A focused community: Looking back at 2010 - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

A focused community: Looking back at 2010

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Posted: Thursday, December 30, 2010 8:00 am | Updated: 2:43 pm, Wed Oct 10, 2012.

Only time will tell how deep of an impact of the events of the past year will affect the future for the community and the people that comprise it.

One thing for certain is that 2010 has been filled with its share of heartbreaking and heartwarming, frustrating and enlightening, and those few times in life where you marvel at what human beings are capable of.

Here's a look back at some of those events that defined the people of Ahwatukee Foothills in 2010:

The class of 2010 saw more than 1,300 high school students earn their diplomas and graduate from AF schools. Education, especially higher education, is a staple in the AF community. From the story, published on May 26, "According to the schools, 97 percent of Desert Vista students, 90 percent of Mountain Pointe students and 95 percent of Horizon Honors High School graduates are off to a university, community college or vocational school. Ahwatukee Foothills students also earned $33.7 million in scholarships among them."

On the middle and high school levels, teachers and students alike from the Kyrene School District were heavily involved inside and outside the classroom. The district made news in March by announcing they would continue to offer free, all-day kindergarten despite the state Legislature no longer funding the program.

"It just gives kids a great head start, especially when you look at the state curriculum," Ross Robb, Kyrene governing board president, said in March after the announcement was made. "There is a significant amount of curriculum that has to be covered in kindergarten now to get them ready for first grade."

This will be something to keep an eye on moving forward because in all likelihood Kyrene, like all public school districts in Arizona, will be facing additional budget cuts for next year.

The district also made news when it opened its doors to the Kyrene Family Resource Center in January. The center helps hundreds of Kyrene families who are struggling financially. Throughout the holiday season, nearly every Kyrene school performed a drive for donations to benefit the center.

"This has gone from a small facility no one knew existed to something the entire community depends on," Dr. David Schauer, superintendent for Kyrene, said.

Along with thorough support for families, Kyrene is known for having a great teaching staff. Sara Baird, who was named the 2009 Arizona Teacher of the Year by the Arizona Education Association, won the Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence from the National Education Association Foundation and was named one of five best teachers in the country at an event in April in Washington, D.C.

"I always feel like I'm a drop of water. I'm a drop and there are others in the flow," Baird said in May. "I made it into the top five, but I'm just a symbol of things going on in classrooms all over the state."

Baird also noticed that education is at a crossroads and is being forced down the wrong path.

"Education is just in a place where we can't sit back anymore and consider an expense. It's an investment in our kids," she said. "Whether you're in education or not in education, whether you have kids or don't have kids, every kid in every school is contributing to society and making our state and country what it is going to be."

Heading into next year, Tempe Union high schools, including Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe, are benefitting from increased enrollment. However, moving forward, the district will be doing it without Superintendent Steve Adolph, who announced in November that he will be retiring following the 2010-11 school year. But he made his announcement, confident that TUHSD is on the right track.

"If I felt like I was leaving things just horrible I probably wouldn't (leave)," Adolph said. "But we are in one of the best positions in the state. We have really, really good kids and teachers and support staff."

Outside of the education community, Ahwatukee Foothills residents made news for new business ideas (cat litter made from tires), performances and fine arts accomplishments, and support of fellow human beings.

In November, more than 1,500 Arizona residents participated in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. The event, which has helped raise $91 million last year, is fueled by an inspiration to benefit those affected by breast cancer.

One group of Ahwatukee Foothills women participated in honor of one woman who lost the fight and to support another who came out on top.

"My mom is walking with me," Jean Hagen, whose mother passed away in April 2009, said. "Cancer is so ugly and so vicious. When you do this walk, this is your piece. You can't cure it, you can't fix it, but maybe somebody else can."

Her friend Julie Croley walked with her this year, and noted how the 60-mile walk can be as much of an uplifting and special event as they come.

"The camaraderie between everybody is so incredible," she said. "There are people you have no idea who they are but you just feel that it's like a close-knit family."

Spirituality is a common trait found in the Ahwatukee Foothills community. Places like Mountain View Lutheran Church are known for giving back to the less fortunate in the area and doing charitable work for people around the world. They are partnered with organizations like Mission Africa and Feed my Starving Children. The latter organization packed more than 500,000 meals from Nov. 17-20.

The community saw the recognition of another spiritual group in 2010. In November, a group of Nichiren Buddhists came together in Rodney Mitchell's Ahwatukee Foothills home. The Nichiren sect of Buddhism focuses on a chant found in the Lotus Sutra: "Nam myoho renge kyo," which roughly translates to "devotion to the mystic law of cause and effect that flows through the universe."

"Chanting is a way of raising your life condition to bring out the most positive elements of your environment or change the negatives of it into something positive," Rodney Mitchell said. "We don't ignore things we have problems with. We embrace them and try to change them."

Dealing with our problems head-on can be a difficult task. And with more uncertainty to come in 2011, Ahwatukee Foothills resident and people everywhere have to be ready to deal with whatever life throws at us.

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