Category Archives: High Schools

An hour is not enough

Erahm Christopher at Trevor Browne High School Friday.

Story and photos by Daniel Friedman

Bullying is a big issue in the media and on school campuses. When I was a kid, a bully was someone who sought you out, harassed, harangued and beat you up for no other reason than because they could and took delight in it. Normally though, friends came to your aid and/or the bully would catch a fist to the nose or some other humiliation and the problem would go away.

The auditorium at Trevor Browne with the video screen to show the Teen Truth Live video. (photo is a composite of two images)

Charles Calhoun, an Arizona Special Olympics athlete spoke about how he had been excluded because of his disability.

I went to an assembly at Trevor G Browne High School Friday led by Erahm Christopher of Teen Truth Live. Though bullying was the buzzword upon which the assembly was advertised, the definition of bullying was enlarged to encompass many behaviors found in a school setting. Slides during the video included, “Spreading a Rumor is Bullying”, “Excluding someone is Bullying”, as well as the obvious, “A Physical Attack is Bullying.” Just the rumor aspect alone would label nearly everyone as a bully.

I talked to Erahm after the assembly and he said that bullying is the hot button so principals want to see bullying in the title of the presentation. That’s he says we ”get our foot in the door and deliver our message.”

His message was that kids feel alienated and disconnected from their peers and from their parents. They have no one to turn to except maybe other students who are equally disconnected and in the extreme case act out their aggression. The only way to make things better was to be a positive force in the community by doing something as simple as not calling someone a name, or making fun of them for their appearance, background or disability. And to say something, tell someone and do something if there is a problem. It sounded a lot like “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Chelsy Essig, a senior at Trevor Browne spoke about being bullied because she was different. Chelsy is part of the Arizona Special Olympics Project Unify.

Christopher started his mission of building community after the Columbine shooting in 1999 when he found that kids just wanted someone who would listen to them.

In Michael Moore’s documentary on the Columbine shootings and the culture of guns and violence in America, “Bowling for Columbine”, the rock musician Marilyn Manson, whose violent stage persona has been blamed for violent behavior, is asked what he would have said to students at Columbine. His response is probably the most logical of anyone Moore interviewed in the documentary, says, “I wouldn’t say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say, and that’s what no one did.”

That was Erahm’s message to the students at Trevor Browne, North High and North Canyon, the three schools he visited during his swing through the Valley: Tell someone how you are feeling before you do something you’ll regret. And to the community as a whole take the time to pay attention to the people in their community, as people are hurting and need to be included. Hence the notion that exclusion is bullying.

Christopher related his experience from high school how he had been physically threatened by another student and was on the verge of taking a shotgun to school but as luck would have it his brother noticed something was wrong, looked in his gym bag where he had stashed the gun, stopped him. His brother said, “Why didn’t you say anything?” His parents were told, they called the police and the boy who had threatened Erahm was arrested.

Teen Truth Live was there because Arizona Special Olympics Project Unify wants to include within prevention bullying, the idea that excluding special needs students or using the “r-word” is also part of positive community building. Special Athlete Charles Calhoun, and Project Unity partner Chelsy Essig, a senior at Trevor Brown spoke about their experiences being bullied and excluded by family, friend and peers.

Students signify whether they have been bullied or bullied another student.

The assembly only lasted 50 minutes as that was all the school could allot to the presentation that normally runs 70 minutes. Christopher had to take out much of the interactive sections to save time. To be effective, Christopher admits the message needs to be heard for more than for 50 minutes. Schools that embrace the entire program do pre- and post-assembly activities as well as offer the presentation to the parents. Building a supportive community takes more than 50 or 70 minutes, during one afternoon in the school gymnasium.

During the presentation, Erahm Christopher asked kids to stand raise their hands if they had been bullied in any way. Then he had them sit down if they had ever bullied anyone whether by saying something, or excluding them or even by physically attacking them. This student and a few others on the other side of he room remained standing.

If kids feel disconnected and alienated as the video suggests, where are the parents? A child’s first connection is their own family and especially their parents. So it it that parents are working more than ever? During the recession of the early 1980s  two-career households started to become the norm, and households became busier. And with the recent recession, parents struggle to find and keep jobs, making live even busier and more hectic.


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.

When robots compete

Team TecBot from Toluca, Mexico cheers their robot and robot operators.

Photos and story by Daniel Friedman

See the update at the end of this post about the winners of the competition.

Just like at high school basketball game on a Friday night, the crowds were out, the mascot’s antics amused the fans and rallied the team, and the competition was fierce. Unlike a basketball game, most of the players can turn pro.

Teams set up their robots at the beginning of the match. For the first 15 seconds the robots rely only on programming to shoot baskets.

It was the Arizona Regional FIRST Robotics Competition at Hamilton High School in Chandler, featuring teams from all over the Southwest as well as Canada, Mexico and Brazil.

Phoenix Country Day School team members watch their robot before they take control.

For the first 15 seconds the robots must operate autonomously on programming installed in their on-board computer to make as many baskets as they can. Then team members operate them remotely, picking up basketballs and shooting them into the four levels of hoops. To get more points, for the last 30 seconds of the two-minute contest, a red team robot and a blue team robot can share the white, middle ramp to win cooperation points. After this round teams choose another team to work with.

The Scottsdale Coronado High School team operates their robot.

There is a thick notebook of rules and regulations and several referees to keep track of the contest. One thing is certain, everyone was having a great time, fixing robots, reprogramming them, cheering for their team and hoping their robot survives the competition.

Sometimes robots don't survive the match and must be repaired before the next round.

The Notre Dame Prep team worked intently to repair their robot. Teams have six weeks to design and construct their robots before they are "bagged", sealed in a container, to prevent additional engineering. They can work on them in the pit area during competition but they can't continually refine their designs between regional competitions.

The Tempe High School team working on their machine. Laptops are used to write the software that is uploaded into the robots to run them during the first part of each match.

The pit area isn't all work. The Coconino High School team's spirit table, was decorated with their mascot, a squirrel, as well as memorabilia from past competitions and descriptions of their robot.

Team mascots were out in force.

As one would expect from a bunch of engineers, some mascots were more complex than others. This looks like a gila monster so it could be the General Motors/Arizona Western Colleges/jcpenney/ Yuma Union High School District mascot.

Kidron Gage from Coconino High School in Flagstaff volunteered to help out at the competition.

A blue robot waits for a red robot to balance on the white bridge, thus earning cooperation points.

UPDATE: The Carl Hayden High School Robotics team won the FIRST Arizona Regional Robotics competition for the second year in a row. Check out this video of the final match.

The Falcons finished with a match record of 10-1 in qualifying rounds, the second-best record among the 50-team field. They formed an alliance with teams from Toronto, Canada and Seton Catholic High School of Chandler.

The Carl Hayden team coached by Fredi Lajvardi, will go to the International FIRST Competition in St. Louis, April 25-28.

Carl Hayden team members are Joach Avitia, Elizabeth Perez, Isabel Martinez, Carlos Ruvio, Ulises Barazza, Martin Carranza, Sergio Corral, Daisy Fernandez, Dillon Dayea, Jesus Meraz, Maria Castro, Bianca Rodriguez, John Rangel, Iselea Martinez, Jorge Tay, Quenan Aaron Ruiz, Diserae Sanders, Dalton Dayea, Jesus Parra, Elizar Diaz, Cruz Garcia, Staphany Ramirez.

The Falcons named this year’s robot, “Angelica’s DREAM” to honor Angelica Hernandez, an alumna of the program who is now a mechanical engineer after graduating as the Outstanding Engineering Student at ASU last year.

April 12 Update:

From a April 10, 2012 Phoenix Union High School District news release:

The Betty H. Fairfax High School Robotics team was a member of the winning alliance in the FIRST Robotics Las Vegas Regional competition, April 5-7  in Las Vegas, Nevada, and has qualified for the International FIRST Robotics Championships in St. Louis, April 25-28.

It is the first time a Phoenix Union team has won a regional outside of Arizona, and only the second PUHSD school to win a regional (Carl Hayden has won Arizona Regionals in 2011 and 2012.)  The Las Vegas Regional included 42 teams from Nevada, California, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming and Mexico.

Betty Fairfax and Carl Hayden will represent PUHSD in the FIRST International Championships later this month at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.   This will be Fairfax’ second trip to the Internationals.  In its first-ever regional, four years ago, the team won the Rookie All Star Award and was invited to the International competition in Atlanta.

Engineering the education of future engineers

Too few students are becoming engineers or working in scientific fields. A Wall Street Journal article from Nov. 2011, Generation Jobless: Students Pick Easier Majors Despite Less Pay describes how students may start college intending to become engineers but lack the motivation or skills to meet the rigorous curriculum or choose other fields offering more pay.

The article states, “Research has shown that graduating with these majors (engineering and science) provides a good foundation not just for so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) jobs, or those in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields, but a whole range of industries where earnings expectations are high.” Non-STEM fields seek people with quantitative skills and may pay more the than the engineering jobs.

Engineers create our technological gadgets. Science Foundation Arizona hopes to persuade more students to become engineers. photo: Steve

But students are not prepared for college science or mathematics. Less than half of the graduating high school seniors were ready for college math and less than a third were prepared for college science courses according to an ACT report cited in the article.

Ironically, high-tech gadgets designed by engineers are embedded in the lifestyles of high school and college students, yet they choose not to pursue a career to make the gadgets and software, and perhaps earn a fortune they doing so.

Science Foundation Arizona has established the Arizona STEM Network to increase the number of students interested in STEM fields, increase student achievement, and hopefully inspire them to pursue STEM majors in college.

The Science Foundation of Arizona will manage the Arizona STEM Network to increase teacher effectiveness, get businesses involved in the schools, increase the amount of STEM learning and activities in schools and keep track of what initiatives works and their impact.

They have a five-year plan they hope will change the course of the state’s economy by increasing the number of citizens trained in science and engineering fields to attract employers seeking people with those skills.

Health Careers Institute for high school students

High school students practice venipuncture techniques during Midwestern University’s annual Health Careers Institute. Midwestern University photo.

Every summer, Midwestern University in Glendale holds its annual Health Career Institute for High School Students interested in health professions. It’s an eight-day event that students must apply for, and be accepted to. Applications for this year’s program, which runs July 12-21, are due May 1.

Students who are accepted will experience hands-on labs, guest lectures and a behind-the-scenes tour of Arrowhead Hospital. The Glendale Fire Department will host an emergency response workshop.

The free program has space for 48 students who must be 17 years old by July 12, 2012. Visit the Healthcare Careers Institute website for links to the application and details about the program.

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.