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Regional Officers speaking on stage in front of SkillsUSA students
Lesley Avila

More than 360 Yuma Union High School District Career and Technical Education (CTE) students competed in the SkillsUSA Region One competition from Thursday, February 1 to Friday, February 2, 2024 at Arizona Western College (AWC).

More than 360 Yuma Union High School District Career and Technical Education (CTE) students competed in the SkillsUSA Region One competition from Thursday, February 1 to Friday, February 2, 2024 at Arizona Western College (AWC). 

Region One includes AWC, Antelope Union High School, and middle school students. 

Students competed in 40 events where they were able to show their skills in areas such as stagecraft, prepared speech, job interview, video production, welding, automotive technologies, and many more. 

“For me, SkillsUSA is about being able to meet different people, getting to experience new things, and learning so much,” SkillsUSA State Secretary and KHS senior Hunter Daniels said. “It’s been a good growth experience for me. I’m excited for the state competition this year and I’m going for gold.”

More than 80 percent of the students who participated in regionals, including Daniels, advanced to the SkillsUSA State Leadership and Skills Conference in Phoenix, Arizona on February 28-29. 


More about SkillsUSA
SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers, and industry working together to ensure the United States has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA serves more than 300,000 students and instructors annually. The organization has 13,000 school chapters in 54 state and territorial associations. More than 14,500 instructors and administrators are professional members of SkillsUSA. The state of Arizona has been part of SkillsUSA since 1966.

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VHS Class of 2023
Eric Patten

Vista High School held its annual winter graduation on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023 in Snider Auditorium on the Yuma High School campus.

Vista High School held its annual winter graduation on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023 in Snider Auditorium on the Yuma High School campus.

Yuma Union High School District Governing Board President David Lara confirmed the group of 55 graduates prior to the distribution of their diplomas. YUHSD Governing Board Vice President Carlos Gonzalez, Board Member Christy Cradic, and Superintendent Tim Brienza were also on-hand to represent the district.

“This is a very helpful school,” VHS student Ruben Garza said in a speech during the ceremony. “We had teachers who had faith in us and never gave up on us, and helped us throughout our journey to get here.  

Garza along with Nalani Acosta gave student speeches during the event.

VHS Principal David King also encouraged graduates by saying, “I’m proud of the gift that each of you will be to our community. Each of you has accomplished something amazing and today is a celebration of that hard work and commitment to your success.”

The commencement ceremony can be viewed in its entirety on YUHSD’s YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/VzHX_Tbpjsg

Here is complete list of this year’s VHS winter graduates: 
Nalani Acosta, Jesus Aramburo Felix, Alaysiah Arviso, Roberto Badachi, Pedro Barraza, Zavian, Beverly-Yoakum, Alicia Bravo Hernandez, Nikea Cachora, Yahir Caiazzo,Henry Casanova, Harvey Castillo, Alejo De La Rosa, Raul De La Torre,Andrew Duarte, Gabriel Micheal Estrada, Adan Felix, Ruben Garza, Manuel Gill, Jose Gomez, Damien Gomez, Jalina Gonzalez, Destiny Guerra, Salvador Gutierrez, Freddy Hernandez, Angel Hernandez Montoya, Michelle Hernandez Reyes, Brian Hernandez-Serrano, Kyra Hollis, Jose Ibarra Garcia, Karina Jackson, Evan Lee, Iran Maciel, Allen Magallanes, Hailey (Cameron) Magarelli, Adriana Martinez, Uzziel Medel, Alberto Medina Mendoza, Jazmin Mendez, Juan Florencio Montijo, Emanuel Negrete Hernandez, Calise Norton, Alberto Pimental, Ethan Reta, Syden Rios, Arely Rivera Morales, Marla Rodriguez, Mayah Rodriguez, Florencio Salazar Garnica, Matthew Tamayo, Kaitlin Tesson, Mauricio Tirado, Gilberto Oleff Torres Rivas, Matthew Umlah, Federico Vega, Vianna Lea Young

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VHS students presenting science fair project to judge
Christian Magana

Vista High School and Kofa High School science students last month participated in the second annual Joint Science Fair hosted at Kofa High School. 

Vista High School and Kofa High School science students last month participated in the second annual Joint Science Fair hosted at Kofa High School.

Challenged with the task of researching and developing projects within scientific disciplines, students demonstrated their passion for scientific inquiry.

The science fair consisted of eight categories: chemistry/biochemistry; weather and environmental science; zoology; botany; engineering and technology; health, medicine, microbiology; physics; and social science. 

Katherine Lloyd, a science teacher at VHS, commended the students for their passion and dedication. "It was inspiring to witness the students not only showcasing their own learning, but also eagerly sharing their research and hard work with fellow students," Lloyd said. 

Local Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professionals from  University of Arizona - Yuma Campus, Arizona Western College, and the Yuma County Engineering Office served as judges, providing valuable feedback to the students.

“All of the students who participated gained invaluable experience in learning how to be interviewed by subject matter experts which is a skill they will be able to apply long after graduation and helps them to become college, career and community ready,” KHS science teacher Jason Flora said. 

“I had a great time constructing the project with my friend and I am proud of our work,” said VHS student Bryan Kay, who placed second in physics. “ I am certain we can improve on our project to help us do even better at the next competition. It will be great to show the public more about this idea for the future.”

Students who choose to progress with their projects, they will continue on to Yuma County Science and Engineering Expo (YCSEE) in February at Arizona Western College and/or the Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Foundation (SARSEF) competition in March at the University of Arizona.
 

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Parents and students sitting down at ceremony.
Lesley Avila

Vista High School held its semiannual Completion Ceremony on December 12, 2023 for Career and Technical Education (CTE) students who have completed their program and passed. Students were awarded their certifications and received recognition for their hard work and dedication throughout their respective program. 

Vista High School held its semiannual Completion Ceremony on December 12, 2023 for Career and Technical Education (CTE) students who have completed their program and passed. Students were awarded their certifications and received recognition for their hard work and dedication throughout their respective program. 

There were more than 40 guests present at the event to celebrate the hard work of the students. Dave’s Hot Chicken sponsored the event by providing dinner. 

At Vista, students go through what would be two years of a CTE program, in just two semesters all while taking their general education courses. 

“I am extremely proud of the hard work and dedication that our students have shown as they worked through their respective programs,” Vista High School Mental and Social Health Services teacher Kristina Murray said. “Some of them were even in two or more programs at the same time, and still excelled. These CTE students are clear examples of what we are looking for at YUHSD and they are the true definition of our Portrait of a Graduate and the attributes we are striving for.”

Below are the programs and the amount of students who completed the program:

Hospitality Students:
Passed the TSA - 4
Food Handlers Card - 13
Restaurant Server - 11
OSHA Teen Worker Safety in Restaurant - 5
Courtesy Corps - 2
Level 2 Completers - 12

Medical Assisting Students:
Passed TSA - 9
BLS - 9
Courtesy Corps - 2
Completers - 9

Mental & Social Health Students:
Completers - 7 students

Courtesy Corps:
Completers - 5 Students
These students were trained by state officers on how to best represent the program they are in as well as to be the best representatives of the school and our district through gestures and character that are present in ambassadors of each program and CTSO (Student led organizations).

Passed the Technical Skills Assessment (TSA) - 7/7 students passed
This is a test that is created by the ADE to test the students in their skills to see if they learned everything the state believes they should know to complete our program and show that they are competent in all areas of the course. This is a timed test with 100 multiple choice questions. 

All passed with a score of 70% or higher, with one student earning a 93%.

Psychological First Aid (PFA) - 7 students
This certification is the psychological equivalent of the CPR certification they get. It helps them to identify mental health needs in a crisis and how to work with people after a disaster or event where there could be psychological trauma involved. This is a six hour training course online.

Basic Life Support (BLS) - 6 Students
Hospital Grade CPR

Article 9 - 8 students
This is a certification to help students learn how to work with those that are from special populations like Develop Mentally Delayed or some physical or mental disability that they may have. This was a four hour training and certification process.

“Be There” Certification - 6 Students
This is a training and certification on suicide prevention. This is a two hour training course online.

More about Portrait of a Graduate
Portrait of a Graduate is a measurable way for YUHSD to determine community preparedness for each of its students. There are six core attributes (empathetic learner, collaborator, self-aware learner, resilient learner, communicator, and critical thinker), and a set of competencies for each were matched with expectations based on each individual student's level of proficiency. This gives a clear path for students to follow to attain the end goal of mastering each attribute, and a clear direction for how district staff can lead them.

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White background with purple A-F and black letter grades text
Eric Patten

Gila Ridge High School and Vista High School were approved by the Arizona State Board of Education to approve an increase in their A-F school accountability letter grades. Both schools improved from a ‘C’ grade to a ‘B’ with the state board voting unanimously in favor of the appeal

Gila Ridge High School and Vista High School were approved by the Arizona State Board of Education to approve an increase in their A-F school accountability letter grades. Both schools improved from a ‘C’ grade to a ‘B’ with the state board voting unanimously in favor of the appeal.

The improvement for Vista and Gila Ridge also brings YUHSD’s overall district grade up from a ‘C’ to a ‘B.’

“We are so thankful to the state board of education, the appeals committee and their staff for allowing us to share additional evidence of the unique factors to consider in our school accountability data,” Gila Ridge Principal Kathy Hoover said. “At Gila Ridge High School, we insist on our students and staff soaring to the high expectations of our community, and I'm so proud of all the work that goes into reflecting that culture in our school letter grade.  The school letter grade is one of many factors we use to assess how our school is performing, but we know that it holds significance for our families, students, and teachers.”

Gila Ridge was approved, according to the state, based on one of three factors presented by YUHSD, and was based on “supporting evidence of a school/community emergency around the ACT testing window.” The ACT exam was selected as the district’s accountability measure from the state’s menu of assessment.

Vista’s appeal was approved based on “on track to graduate” data submitted to the state that helped improve the school’s overall score. It is the second year in a row Vista has earned a ‘B’ grade.

“We were pleased to be heard by the appeals committee and to see our school letter grade reflect the performance and success of our Vista students,” Vista Principal David King said. “Vista is committed to fostering rigorous and meaningful learning opportunities for every student to become college, career, and community prepared and this updated letter grade reflects the fruit of that hard work while motivating our staff to maintain our commitments to student success.”

According to the Board of Education, both schools have met all conditions for the appeals to be finalized and the public A-F letter grade file and school report cards (in January 2024) will reflect the improved grade.

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Two students see a person at a red table with colorful things on top.
Eric Patten

All seven schools hosted 30-minute mini-events this week from Tuesday, November 14 through Thursday, November 16 on the Canvas Learning Management System. 

Yuma Union High School District’s mission is for students to graduate from one of the district’s seven schools college, career, and community prepared. For the third consecutive year, all students got a head start on their futures by taking part in a weeklong event geared towards learning about college, career, military and community opportunities. 

All seven schools hosted 30-minute mini-events this week from Tuesday, November 14 through Thursday, November 16 on the Canvas Learning Management System. 

"The College, Career, Community, and Military fair is a great opportunity for our students to have hands-on experience of different pathways and preparation while in high school,” Somerton High School counselor Maria Dillard said. “Some students were building their resumes and downloading it, ready to use it for a part time job. This gives me joy to know that they are already effectively planning to use it."

Each day’s content had a unique focus, with lessons planned during their third-period class to give students insight into available opportunities. Content was curated by a team of community partners and YUHSD counselors and the district’s teaching and learning team.  
“The CCCM fair gave students the opportunity to explore career options,” San Luis High School counselor Elva Lozano said. “We provided students in-person interactions during lunches to gain a different perspective of what is available in our community.  This tied both into the major clarity aspect and helped make it relevant for our students.”

For nearly a decade, YUHSD schools have hosted some form of the College, Career, Community and Military Fair. Beginning with in-person events during the 2010s, the event became digital-only in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as students returned to in-person learning the following year, the district transitioned the event to be a hybrid of in-person and online with some schools hosting in-person events with outside agencies as a supplement.

In the more traditional events, which were held on campuses on a rotational basis from year-to-year, approximately 500 individuals would on average be in attendance. By hosting the event during the school day on Canvas, more than 11,000 students have the opportunity to participate with the content remaining online throughout the school year, so students can return to it.

“I'm interested in the military so this was helpful because it was the first time I interacted with information about the military,” SLHS junior Gael Cota Flores said. “They also give us a little bit of information about what they do and what we can do to get into the military.”

Somerton freshman Alberto Gonzalez added: “When I was a kid, I wanted to join the Navy, because it was based on water, and I like swimming, and so when I was reviewing the Career Exploration my fit scores were a little low in that area. But I was able to explore the different branches on Military day. Seeing the first-hand experience from other people in the field, it helped me visualize, if I ever join the Navy, I will know what I will go into. I feel it will benefit me in two ways: 1. How it looks and 2. I have a different view of what a Navy career looks like."

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Teacher giving career information to students.
Christian Magana

Vista High School students participated in a career information day on campus on October 31, 2023.

Vista High School students participated in a career information day on campus on October 31, 2023. 

The event was designed to provide students with valuable insights into various career paths and equip them with the knowledge and resources to make informed decisions about their futures. 

The event allowed students to select sessions throughout the day tailored to their post-high school aspirations, such as meeting with business owners, members of industry, college representatives, and more. 

“We are excited to bring members of the community, small business owners, and members of industry on to our campus to help our students make real connections to college, career, and community readiness resources,” VHS Principal David King said. “This event will help our students to put faces to the community leaders in the industries that they are considering a career in as well as provide them with an opportunity to have small group and individual conversations about these leaders' journeys in their field.”

Students also had the opportunity to work with VHS staff members to complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), learn about scholarships, and reflect on their opportunities for success as they prepare to graduate.

Vista will hold its first of two annual graduation ceremonies in December. Each year, Vista graduates more than 100 students between their winter and spring commencement ceremonies. 

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 Vista dropout rate at lowest mark in school history
Lesley Avila

The Vista High School dropout rate dropped nearly 20 percent across two school years and is currently at 5.77 percent, the lowest in school history. 

In 2020-21, a year after the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vista’s dropout rate was 23.24 percent. A year later, at 5.77 percent, it is hovering close to the Arizona state average of 5.4 percent.

“The system we created, the support of an entire team, and the constant communication from various departments helped Vista get to the rate we achieved together.” Vista High School dropout prevention specialist Arisbey Garcia said. 

The 2021-22 school year was Garcia’s first year as the dropout prevention specialist at VHS. Garcia works with dropout prevention specialists from the other Yuma Union High School District schools, counselors, teachers, other staff members, and Vista Principal Brett Surguine.

“We developed a system, where I knew I could go to anyone on the team for help and support,” Garcia said. “Without the help of everyone involved, the 5.77 percent dropout rate would not have been possible.”

As a dropout prevention specialist, Garcia works with the team at Vista to provide the best support to each student individually, conducts home visits, makes daily phone calls, sends out multiple forms of communication to the families, and works with others in YUHSD to provide alternative schooling options if the current one does not fit the students’ needs. 

“If Vista staff is helping students stay motivated and stay in the course in any small way, then we are succeeding,” Vista High School Principal Brett Surguine said. “I'm encouraged by our students' resilience and we will keep working hard to keep them in school, working toward graduation.”

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Student petting dog.
Lesley Avila

Vista High School got to spend a day with a dog named “Lily” from the Humane Society of Yuma (HSOY), as part of Yuma Union High School District and HSOY’s partnership called “Dogs Day Out.”

Vista High School got to spend a day with a dog named “Lily” from the Humane Society of Yuma (HSOY), as part of Yuma Union High School District and HSOY’s partnership called “Dogs Day Out.”

Staff and students had an opportunity to interact with Lily, after signing a consent form, as Vista High School Principal David King walked her through the school hallways and classrooms. 

“While we were helping her socialize and get a break from the shelter, her presence on our campus allowed our students to get a better understanding of the role of the Humane Society, how they can volunteer, and how to promote awareness of the shelter’s needs,” King said. “We plan to host dogs like Lily throughout the year to continue to provide them a break from the shelter and positively affect our Lobo community.”

Lily, a 4-year-old female pitbull terrier, has been at the humane society since July 14, 2023. The “Dogs Day Out” program was created in order to help reduce kennel stress and provide dogs with enrichment. The program also provides valuable insight on how the dog behaves outside the shelter environment. All dogs who take part in the program have been certified by HSOY for public interactions with adolescents. 

YUHSD and HSOY are expanding the program in coming months to include additional campuses and opportunities. Cibola High School will be the next campus to get to experience “Dogs Day Out.” Kofa High School and Gila Ridge High School both hosted dogs as part of the program during the 2022-23 school year. 

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A woman in a black shirt and maroon pants pets a gray pitbull terrier in the hallway of Vista High
Lesley Avila

Vista High School got to spend a day with a dogVista High School teacher Katherine Lloyd with dog named “Lily” from the Humane Society of Yuma (HSOY), as part of Yuma Union High School District and HSOY’s partnership called “Dogs Day Out.”

Staff and students had an opportunity to interact with Lily, after signing a consent form, as Vista High School Principal David King walked her through the school hallways and classrooms. 

“While we were helping her socialize and get a break from the shelter, her presence on our campus allowed our students to get a better understanding of the role of the Humane Society, how they can volunteer, and how to promote awareness of the shelter’s needs,” King said. “We plan to host dogs like Lily throughout the year to continue to provide them a break from the shelter and positively affect our Lobo community.”

Lily, a 4-year-old female pitbull terrier, has been at the humane society since July 14, 2023. The “Dogs Day Out” program was created in order to help reduce kennel stress and provide dogs with enrichment. The program also provides valuable insight on how the dog behaves outside the shelter environment. All dogs who take part in the program have been certified by HSOY for public interactions with adolescents. 

YUHSD and HSOY are expanding the program in coming months to include additional campuses and opportunities. Cibola High School will be the next campus to get to experience “Dogs Day Out.” Kofa High School and Gila Ridge High School both hosted dogs as part of the program during the 2022-23 school year. 

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Sixteen people standing on stairs outside of Kofa High School
Eric Patten

Yuma Union High School District educators took part in a district-wide professional development day on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023 led by inspirational keynote speaker and educator, Rick Ramirez. 

“My hope is for teachers to reflect and operate as they are and understand the impact that they have on students can never be measured,” said Ramirez, who was an educator for nine years before helping motivate educators, beginning in 2017. “If I was able to just lift someone up and help inspire someone even just a little bit then my job is done.”

Ramirez’s presentation was centered around his background as a student who faced and overcame many struggles and then became an educator himself. He focused on how reaching students on a personal level helps students succeed. 

After the presentation, a teacher from each school was surprised by their principal with a school championship belt, signifying the champion that they are for their students. This belt will be passed to teachers and staff who make an impact in their students’ lives. 

The goal of the professional development day was to help teachers improve their teaching skills and better serve their students. Staff members participated in various group activities throughout the day, including a focus on personalized learning, lesson planning, IEP strategies, the Canvas learning management system, health and wellness, and more. 

“It was great to be able to see what the other campuses are doing and some of the amazing resources they have so we can come together and make the district even better,” said Vista High School teacher Katherine Lloyd, who was one of seven teachers who earned a championship belt. “I’m really excited to bring a lot of things back to my campus.”

YUHSD typically hosts professional development days for teachers and staff once a semester to give them an opportunity to collaborate and learn from each other. Support staff members also took part in a variety of activities at various sites throughout the district. 

While the district was closed to the public, students were engaged through Canvas, while working from home. School resumed as regularly scheduled on Tuesday, Sept. 26. 

Here are the school champions for fall 2023: 

Larsen Jones, Cibola High School; Erin Pierce, Gila Ridge High School; Jeff Frazine, Kofa High School; Lucio Sanchez, San Luis High School; Andrea Lomeli, Somerton High School; Katherine Lloyd, Vista High School; and Teresa Garcia Diaz, Yuma High School  

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