• Student Spotlight


    Do you know a student who is excelling in school or in extra-curricular activities?  If so, we'd love to share their achievements with the Kyrene Native American community. Please contact us with a brief write-up about his/her accomplishments and a photo of the student.

    This month, our Student Spotlight comes from a teacher who wanted to recognize a Native American student. We are so excited that parents and teachers are becoming involved in spotlighting our students!
    Leila Kelly is a wonderful second grade student at Kyrene de las Lomas. She exemplifies what a leader looks like in all areas of the school. Leila is on time and ready to learn, wearing that big beautiful smile, every day. Her heart and beauty shine from within. Whenever I, or another student need anything, Leila is the first to respond. She tries her best even when the task might be challenging for her.  Leila is a very talented artist and her handwriting is much better than mine! I am so proud to call Leila one of my students and I can’t wait to see what the world has in store for this outstanding little lady.

    Our first Student Spotlight for April is Julia Bowen. Julia is a ten year old fifth grade student at Colina Elementary. She is a bright, compassionate, and intelligent young lady, who enjoys playing basketball, drawing, writing stories, and spending time with her brother and sisters. Julia is a straight A student and has recently been inducted into the National Elementary Honor Society. She plans on continuing to be a positive role model for her younger siblings and her goal is to become a veterinarian…or as she likes to call it, an “animal rescuer.” Way to go Julia!

    Our next Student Spotlight for April is Marquairah Salazar, and 8th grade student at Akimel A-al Middle School. Marquairah received the student of the Week award two weeks in a row! On her Student of the Week award, her teacher praised her hard work: “Thank you, Marquairah, for your incredible work ethic. I truly admire your “never quit” attitude and outlook on life.”

    In addition to recent academic achievements, Marquairah keeps herself busy with year-round sports. This past year Marquairah was on the Akimel A-al Varsity Softball team and is currently on the City of Tempe Lady Hawks Softball League. Beyond her roles as a student and an athlete, Marquairah is a member of the Akimel Friends Across the Border Club. The club recently completed another successful foreign student exchange. The list doesn't stop there, this bright young lady is also very creative and expresses her artistic abilities through drawing and painting. Two of her art pieces were published in local children's books. Marquairah is full of potential and understands that with determination and hard work she is capable of accomplishing her goals


    Amaya is a creative student who has grown immensely during her 7th grade year. She started the year very shy and quiet. She has blossomed into a beautiful young lady. Amaya is so creative, she is an amazing artist with her sketches and her creativity through story telling. She has a great sense of style and I have a feeling we may see her developing her own clothing line on Project Runway.  She is currently working on the costumes for Pueblo’s production of Bye Bye Birdie. Amaya is not afraid to express herself through her own style, I really admire this about her.  Being 12 is not an easy thing, she is proud of who she is!


    Aliana Valenzuela is a remarkable young woman and she should be honored for her attendance turnaround this year.  Changing attendance habits can be one of the hardest roadblocks to overcome at school. Occasionally, there is a student who shows incredible strength and fortitude and is able to do a complete turnaround simply because they want to.  Aliana Valenzuela is one of these incredible students.  In the 2015 – 2016 school year Aliana missed a lot of school.  Her missed time at school resulted in struggles with her academics. The attendance turnaround this year has been dramatic.  As a result, her grades have improved tremendously from the previous year.  In the first 2 quarters Alianna has no failing grades and she seeks out support from the resources her school offers. During the month of November Alianna won a student of the month award for her attendance turnaround.  She is a shining example of how students can make great leaps when they set their mind to it.


    Taleah, first grader at Colina Elementary School, has been showing tremendous growth in Reading this year! She has been working so hard and it has paid off. When I see her in the morning for Reading, she gets straight to work and gives her full attention to her work at all times. When she hits a challenging word, she sounds it out and then applies what she learned about letter sounds to the next tricky word she comes across. It has been such a pleasure to watch her grow!


    I have the pleasure of working with Natalia Brown in my K-5 group at Kyrene de los Lagos Elementary School. She is an extremely hard worker, always has a smile, and has really blossomed over the last couple years. When I am a little down, she comes bouncing into my classroom and seeing her smile brings a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. She recently told me of her heritage and belonging to the Pima Tribe. She also told me that her Great Great Grandfather, George Webb, had written a book about his life. I looked it up on Amazon and ordered a copy. I showed it to her and she was so excited, we started to read it. It's a little TOUGH for me as there are words in the Pima language! What I didn't tell her is that I had ordered her and the other little girl in my group each a copy.  These pictures are the day they received their copies. I told her how important it is to keep her heritage and memories alive, so she can pass them on to her children. I have been blessed to have Natalia in my class and in my life.




    Savannna Catha is a sixth grader at Kyrene Middle School.  She is a member of the Hopi Tribe. She is also Navajo and Mexican. She has shown outstanding academic progress and a positive attitude in all her classes. She enjoys participating in the Native American cultural class and has insightful comments to share.  She was a student of the month in September at KMS. We are very proud of her accomplishments!




    Dymon Walker is in 5th grade and has been doing an amazing job working on a program called Read Live.  Every day for 30 minutes he comes to join me in the K-5 room and works independently to increase his reading fluency and comprehension.  Dymon always comes in with a positive attitude and has a great work ethic.  Dymon's goal is to become the "fastest reader that he can be".  Dymon says that he loves all the things he learns from the stories he reads and he likes that he can choose his own story. 



    Hector has a strong passion for learning. He always stays focused, always works hard to understand the content he was working on and always asks questions to clarify meaning if he doesn’t understand. These strategies have helped him in class. He is an absolute treasure.  His smile makes others smile.  It is so genuine and pure.  Hector is a wonderful student.

     STUDENT OF THE QUARTER (2015-2016)

    Ya'a'teeh, My name is Nydia Salway, I am part Navajo and Lakota Sioux, my mother's clan is Todichiinii. I'll always remember traveling to South Dakota with my grandparents. I always use to sing to my grandfather and spend time with my grandmother. I'm glad to be participating in the Native American Club here at Centennial Middle School. We learn about many tribes and do fun projects and activities. The club also took us to the ASU Recharge Conference. I hold a 4.0 GPA and enjoy participating in school activities such as student council, where I used to be President. I am also a part of CMS Band. I never had stage freight and I'm glad that one of my gifts is to be in front of an audience. It's an honor to be student of the month for the Native American Club.

    STUDENT OF THE QUARTER (2015-2016) 
     Kyleigh McCabe is an 8th grade student at Aprende Middle School and our outstanding student of the month. She’s a member of the Navajo Nation, her clans are Naakai diné'é born for Naaneesht'ézhí tábaahá, her maternal grandparents are Ma'ii deeshgiizhnii and her paternal grandparents are Kii'yaa'aanii. Her proud parents are Evalina Wilson and Lemar McCabe. We are proud to have Kyleigh as part of our Kyrene Native community. She maintains a 3.7 GPA and has an excellent attendance record. Kyleigh is the president of the Aprende Native American Club and has been instrumental in the club. She has played girls’ basketball and ran on the cross country team for two of her three years at Aprende. Outside of school, she continues her physical and emotional training as a first degree black belt in Taekwondo.

    Aprende Native American Club President Wins Scholarship Award (2014-2015)

    Scott Hillis, Aprende Native American Club president,  has been awarded the AIEA 2015 scholarship for middle school students.  The AIEA scholarship is awarded to American Indian youth who demonstrate exemplary academic achievement and demonstrate leadership abilities through community service, extracurricular, and cultural activities.  

    Tracy Klett (who is the club's sponsor) shared, "We are very proud of him and the strong leadership skills he has developed at Aprende."
    Congratulations, Scott Hillis!

     Tracy Klett on the Native American Club's Share a Story Campaign at Aprende (2014-2015)
    Our club this year took on the goal of leadership and created a mission statement embracing that idea.  "The mission of the Aprende Native American Club is to embrace the educational objectives of Aprende, create leaders in our community, unite Natives to instill pride in our cultures, and preserve our heritage."

    As a group we felt the best way to show leadership was to put together a project that would help us give back to our Native American community and involve our own school community.  We chose the collection of books for a couple of reasons: The first is that the Native American culture has long existed on stories shared from one generation to the next.  The second reason was that we have a struggling reader in our group that has a huge desire to learn to read.  Our goal for her was to learn to read one book perfectly so that she would feel comfortable sharing her story.  She practiced for over a month to prepare and we are all very proud that she was able to read in a classroom to a group of  students at Salt River Elementary School. 

    How did we choose this location? Many of our Native American Club students are Navajo, but we realized that it would be too far away to travel to the Navajo reservation in the Four Corners.  A few of us have relatives that work or live on the Salt River Reservation and it is within driving distance for a day trip, so we reached out to Maria Chavez, our contact at Salt River Elementary.  After discussing our "Share a Story" concept, she helped make it possible to connect with the Salt River Elementary school students.  We set up a delivery date, organized book collections, and put together the "Share a Story" campaign. 

    Maria Chavez and the elementary principal, Erik Haarstad, greeted us upon our arrival at the school.  They had set aside some space in their book room for the boxes we unloaded.  The principal's plan was to distribute them to students and classroom libraries from there.  Our students each picked a handful of books and went to the classrooms where we were able to read to the elementary students and interact with them. Scott Hillis, our club president, said it was the "greatest day ever".  They all really enjoyed their time reading with the students. Our students were sad to leave and asked how they could see them again.  

    We are fortunate to live in a state with many reservations and a rich Native American culture.  Our club also has the advantage of a supportive principal.  Mr. Verrill has supported our club through every step of our leadership endeavors. 


     Lessons in Perseverance at Manitas (2014-2015)
    A 5th grader at Manitas has become a wonderful example to her peers in the value of perseverance. Ever since kindergarten, she struggled with reading. She would often get very upset when she did not do well. However, she kept working at it and now she is one of the top readers in class. Reading at 160 words a minute, she has now surpassed the words per minute goal for Manitas 5th grade students by 30 words! As a 5th grader, she is now beaming with confidence and is better able to handle disappointment when challenges come her way. Manitas will miss her when she transitions to middle school, but the Native American enrichment leader is certain she will continue to shine in the years ahead of her.  
Last Modified on July 29, 2021