Before we wave goodbye to 2011 and welcome in another year, here’s a look back at some of the noteworthy stories that happened in and around the Ahwatukee Foothills community.
As we have come to expect, 2011 showed how dedicated to charity and helping other is to the people in this community, no matter how old you are. Local elementary, middle and high schools dug in and, for the most part, did it all on their own. One example is back in May, the students at Kyrene Altadena Middle School raised more than $12,000 for the organization Feed My Starving Children. The money allowed them to pack close to 58,000 meals at the packing plant in Tempe, which the organization will ship to underdeveloped countries around the world.
“It was inspiring to learn about what is going on in the rest of the world so we wanted to help out in any way we could,” said Hannah Dooley, 12, a student at Altadena.
On that same note, the Tempe location of FMSC was named one of just six permanent packing locations in the United States and was the first outside of the Midwest, where the organization was founded.
The grown-ups in Ahwatukee Foothills fared just as well this year. Thousands of dollars were raised throughout the year to benefit a variety of causes, from breast cancer to local food shelters and more.
For the second year, Team THRIVR and its Ahwatukee Foothills players once again raised the most amount of money out of all teams in Arizona to the tune of $126,000. The money was raised for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, a 60-mile walk spread out over three days.
Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista High School students also got into the fight against cancer. The cosponsored Relay for Life brought in about $145,000 for the American Cancer Society this year. That amount was the second highest raised by any Relay for Life high school event in the country and earned recognition from the American Cancer Society.
“We wish we had that same support that we get in Ahwatukee Foothills at other high schools,” said Michelle Broek, spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. “Their event is definitely highly regarded in the larger Relay network in Arizona. It’s really great to think how they get so many people involved.”
The high schools made a lot of noise in the community outside of fundraising as well. Desert Vista High School received the A+ School of Excellence award by the Arizona Educational Foundation (AEF) and Dr. Anna Battle was named State School Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Mountain Pointe received the A+ award in 2010.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Battle said in an email. “The teachers, students, staff, administration and parent organizations of Desert Vista all were represented and truly excited about the accomplishments of this amazing institution. God has blessed me to serve such an amazing community.”
The accolades continued to roll in for the Thunder. They won their second consecutive Division 1 Arizona State Marching Band Championship (out of only the three years the award has been in existence) and then took home the state championship in football.
“It’s the first time in the state something like this has happened and it’s a neat feeling because (football coach Dan) Hinds and I were hired at the same time (in 2002),” band director Josh Thye said. “It has been a great experience working with him and the support goes both ways.”
Mountain Pointe made national news twice in recent months. In September, the school was one of only four schools nationwide to win the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts National Schools of Distinction in Arts Education Award. The honor was given to schools with innovative art programs that are successful in individual areas such as theater, dance, vocal performance, drawing and painting.
“It validates the hard work everyone has done to create these programs,” principal Bruce Kipper said. “We have made a concerted effort to build these programs in a unique way... Whether (a student) wants to be a painter, chef or a computer person, we know they will be taking classes useful to them. The idea is that every kid has an individual learning plan.”
Freshman student Kiana Brown won the KIDZ Star USA Talent Search, picked from an original field of 45,000 contestants. She received a record contract with RCA Records and will appear in a music video, a commercial and contribute to the “KIDZ BOP 21” CD.
“It was a crazy moment and I can’t really get my mind to process what has happened,” Brown said after a school-wide assembly to celebrate her win in late October.
On a more somber note, the country also paid homage to the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Mark Honaker, ceramics teacher at Desert Vista High School, and his students went all out in their effort to remember the events of that day.
Honaker transformed his room at DV into a living, breathing 9/11 experience complete with actors dressed as firefighters and civilians going around the room like it was the stairwell in the twin towers.
“My brother was a Tempe firefighter and my motivation is to the firefighters,” Honaker said. “To me, this is about who rose up and responded (on Sept. 11, 2001).”
Past and present Ahwatukee Foothills resident veterans came into the spotlight for creating organizations to aid their fellow servicemen and women. Anthony Ameen used his experience in fighting for his military and governmental benefits to start an organization called Wings for Warriors. He sees his organization as a way to teach returning veterans what kinds of resources are available if they come back wounded and fighting for the benefits they are entitled to receive.
“They make you fight for it (claims)...and everyone who calls me (veterans) is griping and complaining about the same thing,” said Ameen, who has had a number of surgeries and lost his left leg from the knee down. “I had 18 to 20 surgeries in that first year (after losing his leg). My parents would fly to San Antonio with a day’s notice. It definitely wasn’t cheap. And parents want to be there when their kid has surgery.”
The year was full of positive experiences created out of the hard work and dedication of individual and groups of community members. We can close the book on 2011 and look forward to the opportunities for success in 2012.
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