’s above a 3.5 on a 4.0 scale. A few of the girls have a perfect 4.0 GPA and are ranked
at the top of the sophomore, junior and senior classes. Many of the team
members are involved in Student Council, and one is the chief editor of
the Yearbook. Chloe Johnson, a Junior, just received the prestigious
“Youth of the Year” award from the Boys and Girls Club.

Coach Curtis Ekmark recently was named the Naismith Girls High School Basketball Coach of the Year. The Naismith Award recognizes the top national, regional and local players, coaches, officials and administrators who have displayed excellence and outstanding achievements in basketball.

Saint Mary’s High School is a Roman Catholic co-educational Diocesan high
school located in Phoenix. Founded in 1917, the school currently
has an enrollment of 255 girls and 234 boys.

North High students aim to end the “r” word

North High will kick off a “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign Monday morning with an assembly presented by the school’s Best Buddies Club.

The goals of the campaign are to communicate to students that the “r” word, (“retard”) is derogatory and callous and to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. The campaign also contributes to school-wide goals of being a safe, bully-free, accepting place for all students.

The event will include guest speaker Buddy Ambassadors from Best Buddies Arizona, and student speakers and presentations.

Best Buddies matches students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) with other high school students and creates one-to-one friendships between them, crossing the invisible line that often separates those with disabilities from those without.

North High School, located at 1100 N. Thomas Rd. in Phoenix, is part of the Phoenix Union High School District.

Learn more about Best Buddies.

Kristy Yamaguchi scores gold with Greenfield Elementary students

Kristy Yamaguchi autographs books at Greenfield Elementary.

Olympic gold medalist skater Kristi Yamaguchi stole the show at Greenfield Elementary‘s recent Read-a-Thon kickoff.

Now also the author of two children’s book, Yamaguchi talked with students about her figure-skating past and her reasons for writing the books.

“When people ask how do you go from ice skating to dancing to becoming a children’s author, I tell them I’m inspired to do it for my daughters,” she said, referring to her stint on Dancing with the Stars and her 6- and 8-year-old girls. “Reading is important in our family, and we read at bedtime. I thought it would be fun to read a book Mommy wrote.”

It’s a Big World, Little Pig features a persistent, ice-skating pig named Poppy who travels to Paris to participate in the World Games. Though it may sound like Poppy and Yamaguchi are one and the same, Yamaguchi is quick to point out that is not so. “Poppy is made up,” she said. “I draw from the lessons I learned skating and my own experiences, but she is not me.”

Profits from the sale of both of her books go to her Always Dream Foundation, a non-profit, public charity whose “continuing goal is to find innovative ways to provide funding for a diverse range of programs designed to inspire and embrace the hopes and dreams of children and adolescents.”

Greenfield Elementary students filed out of the auditorium after Yamaguchi’s reading and question-and-answer session abuzz with excitement at having met an Olympic medalist. With visions of an adorable, skate-clad pig in their heads, they begin their own reading adventures. This year’s read-a-thon goal is to raise enough money to ensure a SMARTboard in every Greenfield Elementary classroom.

Information and photos submitted by Brenda Morreim, Gilbert Public Schools

Yamaguchi, now an honorary Gator, shows off the Greenfield Elementary shirt given to her by the school.

UA Engineering Phoenix Roadshow will be in Chandler Saturday

The UA Baja Racing club, one of several groups that will attend the Saturday event.

The sixth annual UA Engineering Phoenix Roadshow featuring 2011-12 engineering student ambassadors and student clubs will be held Saturday, March 3 at Hamilton High School in Chandler.

The Roadshow is a chance for Phoenix-area high school students to learn firsthand about University of Arizona engineering degree programs, academic resources and student clubs by meeting and chatting with current UA engineering students.

“The Roadshow is an exciting way to bring the innovation, excitement and creativity of UA Engineering to Phoenix,” says Rebecca Myren, assistant director of student recruitment and retention at the UA College of Engineering. “Participants will have the opportunity to learn about the student experience, explore our 13 engineering majors and enjoy demonstrations by the aerial robotics team, the Society of Automotive Engineers Baja Racing team and many others.”

In 2011, the Phoenix Roadshow hosted more than 200 students and parents who walked the outdoor expo of engineering student clubs and organizations and attended indoor presentations on the assorted engineering majors available. This year, recruiters and current students are available to talk about what prospective engineers should be doing in high school right now to prepare for engineering studies at the university level.

The UA Engineering student organizations scheduled to appear at the 2012 Phoenix Roadshow include:

UA Baja Racing
Arizona Formula SAE
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) student chapter
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) student chapter
Society of Civil Engineers (SCE) student chapter
Theta Tau Professional Engineering Fraternity
Society of Mining Engineers (SME)
Engineering Student Council (ESC)
Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society
Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS)
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE)
Society of Women Engineers (SWE)

Information on scholarships, financial aid, and how and when to apply to the university will be available to attendees of this year’s UA Engineering Phoenix Roadshow.

Hamilton High School is located at 3700 S. Arizona Ave. in Chandler. Events run from 10am to 1pm.  Attendance is free but you must register in advance at For more information, call the UA College of Engineering Student Affairs Office at 520-621-6032.

FUN photos from school: Centennial photos are still coming in!

Paradise Valley High School culinary arts teacher Patty Nadzieja and students (pictured here are Brad Reeder, Chelsea Bailey, Shayla Armstrong and Jessica Manning) celebrated Arizona’s Centennial by helping make 1,500 mini cupcakes to share with the school and staff. 

Making our state a better place in increments of 100 was the centennial assignment for students at Playa del Rey Elementary School. On Feb. 14, each grade level shared their efforts at a school-wide birthday party and assembly.

“It was amazing to see the school come together and get excited about making Arizona better,” said fourth-grade teacher Sarah Wamsley. “The energy and joy in the gym was electrifying. The 100-themed activities by grade level:

Kindergarten: learned 100 facts about Arizona
First grade: read 100 books from A to Z
Second grade: donated 100 bottles of water to a shelter
Third grade: provided 100 pairs of socks to those in need
Fourth grade: wrote 100 thank-you cards to firemen, policemen, and paramedics
Fifth grade: donated 100 books to a shelter
Sixth grade: performed 100 hours of community service

Photo courtesy of Gilbert Public Schools.

The Meridian Mustangs celebrated the Arizona Centennial with month-long activities and a “Cents-sational Centennial Celebration.” Each grade level constructed displays throughout the hallways, and an Arizona-themed best door decoration competition took place. Copper coins were placed in a giant jar and more than $500 was collected and donated to the school’s library for the purchase of new books.

On Feb. 9 parents and children gathered for the big celebration, including the Meridian choir led by Marshann Donahue and breakout sessions highlighting Arizona-themed math, reading, art and science activities. Wildman Phil of Desert Wildlife Presentations was on hand to share some native animals with the groups. In addition, nearly 300 students took the Lost Dutchman’s Physical Challenge, which meant performing actions in 10 different areas of Arizona, such as 10 ski jumps in Flagstaff, 10 steps across the London Bridge in Lake Havasu, or 10 steps across the White Mountains in Pinetop.

Meridian choir presentation. Photo courtesy of Gilbert Public Schools.

FUN photos from school: more Centennial celebrations

Olga Garcia from Christ’s Greenfield Lutheran Preschool and School in Gilbert sent these pictures from Arizona Centennial celebrations last week.

Mrs. Wornick's kindergarten students created a desert scene and a birthday cake. From left: Marlow Bowser, Jacob Kelly, Jayln Sickels and Sam Cavinder.

The Student Council gave everyone in the school a paper square. Each family/student took their square and made a picture of why they love Arizona. Student Council members came to school on a Saturday and put the squares together to make a paper quilt, which they hung it from a second-story walkway for all to see as they enter the school. From left: Darius Williams, Gabey Garcia, Lexi Ermeling, Hannah Drager, Lauren Plihcik, Sue Coryea and Natalie Nielson.